Standing in on “Walk-and-Talks”

By | 2013-06-07T19:14:43+00:00 June 12th, 2013|Concepts, Lessons, Principles, Terminology, Tips, Tricks|2 Comments

A “walk-and-talk” is a scene in which actors are moving and talking to each other — usually side by side — while the camera follows them.  Walk-and-talks can take a number of different shapes and forms.  Frequently walk-and-talks are “two-shots,” meaning that both actors are in the frame as the camera in front of them tracks their walk.

Walk-and-talks may seem simple from the perspective of the stand-in — a straighforward movement alongside another actor from one point to another. But there are a few things stand-ins need to pay close attention to during walk-and-talks to make sure they get the blocking right.

Marking Rehearsal

When you are standing in for an actor in a walk-and-talk, you’ll get to see a marking rehearsal. Some important blocking details may be lurking during the marking rehearsal that you’ll need to note. It will help you in standing in for walk-and-talk scenes when you pay close attention to the following details.

Pace

The pace the actors are walking during marking rehearsal may prove critical to the blocking of the scene or the blocking of the camera.

During marking rehearsal, make a mental note of the pace at which the actors are walking. You might describe the pace as “fast” or “slow” or “medium speed,” and this measurement may be just the right description for finding the pace yourself when you walk it.

Or, for better accuracy, you might see if you can figure out a song that will correspond to the beat the actors walk in.  For example, does the beat for Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” correspond to the beat of the actors’ pace, or does the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive” work as a better match?  Keep in mind that pace may vary in the actors’ walk, so account for all paces seen in the marking rehearsal.

Timing of Lines

The actors might seem to be simply walking and talking, but the timing of their lines may be crucial to the blocking of the scene.

Perhaps an actor says a line while passing a tree?  That timing may prove important.  Perhaps an actor lands and pivots on a particular line?  That timing may also prove important.

Not always are you saying lines while standing in during a walk-and-talk, but in case you suddenly need to do so for the crew, learning the timing of the lines from the marking rehearsal will make sure you’re prepared.

Staggering of Actors

Say that in a walk-and-talk, one actor is trailing several feet behind the leading actor.  If you’re watching this marking rehearsal from the side, it will seem as if the actors are walking directly behind each other.

However, if you reposition yourself to be in front of the actors, as they move toward you you will see more than likely they are slightly staggered rather than being in a straight line.  This is so that both actors faces can be seen in a shot from in front of them.

You need to make sure when standing in for the trailing actor that you know on what side your actor is staggered and also make sure to reflect that when you rehearse with camera.

Camera Rehearsal

When it comes time to rehearse with camera a walk-and-talk, the camera department may have a lot of coordination on their end in order to get the shot.  This coordination often revolves around the stand-ins.

The camera department may want to find what spot a dolly will land on, how surefooted a steadicam operator can be about the terrain, what is happening in terms of background activity during the walk-and-talk, etc., and the knowledge the stand-ins have of the scene can make a huge difference in how smoothly camera rehearsal goes.

Here are some things to consider when doing a second-team rehearsal with camera.

Rehearsal Speed with Camera

If the camera is in front of you while you’re standing in during a walk-and-talk, be conscious of your pace.  Recall how fast the actors moved or recall that song you used for translating their pace.  Be ready to employ that pace for the first second-team rehearsal.

However, while you might know that the actors moved “fast” during the marking rehearsal or moved to the beat of Poison’s “Unskinny Bop,” it may not be in your best interests to move at that pace for the first camera rehearsal.

Just before the first camera rehearsal, you might hear that the rehearsal will be “half speed” or some other speed.  In such a case, make sure you follow these instructions.  And don’t fear taking a bit of initiative if the camera work looks a bit tricky in the walk-and-talk; feel free to ask the camera operator if you should go full speed, half speed, or even simply point-to-point in order to aid the crew best during this rehearal.

Proximity to the Camera

Another thing that needs to be worked out during a camera rehearsal is how closely you get to camera.

Many times how close you should be to camera won’t be declared, and the camera will simply stay just enough in front of you that you needn’t worry.

Other times a laser pointer will be mounted to the camera and turned on, lighting the ground with a colored speck just between you and the camera.  This speck may represent a point never to eclipse as you do your walk-and-talk.  That is, if you walk up to and past this speck while the camera is moving backwards, more than likely you are too close to camera.

Be conscious of your proximity to the camera and any markers not to cross during second-team rehearsal.

Exiting Frame

If during your walk-and-talk the actors blow past the camera and exit frame, it helps before the first camera rehearsal to ask the camera operator on what side of camera you will exit the frame.

You will likely be told either “camera right” or “camera left”; these are the sides of the camera, much like the sides of a human being facing you.  For example, if you are walking toward the camera and told to exit camera left, you would exit to your right and blow past the camera’s left side with the left side of your body.

Watch the Monitors for Changes

When it comes to shooting the walk-and-talk, you should pay attention to the monitors (as you frequently should with many other types of scenes) in order to keep track of subtle changes that may develop over the course of shooting.

Because walk-and-talk appear simple, you might inadvertently lose focus on the adjustments that are made to the scene over the course of shooting it.  Keep focused and pay close attention to changes and you should be make it easy for the crew to set up any remaining shots of the walk-and-talk.

Have another suggestion for walk-and-talks? Any interesting stories from when you’ve done a walk-and-talk? Share below!

About the Author:

Ben Hauck (Editor, Stand-In Central) has stood in on a number of projects shot in the NYC area. In addition to day-playing, he has stood in on major projects for John Oliver (Last Week Tonight), Jason Bateman (The Longest Week, Disconnect, and The Switch), Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People), Seth Rogen (The Night Before), and Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie and American Odyssey). Ben is an actor and improviser, author of the 2012 book Long-Form Improv (Allworth Press), and host of The Acting Income Podcast. http://benhauck.com

2 Comments

  1. Sara DeRosa July 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    It may seem obvious, but walk alongside the crew and the actors during the marking rehearsal instead of watching from a set spot. Be out of the way of people at a safe distance, but close enough to hear the lines.

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