Meisner over VC???

Ever since we went into lockdown, we've been thinking about how to keep actors acting even though everyone is stuck at home. We been experimenting with two actors filming their individual halves of a scene separately and then editing the two halves together. But, it's hard to act on your own and have to imagine that your scene partner is there. Also, the connection with your scene partner is one of the things that makes theatre so exciting, and you really miss that acting against an imaginary partner.

It's possible to partially address this by iterating the dialogue towards the final takes. One actor records their lines as an MP3 and sends it to their partner. They in turn act against the first actor's lines, recording themselves as they do it and send their recording back. After a couple of interations of this, both actors have an emotionally authentic recording of their scene partner, which they can use to record their final take. This process is actually a pretty good technique for learning the lines, so it's the kind of work that both actors would need to do anyway, just with a bit more organisation.

It's not the same as acting against a real human being though. For one thing, you know exactly what your scene partner is going to say and how they say it, which is never entirely true in live theatre. And, you've probably listened to the same recording many times. Plus, of course, it's audio only; no facial expressions or body language.

We didn't think there was any way around this, but, in fact, we were wrong. We were using Video Conferencing [VC] calls to rehearse the scene with the director and she was doing us to do Meisner reps, as a way of deepening the connection between us and getting into the scene. Doing this, gave us the idea of doing the same thing to film the final take.

Now, the easiest way to do this would be to simply have the VC software record the call, as we did with Immaculate. The trouble with that is that the video quality is pretty poor. A better way is for both actors to use two mobile phones each; or, even better, a phone and a proper camera. By placing the two phones close enough together, you can record yourself on one phone and run the VC software on the other. You see your partner on the VC phone and the other takes a high quality recording of yourself. Once you're face to face with a real human being, you can do Meisner reps and prep and you can react off one another in a fairly natural way, as you would on stage. Afterwards, you both send your footage to your editor for post production as you would for a regular shoot.

We shot our scene from Frankenstein this way, and it was a lot more enjoyable than acting alone with an imaginary partner.

Scene: Frankenstein Scene XVIII

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