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What are we doing making a Basketball scene?

August 6, 2012

I put up pictures of Mike Gunter’s excellent overhead diagrams a while back (here’s the link), so I thought it’s only fair to put up my crappy overheads, which actually were useful, even though they’re incredibly ugly and (as Courtney pointed out), look more than a bit like penises.

Yesterday we shot the basketball scene that I talked about rehearsing a while back here. We broke a pretty complex action scene into six sections, each with a small action that started and finished. That’s really how you do any big complex scene that you can’t manage to do all at once (especially action-oriented scenes). In our case, we had each section be a run for a basket.

After we rehearsed it, I re-wrote the scene to reflect the changes that we made in rehearsal, and also took out any of the language that made it read-able, and instead made the text just reflect the action as simply as possible, along with the dialogue. I emailed that to my actors to check that I got it right, and so they could work from that script as well. On set, that let us very quickly see that this section has these actions and dialogue, without the flowery language getting in the way.

What you’re seeing above is the final version of that script, which has the overheads at the top (along with the section #), followed by the simplified script.  I put each section on its own page, so that you’re only looking at any one section at a time, and can see it visually and spelled out.

So that the actions on the overheads would make sense chronologically (to me, at least), I labeled each position as “S1” for where Stephanie began her action, then “S2” for her second position, and so on.

All that made the scene pretty simple to film, really – it was a lot of doing it by the book. We filmed the wide shots in their entirety (meaning that we shot the entire scene, not the sections), just to get all the action and transitions on film, and so the actors got a good sense of how the scene would progress emotionally.

After we shot the wide shots with the cast, we brought in our body doubles (who could actually play basketball…), and took them a section at a time, performing each move. The main actors worked with the doubles to make sure everyone was doing the same moves, and Natalie Sparks, our coach, helped translate our actor-speak into basketball speak. :) We shot a lot of hands and feet of the doubles to get some nice cutaways of action.

Then, when we went in for the close-ups with our actors, we’d do that a section at a time, too. We’d do section one from all angles, then move on to section two, etc. It took a big, unwieldy scene, and made it very do-able.

Our last trick was to do the last take of any of the shots that had big basketball moves without the basketballs. Courtney and Kenn just mimed the action. That did two things for us: first, it gave us the audio clean, without the bouncing sound all over it. Second, it let them focus on the dialogue and each other, instead of worrying about playing the game. We won’t be able to use that throughout, because there are places where you can see that they don’t have the balls, but in a lot of places you’ll never know.

And that’s how a bunch of theatre people who don’t know much about basketball make a basketball scene work.

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