film scripts vs stage scripts

I’ve been working over the last couple of months with actor Joseph Mawle, helping him prepare for his roles in the Russell Howard/Warner Bros movie THE HEART OF THE SEA and also the current BBC series RIPPER ST.

It’s got me thinking a lot about the actor’s process in film, and how it differs from stage performance, and how the differing scripts affect that. It strikes me that one of the big challenges with film scripts as commonly used is that they are, if anything, too prescriptive. They’re rarely written with the actor in mind, as they are usually serving the far larger  role of envisioning the film for the entire production. The Producers need something that they can show to investors saying ‘here, THIS is what the film looks like’. Production design, camera crew, everyone in the system relies on it to tell them exactly what’s going to happen.

And that’s just about the worst thing to tell an actor. I’m always looking for scripts that I can strip away the stage directions to find them new from the text, with the actors. For scripts that let the actor in, not telling them the external results, but letting them find their way into it.

I wonder what film might gain from having two scripts for each production – a production script for the crew and producers, and an actor’s script that gives them the freedom to find their own route through.

photo – on set at Heart of the Sea, from twitter @realronhoward




%d bloggers like this: