After booking my first acting job, I was filled with a myriad of emotions. Of course, I was beyond excited; however, this excitement was bordered by anxiety, fear and insecurities. While sitting with my script in hand, my mind wandered back to my early days of film acting lessons with an amazing acting coach. He always pushed the importance of analyzing the script to help not only discover my character, but also uncover the hidden story lines of the script as well as any technical notes.
Analyzing a film script scene-by-scene is the only way an actor can truly grasp the personality of his character as well as his relationships with others within the script.
When you’re first going through your script, make first-impression notes of each scene within a notebook. This is one of my personal favorite aspects of analyzing the script as it allows my mind to wander without constraints.
As you write this information down answer the following questions:
What is primary purpose of the scene?
Does the scene connect to a previously read scene?
What is your character doing/saying/desiring in the script?
What is the current relationship between your character and the others?
Observe Obstacles and Challenges
Every great script has a set of obstacles and challenges within the scenes. Sometimes these challenges are isolated within a particular scene, and other times these challenges/obstacles are reoccurring throughout the entire story.
In order to give an honest performance (as well as a performance that is true to the goals of the screenwriter), you must identify these obstacles and challenges within each scene. As you read the script, make notes of all large and small obstacles for your character, as well as obstacles within the entire storyline.
What the Story Means to You
I once had a wonderful director who before ever shooting a scene would ask the cast what the particular scene and story means to them on a personal level. He would always ask, “How does this scene/story affect you? What sticks out?”
At first I was confused as to why he would want to know this information; however, upon further dissecting these questions I realized that by truly engaging with the story on a personal level I have invested personal energy into the story. Thus, my performance is one that is full of passion and dedication as the words in the script are far more than simply that – words.