Rehearsal for fiction film production is a misunderstood activity, perhaps because the word suggests the aridity of repetition and drilling. A better expression would be cast development. A low-budget production that forgoes this stage prior to shooting is courting a death wish. When all theater production, even improvisatory theater, grows from rigorous rehearsal, you might wonder why bigbudget filmmaking does not do so. The professional cinema argues that because film actors can learn the next day's lines just before shooting, rehearsing the cast as an ensemble is a waste of money.

But even famous screen actors study and rehearse intensively. Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Gary Sinise—to mention ...

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