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Congratulations! You’ve finished your first level of improv classes. You have 8 weeks of training under your belt, a new group of improv companions, and a rocking show that you did for friends, family, and strangers.

So, now what?

Here are 5 things you can do after you’ve finished your first improv class:

1. Take Another Improv Class

The most common next step after finishing Level 1 is to take Level 2 at the same school / theater. You’ll pick up right where you left off and start learning more advanced techniques.

Another option is to take a Level 1 class at a different theater. This can give you a different perspective on how to approach improv, as well as give you another chance to work on the basics.

2. Start a Practice Group

Unfortunately you may not be able to jump right into the next level of classes (because of scheduling, availability, or financing), or you might find that you want to improvise more than once a week.

If you’re in either boat, starting or joining a practice group can be a great way to keep practicing improv outside of the classroom. To get started, all you need is a group of people, a rehearsal spot, and a coach.

3. Find a Way to Perform

If your favorite (or least favorite) part of class was the show, then you may want to get on stage more frequently. In NYC there are a number of free jams / mixers around the city where you can show your stuff.

Or, if you do create a practice group, you can find venues where your Indie team can perform. Either way, getting on stage will help you apply the things you learned in class and help improve your confidence on stage.

4. Try Another Art Form

Trying improv might have sparked a passion for comedy or performance that isn’t limited to just making stuff up. You might be interested in taking a sketch class, trying stand-up comedy, or even giving acting a try.

These art forms all benefit from having strong improv skills and can be a great outlet for performance that’s not improv.

5. Take Your Knowledge Out into the World

Whether you continue on formally with improv training or decide to hang up your improvised boxing gloves, you can take the concepts of improv out into your everyday life.

Ideas like Yes And, supporting your scene partner, and really listening have tremendous value in the corporate world, in education, and in day to day life.

Applying these concepts can be as simple as keeping them in mind as you go about life, or may include deliberately using the concepts in what’s called applied improvisation.

Regardless of what you do next, congratulations! You’ve experienced the first level of improvisation; go out and use your new found knowledge for good, humor, and funny.

So you finally decided to sign up for your first improv class? That’s awesome, congratulations.

Over the years I’ve taken a number of classes; some of have been incredible, others not so much. Here are a 10 tips I’ve learned on how to make the most out of your maiden voyage into classes on improvisation.

#1) Have an open mind.

Let’s be honest, some improv exercises are weird. Organic openings, honest emotional monologues, and even Bunny Bunny can seem weird at first. But they all have a purpose in making you a better improviser.

Keep an open mind and allow yourself to truly commit to the exercise.

#2) Don’t try to be “right.”

I like to be right. I also like to do things right. As a result, improv can be a challenge. When doing improv exercises or scenes, I used to have a mentality of “I want to do this exercise correctly” or even figure out the purpose of it and then do it “perfectly” to impress the instructor.

Improv doesn’t work like that. First, the exercises are not meant to be done perfectly. You’re going to forget a word or two when jumping into Hot Spot–that’s more than fine. Second, the beauty of improv is that there is no wrong choice, but that also means there is no right choice either. There’s only the choice you make in the moment and what you do with it afterwards.

#3) Leave your judgment at the door.

You’re going to do bad improv scenes. Your classmates are going to do bad improv scenes. Heck, your instructor may lead you into bad improv scenes (or “stupid” exercises or “dumb” sidecoaching or countless other things you may want to criticize).

In fact, if you aren’t doing any bad scenes or exercises that challenge your style of play, you probably aren’t pushing yourself.

The point is, leave any type of that judgment at the door. If you want to critique your own play later, after class (as I often do as a way to see where I need to make improvements), fine. Just don’t do it in class. It takes you away from the moment and distracts you from what’s important–being present for your other classmates.

#4) Be confident but humble yourself.

Some people enter into an improv class with loads of experience. Maybe they were in an improv group in college or have performed in theater or have done a number of shows as a stand-up comedian. Some people enter class never having done any type of performance before.

Whichever group you fall into, be confident in your ideas (they’re already awesome, they may just need to be tweaked as you go), but also be humble about your skill.

This second point is especially true for people who have improv experience. You may start to think “I’m too good for this” or “I already know all this.” Sure you might already know concepts like “Yes And,” but it can be hugely beneficial to take a step back and review the basics from time-to-time.

Use a return to basic improv as an opportunity to work on a new style or challenge yourself in a new way. Be confident in your abilities but humble yourself and do all of the exercises with 100% commitment.

#5) Get to know your classmates.

In all the classes I’ve taken the one thing more important than the instructor has been my classmates. And I don’t mean who the people are, but what’s my relationship to them, how well do I get to know them.

The classes that I’ve hated or were ambivalent about were the ones where I didn’t get to know the 15 other people who I’d be spending 8 weeks with. They were just acquaintances I saw once a week.

The classes that I’ve loved have been the ones where I got to know the people I was learning with. We would go out together after class, see shows together, or even just do bits over email. Not only does it make the class more fun, it also makes the improv scenes better.

And a bit of forecasting for you: it’s the people you stay connected to that will likely make up your first Indie team (an important next step after your first few levels of classes).

Note: The first 5 tips were more on the mindset and attitude to have while in class. The next 5 are more practical in nature.

#6) Bring a notebook (and pen).

You don’t have to take extensive notes (like I did), but write down key phrases or ideas that your teacher says that you like. Some of my favorite improv quotes include:

  • “Treat your fellow players like geniuses and poets.”
  • “Be more brave than impressive.”
  • “We want to see the t-rex with the backpack.”

#7) Bring a bottle of water.

It’s always good to stay hydrated and you’ll likely be talking and/or moving around a lot.

#8) Eat something before class.

You don’t want to be distracted by hunger while you’re focusing on becoming a better improviser.

#9) Wear appropriate clothing.

While you may look great in that suit or stunning in that dress, it will likely restrict your choices as an improviser. You want to wear comfortable clothing that you would be fine rolling around in–you never know when your improv scene is going to require demonstrating “stop, drop, and roll” or re-enacting an army “crawl-through-the-trenches” scene.

If you’re coming directly from work (as I so often did), either bring a change of clothes or be willing to spend a little more on dry-cleaning in case you get dirt on your business attire.

#10) Most importantly, have fun.

No matter what your reason for taking an improv class, you should have fun. Not just because, “yay, fun!” but because it will make your improv scenes better. When you’re enjoying your time on stage with your classmates, you’ll make moves that excite you and your fellow players. And isn’t the whole point of improv to have fun? I think so.

Instructor: Armando Diaz
Date Taken: July 2011

The final class of the Magnet Improv Conservatory is a Team Performance Workshop. You get 6-weeks of classes and then 8-weeks of shows with the same team. The team-specific nature of the class didn’t lend itself to taking too many general improv notes, but there were a few gems that stood out.

To learn more about the Magnet Training program, go here

Class Notes

  • you dont want your pieces to be monotonous. if youre noticing a lot of verbal initiations, mix it up with physicality.
  • there is no retreat. victory is all we have. once you commit keep going until you are edited. you dont go into an opening or a scene thinking its going to last for X seconds or minute.
  • heightening leads to discovery. its what earns the edit.
  • dont reduce your vocabulary to just words.
  • explore the consequences of your characters’ behavior.
  • We don’t want more object work, we want specific object work.
  • Look to expand on things, instead of just repeating something from the opening. It keeps you from feeling locked into what was said/done initially.

Instructor: Armando Diaz
Date Taken: October 2010

Level 5 at the Magnet focuses on creating an improv revue—four shows that your team does together. I went back to my normal heavy note-taking ways for this class, but can you blame me? It was Armando Diaz teaching!

To learn more about the Magnet training program, go here.

Class #1

  • the goal of the class is to learn how to put on an entire show (from start to finish)
  • the attitude you want to have is that anyone off the street should be able to come in and enjoy themselves (not just other improvisers)
  • if you have a bad show, dont give an excuse as to why
  • nobody is so good that they should be an asshole to people
  • key focus of forms:
  • montage—fast paced, higher energy
  • monoscene—pov and committed character
  • time-dash—how time affects characters
  • freeze tag—trust your instincts, visual, commitment
  • initiations are a reaction to something that happens in a scene that we dont see (start in the middle)
  • simplicity is always appreciated
  • good improvisers trust in just being… (no need to always talk)
  • concept alone isnt theater. concept with an attitude is
  • great players are calm and patient and wait for inspiration
  • listen well, internalize and think about how you can connect to the other person
  • the goal of the first beat of the monoscene is to create the world the scene will take place in
  • the difference between a monoscene and group game in a harold is that you have more time for different characters to play varied povs (wheras in a group game a lot of times youll all have the same attitude)
  • your object work should be specific enough that it tells the audience who you are without you needing to speak
  • every scene is about one truthful thing

 Class #2

  • often times the funniest thing to do is be vulnerable
  • be affected by what people say
  • be your experience, dont state it
  • most premises have been done. it’s the specifics that differentiate them. take the idea and personalize it
  • WHO you are is so much more important than the premise of a scene
  • Del’s “the third thought”—get past the trivial, go to the deeper thought
  • when on stage, you shouldnt be thinking as an improviser, you should be thinking as the characters youre playing
  • discovery in a scene is an awesome thing
  • monoscenes feel counter-intuitive because each character should have their own thing. especially as a walk-on, dont give in to the feeling you should be a character to heighten someone elses game, have your own character and then youll help others play their game while youre playing yours
  • its like a potluck—everyone has to bring something different in order for it to stay lively

Class #3

  • every character has a pov and it’s often defined in the first thing you say or do. if you get lost, go back to what you did first in a scene
  • actions speak louder than words, dont forget your object work
  • EXPERIENCE THINGS ON STAGE
  • spontaneity (discovery) is the drug of improv
  • star trek—orignal series was fun because they experienced what was happening. later generations were just people logically thinking about it and coming up with a resolution. be Kirk, not Picard? Screw it or kill it.

Class #4

  • follow your character’s pov and motivation
  • the real genius players remember how they started and stay committed to it
  • there are different “sized” ways of playing a game. sometimes youll need a sledge hammer, sometimes youll need a paint brush.
  • theres a difference between heightening and increasing. increasing just adds more stuff; heightening is specific to your character and pov and playing more of that
  • in a good scene, both characters have a pov (and game)
  • specifics are very important when it comes to heightening or additional game moves. e.g. language that was used is very important
  • if you know how you feel, you dont have to analyze as much
  • pov is one of the most important things to make sure you understand—it will take you the furthest and make your scenes easier
  • if you arent sure how you should be reacting, get specific and that will help inform you

Class #5

  • emotion can be a pov.
  • each action your scene partner makes heightens your emotion. you know that is the case so the only “work” you have to do is justifying your emotional reactions
  • play for competence (have your characters be smart). to play “bad” is harder than “trying” but “fail”
  • the more truthful we are the easier things will be
  • dont play in the middle
  • a scene is initiation -> reaction -> justification

Class #6

Guest Instructor: Christian Capozzoli

  • physicality is king, emotion is queen – joe bill
  • every gift should be treated as such, have a reaction to it, state what is, give specifics
  • characters should be hypersensitive to their pov
  • if you have a really talky first scene, then you gotta play the 2nd beat even more actively

Class #7

  • play game harder. dont wait for other people to help you play game, make the moves yourself more
  • physicality is king and can buy you some time to speak

Show #1

  • be ready on the edits
  • each character had a sense of history which is really good
  • whenever someone comes out, make sure you react to that person

Class #8

  • dont be so concerned with plot moves, allow yourself to play in the emotion you give yourself
  • remember CROW—character, relationship, objective, where
  • dont forget to express your philosophy and circumstances in between game moves to heighten each move
  • two behaviors overlapped is the relationship.
  • even when you have strong game scenes, there should be a strong relationship. all scenes are relationship-based regardless of how strong the game is.

Show #2

  • specificty of game is important. look to your first scene that gives you the details

Show #3

  • dont change your character in 2nd beats.
  • be careful of adding too much importance to a detail from the previous scene; by talking about it again it makes it more important than it needs to be
  • its about your personality more than anything else.
  • you never want to be an improvisors wanting people to do something. put more focus on reacting
  • edit on an emotion and dont be scared to leave what happens to the audience’s imagination

Show #4

  • be careful of using nondescript gifts, hammer them out in first beats so you can play with them
  • gift your scene partner because that will give you something to react to
  • for second beats dont close the door to discovery, especially if youre first beat established a weirdness. play with the gift you gave yourself for having fun

Instructor: Alex Marino
Date Taken: May 2010

With Level 4, I continued my focus on experiential learning and just trying to incorporate what I heard as opposed to logically thinking about.  Our particular class was about the Evente, which lends itself to creating better improvisers for any form.

I also learned more from the 4 performances than I did from any of the classes (you can’t beat actual experience).  Here’s what I remember.

To find out more about the Magnet training program, go here.

Class Notes

  • Decide who you are.  What are your character’s friends like? Parents? What do they do for fun?  What’s their favorite color?  You don’t have to do scenes about these things, but if you decide them it will inform your decisions.
  • Don’t forget to endow yourself.
  • The way the opening is played and the first scene set the tone for the entire show.
  • Follow the fun.
  • The longer you talk about an event, the more the audience wants to see it and the bigger the letdown if you never get to it. 

Instructor: Peter McNierney
Date Taken: March 2010

As I continued further into the Magnet program, I decided to try to learn more experientially (rather than logically), so I took fewer notes and focused on how I was feeling in scenes—what worked / what didn’t.  Still there were some notes that were too good to not write down.

To find out more about the Magnet Training program, go here.

Class Notes

  • Watch the Breakfast Club—its all about statuses
  • Homework: try to recognize what your natural status is and then play with it and do other statuses
  • Your intro in a scene / group game, is your promise to the audience of who you are
  • Order of Importance of Improv Elements: 1) relationships, 2) details, 3) pattern
  • The less you understand about what someone initiates the more you should imitate what they are doiing
  • Take a breath after your initiation and remind yourself that improv is about the relationships not the premises from the opening
  • Make every move matter through your reactions

Instructor: Louis Kornfeld
Date Taken: November 2009

After going through the curriculum at UCB, my biggest weakness as an improviser was reacting emotionally.  After great experiences with Shoot from the Hip (full of Magnet people) and the Dynamic Duos class, I decided to go through the Magnet program with an emphasis on improving as an emotional player.

I was able to skip Level 1 and started with Level 2.  Here are the notes.

To find out more about the Magnet training program, go here.

Class Notes

  • Start your scene by reacting to something that has already happened
  • Don’t present your idea, embody or be the idea
  • Take a suggestion and think about the emotions it inspires
  • Deal with your own honesty on stage
  • Your scene partner on stage can be your “suggestion”—take what you notice about each other and personalize it
  • Theres enormous value into trusting your instincts and reactions to what your scene partner is giving
  • Make an offer and then pay attention to their reaction, that’s your new suggestion
  • “How well am I performing” is one of the most worthless questions in improv.  If you are asking that, you aren’t paying attention
  • Scenes shouldn’t be hard. they should have energy, not effort
  • Law of adjacency – given one very specific detail, there is a another specific detail that is related to it.  Improv is communicating those adjancecies
  • You can “sell” anything to the audience if you commit
  • The one thing we don’t want to be on stage is neutral. don’t be the “too cool for school” attitude
  • Take full ownership of what you do on stage
  • Specific thoughts lead to specific action. if you make a decision in your mind as to what’s going on, it will inform your decisions
  • Big truths are made up of a bunch of tiny truths
  • Positive emotion is not a weak one
  • Don’t forget the different shades of an emotion. be specific—gloom is different than depression
  • An emotional reaction gives you another thing to explore. explore how you feel about what’s happening on stage
  • Strong reactions beget strong reactions. when you don’t have them it forces you to have to think instead of reacting
  • Dirty little secret of improv: it doesn’t really matter what your reaction is so long as its committed
  • Heightening = magnifying the behavior
  • Theres a lot more power in exploring what you’ve already created instead of just creating new ideas
  • Improv is not just about making shit up, its about using what you have

Instructors: Neil Casey and Dyna Moe
Date Taken: October 2009

Straight out of my first 501, I was selected to do the The Movie form, and found it is a blast to play and can help you become a better improviser regardless of what form you’re doing.  I feel like I was stuck in my head for most of this class (possibly due to my lack of deep movie genre understanding), but still learned a ton. 

Find out more about UCB’s training program here.

Note: This level of class is now known as Advanced Study Performance and can be any type of performance. Our class focused on The Movie form; although the notes are in regard to the form, they’re also good to keep in mind for other forms of improv.

Class #1

  • simplified version of the form: scene paint 3 scenes, then tell the title, then we act out the scenes (with the characters that were in it)
  • don’t puppet the people in the scene, just describe what the audience can see
  • same thing as all improv, there are no take backs
  • your title is your last chance to help solidify the story and the genre
  • “you can trip in improv, just don’t fall. if something comes up justify it and its not a mistake”
  • don’t feel like you have to come up with a great screenplay and surprise the audience with plot. the fun of the form comes from seeing how you explore a genre

Class #2

  • if your 3 scene paintings establish the hero, villain, and object/macguffin then you’ll make it eaiser to tell a story and know the genre
  • there are certain characteristics to identify hero (light, handsome, doing something nice) and villain (ugly, wears dark, doing something mean)

Class #3

  • be efficient. if its not genre, character or game specific, you don’t need it
  • your scene painted scenes should be far apart from each other. we want the characters to have to “travel” to meet each other
  • we follow game in this form. we don’t have to create a super plot, that will come from the genre.
  • PLOT DOES NOT MATTER!

Class #4

  • take the genre specifics and figure out how to turn it into game and heighten
  • opening focuses on setting up genre
  • middle is all about genre game
  • end is about the big finish
  • the first set of scenes are your backdrop for the rest of your movie. that means don’t follow plot
  • don’t try to combine  two genres, just do one well. it doesn’t have to be more clever than that.
  • you can give gifts to the other scenes by referencing them
  • its up to anyone to decide/say hero/object/villain. its up to everyone to support it.

Class #5

  • back line has to be active in the climax
  • end the movie saying “the end” and the booth will black out
  • the plot is moved by the cuts and locations you make. play the game in the actual scenes
  • the villain has to be villainous / evil. the hero has to have a want
  • make stories / plot as simple as possible
  • play your role!

Class #6

  • its everybody’s job to decide what movie we’re doing
  • if we don’t have a clear idea of what the movie is after the title, were behind the curve and need big decisions
  • when you realize what movie it is, its your job to make moves that let your fellow players what it is

Class #7

  • the genre is like the “real world” in normal improv, ie it is the baseline
  • you don’t want everything to be silly, make an honest take on the genre and find the one specific thing you are going to heighten and play
  • even when things get intense or energetic, you have to all be on the same page
  • the biggest key is to just dive in and have fun

Class #8

  • hollywood is racist. in many genres the race of the character can matter
  • the climax should come at about 20 minutes in
  • skip the extraneous details in the scene painting, keep only the essentials, but with that, be specific
  • its ok to lose characters as you go. just keep the important ones (hero and villain)
  • like always, play the laugh to find your game

Show #1

  • make sure you use the suggestion somehow so its clear that you are using it
  • when you’re playing the hero, its often the straight character
  • give the hero scenes where he can be the hero
  • the villain has to be strong and pursue his evilness
  • allow yourself to look stupid within the confines of the genre
  • inhabit your character

Show #2

  • even if you’re having fun, don’t forget to play the form
  • avoid competing with each other on stage in terms of moves
  • the camera angles buy you time! they give you time and improve your show
  • you gotta know the why’s 

Show #3

  • if you set up game moves, don’t forget to play them throughout because its low hanging fruit
  • be precise with your moves, p’s and q’s

Show #4

  • even with an interesting character, don’t forget the games of the other people
  • heighten and explore your games
  • drew: be more aggressive, be willing to give bigger reactions
  • help each other with your games by putting people in interesting scenes or combinations of characters
  • name each other
  • if you find a game you don’t want to play, you have to make sure you find a new one to replace it

Instructor: Armando Diaz
Date Taken: August 2009

Inspired by the likes of 2-Square and TJ & Dave, I really wanted to try out 2-person improv.  Not only is it amazingly fun and challenging to do, it also helps you become a stronger improviser for any form.

The following notes are from my first class at The Magnet Theater. Learn more about the Magnet training program here.

The Dynamic Duo class is focused on teaching how to do a 2-person improv show. You sign up with a partner and work with them for 4 classes, and then do a 2-person show along with your fellow classmates.

Class #1

  • Two options for duo shows: 
  • (1) Long, slower paced, such as 1 scene with 2 characters 
  • (2) Faster paced, multiple scenes and multiple characters 
  • Starting slow helps you work on the fundamentals 
  • A 2 person scene has to be interesting. Try to find that first interesting thing
  • Be vulnerable & sensitive to everything your partner does 
  • Be aware of the subtext of your character’s choices 
  • Beginnings are 90% of the success of a scene 
  • Object work: make us see where you are 
  • We tend to favor dialog, don’t forget physicalization 
  • Your environment can inform your scene, can give you something to go back to 
  • You can have multiple characters in 1 environment 
  • Use different parts of the stage to define different parts of a location 
  • Having characters in a certain part of the stage makes it easier to go back to other characters 
  • For second beats, assume something has happened in between 
  • Your environment really helps establish where you are and is very helpful when you want to connect scenes 

Class #2 

  • Each scene you want to find something strong 
  • Always remember status 
  • The game deals with pattern of behavior (point of view) 
  • Don’t talk about a concept, explore it 
  • The most interesting part of any scene is the characters’ reactions to things in the scene 
  • Make a choice of who you are 
  • At the top of scenes, it’s even more important to make declarations 
  • Avoid telling the story of your character, show it 
  • There’s a tendency to want to describe or explain your game, but its more rewarding if you just do it 
  • The details can really tell you about yourself, scene, or partner 
  • Personal details make your characters come to life 
  • Specific details are less risky than generic details 
  • Your object work should be good enough to define your location without you having to verbalize it 
  • Your first beats of scenes should be separate and distinct. it  gives you more variety when you bring them together 
  • Opening options: monologue, documentary, ms jackson (hot spot based on suggestion), invocation

Class #3

  • Start with a want or destination 
  • Your first scene should give you lots of possibilities 
  • Start with relationship between 2 people 

Class #4

  • Don’t worry about where your scene is going or how funny it is, worry about knowing your character and your relationship 
  • The objects in your scene can be extensions or at least tell us more about your character 
  • Monoscenes can still have beats that just happen in real time 
  • Edit on a laugh. you can always come back. 
  • Make your characters more distinctive so you can easily recognize them 
  • When you leave a scene and come back, give yourself the gift of time lapse and be in the middle of something 

After working on a short-film with a friend, I decided I wanted to learn more about the filmmaking process. A number of people associated with The Magnet Theater decided to do a filmmaking intensive in the Catskills that brought improvisers and filmmakers together to shoot a feature-length film in 10 days.

I learned a ton through the experience—I learned more about filming in 10 days than I could have by reading 100 books.

Here are the notes I took away from the experience. You can learn more about Shoot from the Hip here.

Acting

  • Just like in improv, you have to interact with your fellow actors. Be paying more attention to them than yourself.
  • Once you connect to your characters background, motivation, and objective, it becomes a lot easier to react as they would.
  • Be willing to have fun with your characters and make interesting choices.
  • When shooting the film out of order, remind yourself in each scene where you are in the story so you still have the right progression as a character.
  • When improvising scenes, establish the important beats of the scene that need to be hit and then go. On the next takes, keep what worked and refine what didn’t.

Editing

  • Watching your edits on a big screen will help you identify small fixes such as needed cuts or audio issues.
  • At the end of the day, continuity is less important than the performance. But it is what will set your movie apart from being amateur.
  • If you “notice” an edit, it’s not good.
  • Multiple camera angles make switching between takes easier. Also having shots of the other person (and not being able to see the speakers mouth) allows you to use the best dialog without worry about syncing.
  • Just like in improv, reactions make the joke. Your edits should include the best reactions.
  • Cut in the middle of dialog when possible to maintain audio continuity for the audience. This also looks more professional and allows you to see reactions.
  • Shots without actors acting or speaking can be used to round out the movie (things like establishing shots)
  • If you sync all of your angles into a sequence you can quickly jump back and forth between the two angles.
  • One way to do editing is in the first pass “edit for radio”–just worry about getting the audio where you want. then you can adjust the video as needed.
  • When possible, the editor should be the one to log and capture video since they will need to be watching all footage anyway to do their editing.

Directing

  • You can use lighting, sound, and camera placement to help tell your story.
  • Allow for time to improvise in scenes. The best moments of the film can come from completely improvised bits in the moment.
  • Having multiple cameras is easier on the actors, helps with continuity and shortens the shoot time, but is more footage for the editor, requires more people and potentially restricts the types of shots you can do.

Production

  • Being able to do every role helps you appreciate them more and realize what you can do to make their jobs easier.
  • The more filled out a continuity sheet, the more helpful it is to the editor.
  • To help the editor, create a document that lists which tape and scene numbers were used for a particular scene.
  • The setup is usually what takes the longest, not the takes. If the director can pre-plan as much as possible, the crew can get there and set up. The talent can then come in once it’s setup.
  • It can be tough to balance wanting to be efficient and stay on schedule and also taking the time to have fun and play with different decisions and options
  • Organize all of the scenes into respective days taking into account location, time, characters, and costumes.
  • With an ordered scene list, list the needed crew people for each one (and call time if different).
  • The assistant director is there to make the directors job easier. They’re the ones that keep things moving, on schedule. They have to be in command even if to the point of sounding like a jerk.
  • Who says what: the AD yells quiet on set and then roll cameras. When the cameras are rolling and focused on slate, they each say speeding. The slate person then reads the slate information and drops the clapper. The camera people then get to their frame and say frame when they are there. The director then says action when ready and cut when done.
  • The clapper is incredibly important when using more than 1 camera. The visual helps with the editing process for logging and the clapper hitting is the first nonblurry frame and is what allows you to sync audio at the sound of the clap.
  • When slating, it’s better to actually clap the sticks instead of letting them fall. This will help in editing because the clap will be more succinct and the top won’t bounce.
  • Having a list of all of the beats of the movie is important. Then ultimately having a list of every scene plus a couple of sentences about the crux of the scene, major character changes or information, and any key lines
  • Masking tape on floor can help you set your marks (even for things like tripods).
  • You can take digital pictures to track prop locations and wardrobe.
  • Slating at the beginning will help editing (both on camera recording and on the log).

Lighting/Sound

  • When first setting up a scene, first try to control the environment (sound and lighting).
  • Light is like water–you can have direct hard light or when you bounce it off something, it will spread and also become softer.  Gels can change the ambience of the light.
  • Work to make your lighting and sound seem realistic (you almost don’t notice it).
  • Top and back light can make someone pop out more.
  • Use a blanket on the wall or floor to try to muffle any echo in a room.

Writing

  • To determine the plot, think of each storyline separately and decide on each of their resolutions. Then list all scenes and beats for each one and match up where they overlap.
  • For the story, write down all of the scenes on small cards and then rearrange them into the flow of the movie.

Camera

  • For each location (and really any new shots) the camera settings for light and sound should be checked.
  • To get focus, zoom in on your main focus point, get focus and then zoom to frame.
  • Main types of shots include wide/master, establishing, closeup, ecu, two shots, over the shoulder.
  • Remember the rule of two thirds when framing.