How do you learn all those lines?

You know that age-old, silly question, “How do you learn all those lines?” After the way my day went, I realize it’s not a dumb question.

Today I spent 10 hours on a set, acting in a short a film. Or rather, part of it. We shoot for a couple more days. Acting in a film is a bit different than acting on stage, so I was conscious of not being too big, not projecting at a ridiculous level because I was miked, or because I knew the crew had to hear me. But what’s even more different is the creation of the character and the actual performance. Obviously with theatre, an actor spends weeks developing the relationships, refining the beats, and learning the lines. When I do a play it’s much more difficult for me to learn lines by rote. Rehearsals help me ingrain them in to the character and the movement. It’s a bit more organic, in a way.

In film you get more takes, but the stuff we shot today is done. I’ll never have to go back and do it again. And, sadly, I’ll never have the opportunity to do it again. Do it, perhaps, better. More fully. It’s in the hands of the editor.

And, as for the lines….well, we had a table read and discussion a few days ago, which was when I met my fell0w actor. That few hours the other night, and the quick blocking and few run thrus before shooting it several times, wasn’t a time to “learn” lines. I had to know them coming in. And, I did.

As long as I had no distractions…such as the dozen crew members, the lighting screens, the traffic going by or over head, the gaggles of school children heading to the park, and the way the other actor says a line that sparks a different thought. Or even, props. It seems that today there were a couple lines that stumbled me up. I could say them correctly 5 times in a row, and then change the wording, and then correctly a few times, and then change the wording. We shot the scene from at least five different angles. I said the same line (in rehearsal or filming) probably 35 times. 25 times correctly. Hopefully more when the camera was rolling than not.

By the end of the day I promised the director that for tomorrow’s shoot I’d be more consistent in my lines. He (thankfully) just laughed.

I think I’ll go look at my script.


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