Monday, December 28, 2009

12/29 Script Analysis (FOR DIRECTORS)

Today I was focused man *Jay-z Voice*. I spent 12 hours today breaking down the first 5 pages of my script.  I will spend this entire week doing script analysis and committing the script to memory like the actors have to do.  Like I have said before it is beyond important that the director knows more about the characters than the actors themselves.  They are going to be asking me questions and I need to be able to answer them. I am also going to have their back to make sure that they are giving real performances and if they aren't I am going to need to be able to say the right things to get them back on track. 

I approach analyzing scripts through a system that was inspired by a series of steps that my mentor Anthony Hemingway suggested that I follow found in the Judith Weston book "Directing Actors". It is EXTREMELY tedious but I feel is necessary step for me.  I do a 26 point analysis of "EVERY" line of dialogue in the script, no matter how short or lengthy in an excel document. Mind you, depending on the line that every category may not be used but it forces you think about it in a way that you may not have thought before.

The 26 categories that I break each line of dialogue down in are:
(1) Ideas/First Impression, (2) Evidence For Your Ideas, (3) Paraphrase, (4) Questions That The Line Brings Up, (5) Three Possible Meanings, (6) The Reality Behind The Lines, (7) Facts, (8) Evidence, (9) Questions To Ask, (10) Issues, (11) Research, (12) Images, (13) Image Associations, (13) History (Backstory), (14)  What Just Happened, (15) Objective, (16) Obstacles, (17) Action Verbs, (18) Adjustments, (19) Subtext, (20) Physical Life, (21) Beat, (22) Subject, (23) Who Brings It Up, (24) Transitions And Connections, (25) What Happens, (26) Scene Event (Literal/Global).

I know it sounds like a lot to deal with and trust me it is. It took me 10 hours to break down 5 pages worth of dialogue this way. I enjoy it though because it forces me to think on my feet and it allows me to explore my characters with a depth that I may have never thought to before. 


Here I will show you how I broke down one line in the script:

"Good to see you my dude. 
It's been a long time."

-Ideas/First Impressions

The guys have not seen Kevin for a very long time.

-Evidence For Your Ideas

In the dialogue.


I am happy to see you, a significant amount of time has passed since we last seen each other.

-Question That The Line Brings Up

-How long has it been since the guys have last seen each other.

-Three Possible Meanings

(1) Maybe Dre is wondering why Kevin hasn't kept in touch. (2) Maybe Dre wants to know where Kevin has been doing all this time and what he has been doing. (3) Maybe Dre knows what Kevin has been doing and he is surprised to see that he made it back.

-The Reality Behind The Line

This is the first time the guys have seen Kevin in a long time.


It has been some years that everyone has seen Kevin in person.


Through giving the characters a back story

-Questions To Ask

How long has it been since they have last seen Kevin? Have they written letters or talked to him on the phone at least?


Make sure the actor that plays Dre says this line they have not heard from Kevin since he left and they thought he was dead.


None needed



-Image Association

Clock, watch.

-History (Backstory)

Dre hasn’t heard from Kevin at all since he left.

-What Just Happened

Kevin just walked in.


Dre wants to remind Kevin that it has been a long time since the last time they've seen each other.


Dre hasn’t seen Kevin in a long time.

-Action Verbs

Remind, affirm, praise, greet


Dre should play this as if he hasn’t heard from Kevin at all.  What if Dre wrote Kevin and never heard back from him.  It's like when you call a girl and you don’t hear from here no more but then you run into her years later.


Dre missed his friend

-Physical Life



Dre greets Kevin.



-Who Brings It Up


-Transitions And Connections

Dre says this line to greet Kevin as well.

-What Happens

Dre talks to Kevin

-Scene Event (Literal/Global)

Catching up with an old friend / Not taking relationships for granted.


As you can see this is a very tedious process.  There are 51 lines in the first five pages of my script and I did a 26 point analysis of every line of dialogue.  By the end of the day I will have filled out 1,326 excel cells full of information that will give me a better understanding of my characters. Again I must stress that this is "my"own personal process and I do not claim to know the only way to analyze a script.  Thanks for reading.

Director: Cherry

"This Time I Want It All"


  1. Wow is all I can say. I sent this blog to a friend of mine whose brother is working on a short film script. Trying to make things happen in South Carolina. My sister(twitter: @shareewash) is working on two scripts as well. This is very HELPFUL. Thank you.

  2. This is incredible.. I have taken a couple of directing classes... and I don't think we even went this deep!! WOW!

  3. Wow... Thank you for the insight into your process. It does sound tedious but also incredibly helpful. Going to try adding this to my own method as an actress...