Questions & Actors: Keeping Character In Order When Filming Scenes Out of Order

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If you don’t have any order with who you are and why you are here, it will feel all out of order, this I know for sure!

QUESTION: When filming a large film, how do you keep character when the scenes film all out of order? – @KarenRoberge


ACTORS: Great Question! Sounds like chaos, and can be if your character is not in order! Have you ever watched a film and when the ending came, it felt like the “characters” just met? Well, most likely they just did and the ending was the first day of filming. So, how do you keep your character IN order when you’re filming OUT of order? Simple, but not always so simple: stay true to who you are and why you are here, while having an overall intention, will guide you to what you hope will take place in each particular scene. 

My very first feature film was with the beloved Robin Williams in PATCH ADAMS. Can I say I was just as excited as I was nervous when I heard, “You booked the role of Peter Coyote’s Wife!” Yikes!

I was so green I didn’t even know scenes were filmed out of order! So when I saw that my first scene was an emotional scene that takes place towards the end of the film, I freaked out! I was going to be in a hospital room with all the top guns – Robin, Peter, and amazing director Tom Shadyac, along with my two boys, telling their dad I love him as he lays on the hospital bed. I honestly thought about turning the role down, that’s how scared I was as these questions raced through my mind . . .

How was I going to truly know my husband if he is dying, and I’m meeting Peter Coyote for the first time?

How will I feel comfortable doing an emotional scene, baring my soul and being vulnerable, when nobody got to know me yet?

How will I feel in that space with the big guys when it’s just little ol’ me?

Looking back, this would not have been scary had I incorporated meditation into my skill set, as I shared in my last post, but, at this point in my life, I’d never even heard of meditation!

However, I was blessed that my first feature was on this set, as I came to learn not all sets were going to be like this one. Robin Williams treated me as an equal (I will cherish that forever), Peter Coyote couldn’t have been more generous as an actor and now friend, and Tom Shadyac, an actor himself before becoming a director, had the tools to make me feel comfortable in my self-created, uncomfortable space.

I came to learn questioning my character was the key to keeping me in order IN scenes that suddenly never felt out of order. 

  1. Why were you created? You always have a purpose, a reason to be where you are, you’re never just showing up with no intention. You are important or you wouldn’t be there!
  2. What’s your intention? Always have an intention, a reason you are there, and the outcome you are hoping for. In that emotional scene with Peter Coyote, my intention was to make sure my husband knew his boys and wife loved him, and he would be part of our lives no matter what the outcome. What is not spoken is sometimes more important than words said. Tom Shadyac had Peter go into convulsions to help me get to where I needed to get. It always starts inside before manifesting outside!
  3. What just took place before walking into that space? This is so important. A scene doesn’t start on, “Action.” It starts way before you walked into that space, even if you have to create it yourself. So it’s not going to matter if the scene is out of order, because you are in order; you know WHY you are there and WHAT just took place prior to entering your space, and you have an INTENTION to why you are there and why you leave, if that happens to be the case. In Patch Adams, I created recieving an urgent phone call telling me I had to get to the hospital immediately. Creating a sense of urgency allowed me to walk into that room differently than if I had gotten a phone call telling me my husband was ready to come home. In my scenario, I knew this may be the last time I see my husband and I knew our boys had to be there. So it no longer becomes about what’s really happening in the room – all the chaos of cameras, lights, yelling out shots – but what’s happening in my inner room.
  4. .What triggers you to say what you say or don’t say? TRIGGERS INSTEAD OF MEMORIZING. Memorizing can make the lines stale and over rehearsed. Triggers keep the dialogue fresh. What does the person say before you respond? Why do you respond the way you do? A fun exercise I do is to cover up my lines with a piece of paper, so I can read only what the other person is saying. I then ask myself how I would respond before I look at how the writer wants me to respond. Am I close or way off in left field? If I am in left field, I ask why my character would respond the way she does and what the history is between these two characters. For example, say my boyfriend tells me, “I love you.” I would most likely say, “I love you too.” After I remove the paper, I see that my character says, “Hmmm…do you know what love even is?” Obviously, something happened prior to walking into this space. So I  start asking myself questions. Did I overhear my boyfriend talking to someone else? Did I see him with someone else? Do I believe he is cheating? If my intention is to find out if he has been unfaithful, now how might I answer? After hearing him tell me he loves me, I may feel squirmish inside, questioning his love. Now the word “love” triggers a love that has been betrayed and I respond from that vulnerable space.

Get right to who you are, why you are here, what your intentions are, what triggers you to say what you say or don’t say, so it will no longer be about scenes being filmed out of order and all about your character being in order!


DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR KAREN? SHE WOULD LOVE TO SHARE IT IN HER NEXT BLOG!
 Karen Ann Pavlick started her career as an NFL CHEERLEADER for the Raiders. This led to an acting career and her first film, Patch Adams, with the beloved Robin Williams, and directed by her favorite, Tom Shadyac. With over 75 national TV Commercials, appearances on The Bold & The Beautiful and General Hospital, reality show appearances, Show Host for the Home Shopping Network (HSN), Karen has experienced many sides of the industry. In addition, she was honored with the title “Distinguished Filmmaker,” by the Melbourne Independent Film Festival, after both her short films, under her production company Hollywood Ending Films, won “Best Film.” Karen feels blessed for the opportunities that continue to come her way and grow her.

Most recently, Karen wrote a self-help book to assist women of all ages in healing their childhood hearts. She looks forward to securing publishing and speaking engagements.

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