Every department on a film will have the script broken down into manageable pieces, and when questions arise they will coming running to the director for answers. Directors are bombarded with questions from mood lighting to jacket color.
How can a director know all the answers all the time? Preparation.
The following six questions will help you understand the script completely and prepare you to answer any question that should emerge from the cast, crew, or studio. Start at the beginning and move from one scene to the next, asking yourself these questions:
- What is this scene about? Know the complete story arc of both the A-story and each subplot. Work through how each scene moves the story forward and the narrative purpose of each scene. Determine what each character wants in each scene, where each character is going, and where each character is coming from before the scene begins.
- How does this scene fit into the scene that came before and the scene that comes next? Determining this will help you design transitions to segue from one scene into the next scene. Let the emotion, energy, and pacing of each scene guide these transitions.
- What is each character’s motivation in a given scene? Perform a character analysis for each and every scene. You can learn more about this process in the chapter, “Analyzing Character.”
- What is the driving subtext of each line of dialog? Invariably, actors will ask you why their characters are saying a particular line, so be clear what each character really means, and why he or she is covering this truthful subtext with the written line.
- What does each character really want and is he/she speaking the truth or masking it? While dialogue can seem to be a truthful representation of how a character feels, it probably isn’t. Look at the scene to determine why the character is masking or revealing his true intentions.
- How could the lighting and cinematography serve the theme? In addition to the performance, determine how the other creative elements of filmmaking will work to enhance the emotion of each scene. From the blocking of the camera to sound design, understanding how the technique can adorn the actor’s performance can greatly enhance your control of the moment.
Once you have finished using these questions on every scene you will be prepared to move into pre-production and production with ease.