Giving the director and cast sufficient rehearsal time is the best insurance policy a production can buy. Not all directors or actors like to rehearse in advance, but the great majority consider it a welcome luxury, and for some stage-trained actors, an absolute necessity.

Rehearsals make sense on every level: artistic, collaborative, economic and time management. The screenplay can often improve during a rehearsal period, as actors give line readings and improvisations that can later be incorporated into the formal script. Directors often have their script supervisor or assistant record or take notes during rehearsals; some directors also record them, and sometimes review them with actors to analyze performance strategies.

Blocking of scenes often can be efficiently accomplished during rehearsal, as can camera angles if the director of photography is invited to participate. The more thorough anticipation of the shooting environment that can be done in pre-production in rehearsal, the more smoothly and efficiently filming can proceed. A minimum of two weeks of rehearsal should be budgeted, and can often be accomplished in a simple “black box” space with no lights or equipment required other than a portable video camera.

Rehearsal can also help the director shape the way he wants his performers to fit into his story, and allow him to work out camera angles and moves, possible edits and even effects shots well before principal photography begins. A storyboard artist who works with the director during the rehearsal process can also help the filmmaker visualize the performances in the context of the set or the camera, and can also help lead to more economic and efficient filmmaking on the set.

The Bottom Line

Hiring a director and a cast are the two most important decisions a producer can make, and the consequences of these choices determine the odds of a film being successful or not. The utmost time and consideration should go into this process, while always staying mindful of the financial limitations imposed by the agreed-upon budget.

Once a director and cast have been chosen, it is progressively more difficult to go back in time. Replacing either a director or an actor after production has begun is the worst part of a bad situation, and should only be a solution of the last resort. Very few films recover from a director being fired during production; the same is not true of actors who are replaced, since sometimes a bad fit is not apparent until filming is underway.

In that instance, a decision should be made as soon as possible, because re-shooting footage with the previous actor becomes a necessity, and an additional and unbudgeted expense. An actor who is not working properly in the role cannot hide it when the daily footage is reviewed, and it’s best to act quickly and decisively to go with another casting choice. A miscast and unhappy actor can quickly poison the atmosphere on set, and disturb the relationship between the director and the rest of the cast.