Joe, Steve and Ron at a rehearsal for the independent film Rain in the MountainsDespite the last minute schedule changes that prevented the actors from being off-book, yesterday was a good rehearsal. Steve is obviously a rare find, a soulful clown with boundless energy and a natural performer. He will be the heart of this movie, on-screen and off. We couldn’t ask for anyone better.

Joel‘s manner of directing is very easy-going. He starts by having the actors go through the scene on instinct, giving only blocking directions. Then he talks through the entire scene, laying out the motivations in the head of each character, explaining his reasons for writing particular actions or dialogue. “As long as you are communicating out of that psychology,” he tells them, “it doesn’t matter if it’s exactly what’s written in the script.” The second go through the scene is always looser and better.

Joel Metlen explains things at a rehearsal for Rain in the MountainsIf he sees anything else he wants to change, Joel will ask to do another go through. He’s not trying to perfect the scenes yet; most will be rehearsed again. Even so, the scenes are reading well and getting lots of laughs.

Some actors are more confident improvising than others. Steve is the king. He’s always keeping people on their toes with ad libs and paraphrases. Since no one is a professional actor, this throws many of his scene partners. Two of his best friends are also in the movie: Joe, who plays the Dead Man, and Ron, who plays the Gas Station Attendant. Scenes with them are especially fun to watch, since they are more accustomed to having some give-and-take with Steve.

At yesterday’s rehearsal, Joe and Steve excitedly proposed adding a fart joke to the first scene. Walking through a field, Eric encounters the Dead Man, who has been hanging in a tree for 150 years. “He probably hasn’t farted in all that time,” Steve says. “Think of it. A hundred-and-fifty-year-old fart!”

The first thing most people learn about Joel is that he loves toilet humor. He tells Joe and Steve to give it a try. I was skeptical, and who knows if it’ll make the cut of the movie, much less get filmed, but those guys cracked me up with the oldest joke in the book. You can tell they love playing ‘pull my finger’ jokes on each other.

Nick Erb and Kassidy Whitener goof off while director Joel Metlen tries to work
Nick (Todd) and Kassidy (Lisa) try to hang the director