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Getting Into the Movies - Reading Your Part

Apr 19, 2008
On the legitimate stage actors and actresses are called on to read their parts before beginning rehearsals. In the movies the part is read to them. Before the company begins to make even the first scene in a photoplay the scenario writer and director call a meeting and rehearse the company, reading the scenario and explaining the meaning of each scene.

If the author and director are wise the story is then carefully rehearsed clear through, scene by scene, before anything is photographed. In this way the actors learn the sequence of their scenes and the relation of their parts to other parts and to the whole.

It is up to you to make the best of your part. Secure a copy of the scenario, or at least of your scenes, as soon as possible. Then go over the story as many times as possible, trying to grasp the relationship of your own character to that of the other characters in the story. Work out your own conception of the part.

Perhaps at first the director will never give you a chance to do a piece of original acting. He will work out every bit of action for you. Eventually, however, your opportunity will come to "create a part," and you must be ready for it. All the action of a motion picture story is contained in the numbered scenes of the scenario. Your bit of acting will be in one or more of these scenes.

Here is a sample bit of one of our own scenarios, based on a stage play called "Mama's Affair,". These are the last few scenes of the photoplay :
Eve watches her mother go out, then turns to the doctor, goes to him, gives him her 'hand, and says very quietly:

SP: "Good bye. Doctor"
The doctor looks at her, astonished, and says, "What I' Eve looks up at him sternly and says :
SP: "Good bye; I Can hardly hope to see you again."
She then starts out the door. The doctor hurries after her, stops her, and says, "What do you mean ?" Eve turns to look at him, and then says very calmly :
SP : "I shall be leaving tomrrow."
The doctor, taken aback, steps back a couple of steps, looks at her in astonishment, and says :

SP: "I just told you that I'd marry You!"
Eve looks at him commiseratingly, smiles a cynical smile, and says:
SP: "You just told me you would take me in because you see no way to prevent my becoming chronic neurasthenic." The doctor looks at her, flabbergasted at the plain way in which she is putting things. She then goes on and says:
SP: "You don't want me, but you'll take me in as you'd take a patient into a hopsital."

The doctor looks at her, tries to speak, stammers, stops, not knowing what to say. Eve then takes a step toward him, smiles commiseratingly, and says:
SP: "You don't have to do that. I have learned how to handle mama. You don't have to worry about my health."

The doctor looks at her, surprised at this new Eve, who is in no need of him at all in his professional capacity. Eve looks at him, throws out her arms with gestures of complete victory over all her worries, and says :
SP: "I am going back to New York, and I am going to live."

Eve then turns, starts, goes toward the door and starts to go out. The doctor looks at her, struggles with himself, worries over the fact that he is losing her, goes toward her, and says : "Eve!" She turns, looks at him, and says: "Yes?" He looks at her helplessly, trying to find words to express himself, and then says:
SP: "I can't let you go like this."
Eve looks at him calmly, and asks why. The doctor looks around helplessly, stalls a moment, and then says:
SP: "Because I love you."

Eve looks at him a moment, and then, dropping all her pose, simply overcome with intense relief, she says :
SP: "Well, that's what I've been trying to get at." The doctor rushes over to her, grabs her, takes her in his arms, looks into her face, and says : SP: "You bold-faced, shameless little darling." Then gives her a good kiss, and we FADE OUT.

You will observe that in the scenario there are many lines written in for the actors to speak which never appear on the screen. This is to give the cast a chance to say the things they would say in real life under the same circumstances, and so to make the scene entirely natural. The actor speaks all the lines in small type and also those in the capital letters, following the abbreviation "SP," which stands for "Spoken Title."

Contrary to common belief, the actors really speak the words of their lines. There was a day when the hero, kissing the heroine in the final close-up, might say something like "Let's go out and get a cheese sandwich, now that this is over." But just about this time large numbers of lip-readers began to write in to the producers, kicking against this sort of thing.

It seems that constant attendance at the movies develops a curious power of following a speech by watching the character's lips. And from that day the slapstick comedians who used to swear so beautifully before the camera and the heroines of the serial thrillers who used to talk about the weather in their big scenes began to speak their proper lines.
About the Author
Malcolm Blake has researched and written about movies and entertainment, including top entertainment systems
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