TV & feature director Nisha Ganatra discusses some the best practices she's learned around rehearsing and blocking for the strongest comedic performances both in camera and in the editing room.
Rehearsals are an important part of the comedy process for several reasons:
It is the time when you can assess who will get better through successive takes.
Not all comedians like rehearsing; many think it makes their material less fresh, or they’ll lose energy. Be open to cutting a rehearsal short if it works best for the performances.
You can adjust your shots. For Nisha, this can mean separating her actors so that they're not in the same shot together. This allows her to use earlier takes for one actor, and later takes for another, giving her options in the editing room.
When communicating with your actors, avoid giving direction from behind a monitor. Standing next to the camera allows you to be more present with your actors and asses their needs.
Know your set: In television, writers will sometimes share alternative jokes from behind the monitor. This is only appropriate in some settings and often not the right choice in a scene with traditional comedians and traditional actors.
Give direction with the tone and feeling that connects your performer to the material as you've envisioned it.This also helps to creates a safe space for them to work.
When blocking scenes for comedy, be mindful that it doesn't interfere with an opportunity for a punchline or laugh.
Your pathway as an artist can be a long road, especially if you’re trying something new. Keep going, do the work and focus on a way to get your stories seen.
Nisha Ganatra is a Canadian-American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actress of Indian descent. She wrote, directed, and produced the independent comedy-drama CHUTNEY POPCORN and later directed the independent film COSMOPOLITAN and the romantic-comedy CAKE. more...