Wednesday, February 26, 2014

physical read...

To help the reader gain insight to the point of this post, I need to explain what a ‘line read’ is for our non-theatrical folks. A ‘line read’ is when a director gives an actor a specific way of saying a line – usually because the actor is not saying the way the director wants - or the actor just doesn’t 'get' the way the line needs to be delivered. Either way, this leaves little or no scope for the actor to find her own way - and from my experience it generally ends up sounding inauthentic.

If we look at this ‘line read’ concept in terms of fight choreography, often a fight director will do a move for an actor (in order to demonstrate). We could therefore say a fight director is giving a ‘physical read’ of the choreography. I have witnessed many fight directors show off the moves they give their actors!

This brings me to the point of this post. I think as fight directors, we need to be careful with ‘physical reads’. My observation is that an actor usually tries to emulate the move the fight director has done and the negative affect is this: the actor usually has crafted (or by accident) a particular shape / skeletal structure for a character, even if no strong physical characterization has taken place. So an audience will have that shape in their mind’s eye, consciously or not. When the actor comes to the moment or moments where they have simply copied the fight director, there is a distinct shift in shape.

As a fight director, I will usually do one of two things:  move like the actor, or do it a little 'bad'. The logic of dumbing down the move (ie doing it a little badly) is that I want the actor to think, "I  don’t want to move like that, I can do it better." Hence, they will invest in the movement for themselves and not simply replicate me. They will make the move their own. I want my work to be invisible.


  1. Hi,

    I run the website Acting Australia []. This website is devoted to promoting and teaching the Australia film industry. I thought that it might perhaps interest you :)


  2. Interesting read. So far I've only tried to give the technique in as clean movements as possible, asking my actors to interpret. Much like reading/learning a text and then playing around with it. Do you find your methods work better for the actors? Also, Scott, this is an old blog post. You should write more. It's interesting. :)

    1. The whole point of a line read in most cases is because the actor actually can't interpret... maybe we are saying the same thing? I guess I am referring to the actor who has trouble "playing around with it"... great thought though. Ok - trying to find time to write more!

    2. Hey buddy - have written heaps more now!!