Scripts are maps the producers, directors, and actors use to create the movie, but there are phases the script needs to go through to become the outcome we see on screen. In this lesson, we’ll learn what are the steps the director needs to take once he chooses a script to shoot.
Before you start reading a new script, you need to make sure that the script is written in the right format and read the synopsis and treatment to see if the script is using the three-act structure and a sharp conflict. You can read about all these things in the scriptwriting course. You don’t want to waste your time on a script that is not following the basic story tools. Now, start by reading the first ten pages and see if you are drawn to it. Can you guess how the story is going to continue? Does it interest you?
When you decide on a script, you have to make sure it is good enough to go through the all filmmaking journey. Your first job is to read the script without your professional glasses and read it for fun as if you were reading a novel. Does the script make you tingle? Do you feel the passion to put it on screen? If so, you are ready to move to your next step, meeting the screenwriter.
The purpose here is:
The mission here is to create a creative dialogue between you and the screenwriter and exchange ideas about how the film should look.
Now, you need to test the script on others.
Let friends you trust read it (they don’t have to be professionals from the industry- in fact, it’s even better if they won’t be), and try to understand from them what are the weak and strong points of the script. You can also try it with actors. If you have actors you know you are going to work within this film, use them; if not, hire some just for this reading exercise. Do a read-through with them, and let the screenwriter be there too. After the reading, sit with the screenwriter and try to understand what needs to be improved. You can also ask the actors if there were any parts in the script that felt unnatural.
Remember that the screenwriter is the one in charge of the script. Don’t go into extreme arguments with him or her. On the other hand, every screenwriter needs to be open for changes that are going to take through all production, and rewrites are always needed. What you need to do is find a balance between the directorial ideas, production needs, and the writer’s vision. I recommend involving the screenwriter as much as you can during the film production and especially at the beginning. This will help to build a respectful relationship between you, that might come handy later on.
Now it’s time to start working on the script development
By now, you should have a new understanding of the concept of the film. I recommend reading the lesson about the director’s vision, but you basically need to see if you really love the concept, is it something you can deliver efficiently through the film and is it worth sharing.
Reread the script, and think about the importance of each scene. How does it contribute to the story and to the concept of the film? If a scene does not develop the story or the character, why is it there? Make sure every scene has a beginning, middle, and an end and break the scenes into beats. Pay attention to each one of the characters Are they helping the story? Are their motivations clear (especially the hero)? Are they multidimensional, and are they developing and changing through the film?
Now, reread the script and pay attention to any images or ideas that pop into your head. Don’t judge them, just write them down (in the script or in a different notebook). This type of reading should be slow, and you need to think about things like:
After you finish, go through all of your notes and start writing your director’s vision. In this film direction course, we have a particular lesson just for that, so if you haven’t read it yet, please do before you move on to the next lessons.