Script Breakdown - Script and Scene Analysis
A) Director as Story-Teller There are many facets of a Director's prep on any film or TV show - from location scouts and creative meetings to casting and scheduling.
But the first, and most important part of your job, is to understand the script - what the story is about; the themes; the story points; the characters.
A director is a story-teller, and to be a good story-teller, you need to understand every detail about the story you are telling. There's an old expression that says if it doesn't work in the script, it won't work on the set - and boy is that true! Understanding the story requires a lot of work on your part because you need to rip the script apart to find out what it is about, what works and what doesn't.
B) Script Structure
Here is the "traditional" Three Act Structure of any story:
ACT ONE - THE SET-UP (Boy Meets Girl)
NOTE: There has been a lot of debate lately on script structure - how many acts there are in a script! Because this is not a writing course, (and every story ALWAYS has a Beginning, Middle and End), I will refer to all scripts as having the traditional Three Act Structure. Even Television scripts follow the Three Act Structure - they are just divided into Act Breaks because that is where the commercials go.
Here is a "general guide" to the physical structure of TV scripts:
1) Half-Hour Episodic TV (22-25 pages and Two Acts)
Television scripts can also be broken down further by using a Teaser and a Tag. So a one-hour TV Script could be divided up like this:
C) Script Analysis
When you first get your script, find a nice quite place and just read it through once - from start to finish. Your first pass is to get an idea of what the story is about, where it takes place and who the characters are. This is when you form your first impressions of the story and it is probably the only time you will ever enjoy the script as a story - because from now on it's all work!!
Then, read the script again (and again, and again...) and start making notes and jotting down the answers to the following questions:
1) what is the PLOT? (what is the story about)
D) Scene Analysis
Once you have an understanding of what the story is about, you then need to analyze each individual scene in the script.
1) what is the INTENT of the scene? (what is the scene used for dramatically)
E) Other Structural Elements
Here is a partial list of some other elements you need to look for during your script breakdown:
F) In Conclusion
Your script breakdown will be a never-ending process. Each time you read the script, you find out something different about the story or the characters.
The script will constantly evolve. It will change because of the your creative notes - writer changes - actor changes - producer changes - network changes - location availability and on and on and on...
As long as you know what the story is about and where the story is going, you can adjust to all the changes.
This article was posted on October 28, 2005