Blocking the scene is much like a puzzle – Directors will keep reworking their ideas to get all the pieces in place so they can visually get the story off the written page. Blocking is working out every detail and nuance of the actor’s performance and movement, and the camera’s movement in relation to the actor.
A film shoot can be divided into five parts:
- Blocking – determining where the actors and cameras will be on the set for each scene.
- Lighting – the DP (also know as the DOP or Director of Photography) lights the set and positions the camera(s) for the first shot. On big budget films this is done with stand-in actors while the main actors are in hair and makeup. Low budget films often cannot afford to use stand-ins while lighting.
- Rehearse – camera rehearsal with the actors and crew.
- Final Adjustments – the lights, camera and every aspect of the scene are tweaked to capture the performance.
- Shoot – this is when you actually press record to capture the shot or scene. On the short film “The Final Goodbye” we had parts that were done in one take while others required ten, but typically it was 2-3 takes per scene.
When the Director is happy with the take he or she moves on to the next shot or scene… then repeats the 5 steps.
It takes a long time to shoot a single scene, and the more moving parts you have (number of actors and background actors, locations, stunts, special effects and so on) the more time you’ll need to shoot each individual piece of the movie puzzle.
When actor Darren Andrea and I were shooting some test footage to try a few blocking ideas for my upcoming series “Amygdala” the last thing I expected him to do was walk into the ocean in his street clothes just so I could see if the proposed changes we came up while on location would look as good on camera as we imagined. When your actor is willing to do that, even though it’s just test footage and not an actual shoot, you know you have a dedicated actor who is passionate about filmmaking.