Author Topic: BLOCKING: Looking for Examples of Blocking Pages  (Read 12482 times)

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SMeustace

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BLOCKING: Looking for Examples of Blocking Pages
« on: Sep 22, 2012, 09:17 am »
Hello. I was wondering if anyone would be kind enough to help with blocking notes as for some strange reason it is a weakness for me. I know how to write notes for blocking and in the past I had a cast of 40 which I took down blocking notes for. But to me it doesn't seem to look decent enough.

What i do is tape a scaled down ground plan on a piece of paper and insert a copy for every page of the script on the left hand side. On the right hand side I put numbers for a specific blocking. I start with 5, and go by 5's so it is easier to add in new blocking. On the left paper I use the characters initial and circle it and draw arrows pointing to a number that indicates that's the spot they move and where in the script they move.

For some odd reason it doesn't appeal to me and I was wondering if anyone can give me advice and examples of their blocking notes. How do you physically take blocking notes.

I would appreciate it so much.

Edit to subject line-Rebbe
« Last Edit: Sep 29, 2012, 01:32 pm by Rebbe »
"On the first day the lord said....Light cue 1, GO! Then there was light".

BeccaTheSM

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #1 on: Sep 22, 2012, 12:07 pm »
There have been a lot of discussions about blocking notation. Use the search in the top right corner and see what comes up.
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PSMKay

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #2 on: Sep 22, 2012, 04:03 pm »
... or at the related posts at the bottom of this page.

Also, and this just crossed my mind. Why do we take blocking? We do it so that the staging of the show can be preserved, but why are we preserving it?
1) So that understudies can be put in.
2) So that the show can be remounted.
3) So that actors who missed rehearsal can pick up what they missed.

This means that the people who will need to understand your blocking are you, subsequent stage managers, subsequent directors, and every actor who has to fill in after the original casting starts to change.  I'd suggest that whatever blocking you come up with be designed not for aesthetics, flashiness, or what makes you happy. Instead it should be something you can write down quickly and that can be easily understood by any of the above people who will pick up your book 6 weeks or 6 years from now and have to figure it out on their own.
« Last Edit: Sep 22, 2012, 04:24 pm by PSMKay »

MatthewShiner

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #3 on: Sep 22, 2012, 10:47 pm »
other reasons we taking blocking that are truly sm centric

1) Where entrances and exits happen for costume changes
2) What areas of the stage are being used to communicate to lighting / sound / scenic deisgners
3) Who is in what scene for costume designers (who are group together).
4) To remind actors how the show was originally staged when noting a performance.

But all for us.

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

PSMKay

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #4 on: Sep 23, 2012, 12:01 am »
Heh. Curious. Not to knock Matthew's suggestions, but do you think it is more important to have a book that others can understand or that you, the SM, can understand? Do you think that if you aim for one you could get the other along the way?

I don't know that communicating entrances/exits to the design team requires the diagrammatic methods SMs use to take down blocking. They can all be handled by standard, text notes and in fact might be more useful in plain text. Do you think that a starting stage manager will be faster taking down the action using some sort of new, uncomfortable shorthand or using regular text? What about when we leave or hand the book down to the next person?

Yes, a picture may be worth 1000 words but what if you're really lousy at drawing? The only reason that I can think of for diagramming, personally, is if you draw faster than you write. I do not.

Personally based on how I think and learn, I need more written words and fewer pictures to be able to recreate a scene. My blocking used a few 1-2 letter abbreviations for character names/SL SR DS US, but almost no diagrams unless I was dealing with massive chorus scenes. It was about 90% text.  When I was trying to recreate something in notes for the team it was easier to pick up my own language a 2nd time than try to go back and decipher a diagram, even my own.

If there's one thing I've learned about our shorthand it's that while we have some elements in common with our notation there's other trade secrets and unique glyphs that others might not recognize on a handoff. The few times that I got to peek at other SM's books, I first had to surmount a pretty large learning curve before I could parse their blocking.

Maybe it's just me and my total inability to parse visual input. I don't know.

Scott (formerly Digga)

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #5 on: Sep 23, 2012, 11:51 am »
Maybe it's just me and my total inability to parse visual input. I don't know.
No, it's not just you.  I only use diagrams that I draw if something comes along where a picture will help explain more easily what I'm writing and more often than not, I'm probably doing it for future people to understand my notes.  I also will do it if something is extremely specific.  Otherwise, I don't use mini-ground plans or drawings because I get confused looking at letters and numbers and a bunch of arrows going in various directions. 

EFMcMullen

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #6 on: Sep 23, 2012, 12:35 pm »
I'm exactly opposite.  My eye goes to the ground plan first to help orientate me then to the written word.  I feel that both are important to getting the whole picture of what is happening.  I do as SMeustace originally described.  I put reference numbers in the script that correspond to blocking on the back of the previous page and then fill in arrows/diagram to support the blocking.  For good or for bad, the one thing I have found too cluttering is adding the reference numbers in the diagram.  I tend to leave them out unless absolutely necessary.   

LCSM

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #7 on: Sep 23, 2012, 09:16 pm »
I number each line of text, and then use that to reference blocking notes on the opposite page. If the actions happen before or after a character speaks, I add a .5.

So my text page looks like:

1 MARC: You're very pretty, Linda.
2 LINDA: Don't say that.
3 MARC: Why not?
4 LINDA: I think I'm falling in love with you.
5 MARC: Is that such a bad thing?

Then on the facing page:

2 - LN X USR of MRC on "that"
3.5 - MRC sits
4 - "love" LN turns to MRC; MRC looks away

I find it more efficient for myself to mostly write, and to draw diagrams when necessary. Mostly, I use diagrams to show a grouping of characters. If there's a lot of action on one page, I'll put an image of where the characters all end up, so it's easy to clock where everyone is, if there's been a lot of movement. I find that it works well for me to use diagrams to mark out where the characters are at important/appropriate moments in the script, and written notes to describe how they got there. Written is quicker for me to get down and re-read later, and there's usually enough images for me to do an ultra-quick scan for approximate placement if the LD or someone else needs it.


missliz

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #8 on: Sep 23, 2012, 09:23 pm »
I number each line of text, and then use that to reference blocking notes on the opposite page. If the actions happen before or after a character speaks, I add a .5.

So my text page looks like:

1 MARC: You're very pretty, Linda.
2 LINDA: Don't say that.
3 MARC: Why not?
4 LINDA: I think I'm falling in love with you.
5 MARC: Is that such a bad thing?

Then on the facing page:

2 - LN X USR of MRC on "that"
3.5 - MRC sits
4 - "love" LN turns to MRC; MRC looks away


Would 3.5 fall between lines 3 and 4, or in the middle of line 3?
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LCSM

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #9 on: Sep 23, 2012, 09:28 pm »
Would 3.5 fall between lines 3 and 4, or in the middle of line 3?

3.5 would fall between lines 3 and 4. For blocking at a specific point in the line, I'll jot down the word it occurs on.

Aerial

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #10 on: Sep 23, 2012, 11:34 pm »
I find I use diagrams a lot when I have a large cast and position of one person relative to another is important.  When I have a smaller cast, I rarely breakout the ground plan. 

SMeustace

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #11 on: Sep 24, 2012, 12:56 am »
I use something like a diagram for blocking (which is why i use scaled-down groundplans) so i know know the spot exactly where the actor goes. So, I can flip through my script very quickly to see the blocking for any given scene. Plus I am quicker at scribbling/drawing than I am at writing legibly.

"On the first day the lord said....Light cue 1, GO! Then there was light".

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #12 on: Sep 24, 2012, 01:51 am »
I feel as though I'm a mix. I have a mini ground plan at the top of every blocking sheet, and I redraw my set pieces and where each actor starts at the top of the page. Underneath the ground plan I have lines and next the lines I have numbers. I write the blocking on the line that roughly lines up the text on the opposite side, then I insert a circled number on the script that corresponds to the number on the blocking sheet, exactly where the action happens. I tend to add @ or a circled b if there are multiple actions during a line, so that I'm not writing 5, 10, 15 all within one character's speech.

When I saw a SM's book that had 3 mini ground plans on each blocking page and that was it for documenting blocking I was blown away. I don't know how he kept track of the actors that way.

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #13 on: Sep 24, 2012, 06:00 pm »
I feel as though I'm a mix. I have a mini ground plan at the top of every blocking sheet, and I redraw my set pieces and where each actor starts at the top of the page. Underneath the ground plan I have lines and next the lines I have numbers. I write the blocking on the line that roughly lines up the text on the opposite side, then I insert a circled number on the script that corresponds to the number on the blocking sheet, exactly where the action happens.

This is similar to how I work as well... I love the mini groundplans specifically for musicals as well to keep track of set changes, etc, especially when blocking the show out of order. That way I can see what kind of shifts will be necessary early on, and who is available to help with them.

On a related note, whenever I have worked in Opera, it seems that the minis are standard, and the SM's have all used arrows to track blocking. As an ASM I would use it to track entrances and props, but it was not my responsibility to have their blocking.

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Re: Blocking help
« Reply #14 on: Sep 25, 2012, 12:48 pm »
Recently I've been working on musicals or operas with large casts so having the diagram is useful to note staring and ending positions in choreography or the general location of people in large crowd scenes. At those moments, we are generally working on spacing so I have time to quickly jot down the actors' symbols (which are usually their initials) on the diagram.  It's also been helpful for tracking a piece of furniture or prop that eventually needs to go off but we're not sure when.  Otherwise, I really heavily on writing blocking in shorthand (with the key on each blocking page) on one page and placing the number in the text.
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