By Evette Henderson (updated)
There are many different methods on analysing a script, however, I’m attempting to simplify the process for you by highlighting the absolute 3 steps in script analysis every actor must do that will help you perform like a pro every time. But be warned, I’ve deliberately chosen to ignore one of the most crucial steps many acting techniques teach.
One of my most popular articles ever on Ozemag is How to analyse a script? It’s a continuous battle for actors to really get inside the heads of writers. My previous article comprehensively lists the multiple steps to take for thorough script analysis. I recommend you checking it out so you can see the difference in comparison to this article.
While I don’t believe you need to do every step every time, it will certainly help you connect to your scene and character when you’re finding it difficult otherwise. And there are times when the scene naturally clicks with you and you already feel connected to the character.
Taken from The Broken Shore (big thanks to student, Gabi Goddard)
To simplify this process even further I’ve taken what I believe are the 3 most critical steps you cannot ignore when you do your script analysis. Here they are:
- The Facts And The Given Circumstances: Identify the facts in the scene. This generally includes majority of direction and potentially some dialogue. Factual information is indisputable and non-interpretative, so it makes sense to identify first what you can’t mess around with. E.g. He looks up to see Helen, approaching and gesticulating wildly, ready for a fight (taken from The Broken Shore script, see pic above; please note it is not correct script format). The facts are: he looks up to see Helen, approaching. The rest is interpretative.
Never ignore the facts.
The given circumstances includes the 4 W’s. Who, what, where, when. I’d like you to ignore the fifth, which is ‘why’ at this point as this is interpretative. E.g. Who am I? Who else is in the scene? What am I doing? What is the other character/s doing? Where am I? When is it? Again, this is indisputable information. You should already be getting a clear visual of how the scene physically plays out. One of the most common mistakes many actors make is to forget the ‘where’.
A professional actor never forgets ‘where’ his character is.
- Page Before and After: This refers to what happened to your character just before the scene starts and immediately after the scene ends. What this does is helps you determine the dynamic your character enters and exits with. This is highly important because it highlights the stakes in the scene and your investment in it. Basically, if you perform a scene and afterwards think you can raise the stakes even more, then do it.
It’s easier to work with an actor who has given everything they’ve got to the scene rather than trying to drag a performance out.
- To Get The Other Character To: Instead of focusing on your scene and overall objectives, focus entirely on the other character’s words (dialogue) and actions. In other words, what do you want to get the other character in the scene to do. This removes the pressure from you having to literally determine your objective and keeps you in the flow of ‘being in the moment’. It also encourages acute listening skills. Phew! That’s a load off! Let’s face it, how many times in real life do you think to yourself, “My objective is to go into that coffee shop and purchase a coffee.” You don’t. That’s overthinking it, you do it on autopilot. So the crucial step I’m asking you to ignore is: FORGET YOUR OBJECTIVE! Let it come naturally. By addressing these 3 steps your objective will ‘happen’ organically when you perform and it will feel fresh each time. This is a bit radical, I know, but acting isn’t what it used to be. Let’s move with the times!
I repeat, forget your objective!
Finally, there is no right or wrong in acting! That’s my mantra. Please make it your mantra too and keep it at the forefront of your mind every time you perform. There are only more effective choices.