I'm shooting now on a Tv show where a big part of the action is cops questioning suspects in an interview room, and I often have to pull the focus according to the text. On one hand I love this kind of shootings because is where the "power" of a focus rack can be really expressive and even creative. On the other hand, it is quite stressful because you have to really feel the dialogue and pull in the right moment, not after and not before, otherwise the shot can be ruined.
I have an iPad with the script, but one thing I usually do is also to note on a piece of camera tape the word or the sentences that are going to be my cue. Aside of that I also try to memorize the script, so the iPad and the cues are just a double check.
So my question is: what's your method in this kind of shooting? Tricks? Tips?
We all know this issue on set, right?
It depends if there is a rehearsal or not. If not, ill just follow my feeling and the intention of the scene, offcourse you should read the script as a focuspuller so you know what its all about.
If we do rehearse, ill try to find a way to pull 'naturally' and not just the lines. A look in the eyes, a head movement, i feel you can be a part of the scene as a focuspuller, your choice could make it so much more.
but, in some situations the director/dp wants me to pull focus on the lines, in that case, ill memorise the lines and (big TIP) ill look at the boom operator.
Pulling focus like this is much a feeling to me. The way an actor turns his/her head in a tight two-shot makes the pull seem more dynamic and "hidden". Remember, as focus pullers we actually have a big impact on where the audience will look and what the audience will focus on in the scene. Number 1 thing is to read the script. Usually, you get sides for the day and I keep them close and memorize the dialogue on specific scenes. I also have a talk with the DP and Director, try to find out what they want in the scene. There have even been times when I have sat next to the director and he will tell me or point at the monitor where and when he wants the focus pull. Sometimes that works great because the director gets exactly what he wants. I also keep a tight relationship with the sound guys, and especially the Boom OP. Trying to always be half a second on the pull before he changes the mic position. It usually also helps to not be depended on a monitor for this. Have your marks on point and be in the scene right next to the camera, that way it all becomes more dynamic.