Every movie lover enjoys quoting dialogue from their favorite films, because those lines have been cemented in our memories as snapshots of great moments. While doing script analysis on your project, it is important to approach the material from a specific point of view in order to ensure that your project conveys the same dialogue magic to its viewers.
Questions are Key
When you analyze your script’s dialogue, you need to ask yourself the questions a viewer will have. The audience needs to remain curious, or else there’s no sense of wonder to keep them watching, so if the answers to your questions are easy and obvious, your script may need a second look. Remember that these viewers are hunting for answers. Once one is found, they’ve moved on to a new problem. Film noir scripts tend to foster the most curiosity, with a lot of surprises coming out in the crisp dialogue. The lines themselves almost have a life of their own.
Every script should have a few lines that can be interpreted in more than one way. These lines can be mysterious, confusing, or even irritating depending on the context. You want them to capture your imagination, summarize the situation in a beautifully succinct manner, and be layered enough to reveal a deeper meaning.
It is important to recognize these opportunities as they happen on the page, since they have the potential to become defining moments on the screen. One way to identify these lines is to skim the script and take note of the moments that are repeatedly jumping out to you.
After a few of these lines have been isolated, take a moment and think of the ways they can be interpreted. Is the entire audience going hear this the same way? Can any additional mystery be added somehow? What makes this choice of wording so effective? Can this method spring up in other areas of the script? These types of questions help pinpoint the source of these magical flashes, so that they can be grounded in reality. The last thing you want to do is lose the essence which makes one of these moments speak to you. Keep it in mind throughout the entire production.
All of this mystery can be a little bit intimidating, especially when you end up with so many possibilities. The many options might make some feel like they’re paralyzed in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tale, although the opposite should be true. By targeting these points of flexibility, you’re confirming the authenticity of the story. How else could so many possibilities be valid? This should assure you that the narrative remains consistently plausible.
Harness Script Difficulties
Certain lines simply can’t be modified, even if they seem out of place—you just can’t bear to do it. Sections like these should be considered the most important in the scene, even if it seems counter intuitive. Anything which stands out that much to you deserves to be a defining moment, for both the character and the scene. These moments become a sliver of history engraved into your audience’s collective memories. The potential for creating these moments can’t be discarded due to petty difficulties. See this as an opportunity to locate the voice of the character and ground everything in reality.
When a moment, a line, or a scene pops with that much electricity, there is an underlying reason. It could be subtext, imagery, or something else altogether, but it should empower you to think about the whole script in a different manner. Is this moment foreshadowed at any other point? Is there a call back later in the script? Can you put in visual cues which will compound the impact? By using every tool in your arsenal, you could possibly burn this moment into the collective consciousness forever.
The Script is a Guide, Not a Blueprint
Certain scripts are written in a way that offers actors little opportunity to extrapolate feeling from the dialogue and situations alone. Lines may state the obvious, or may include obvious suggestions for tone or tempo. These recommendations should be handled exactly as that–recommendations. Chaining yourself to one interpretation is a restriction you can’t afford when you’re inspired to do something different.
When it comes to line direction, especially, feel free to disregard the directions in order to allow your actors freedom. Lines can be delivered many ways and give way to many meanings, so don’t let your actors get trapped in someone else’s vision for the character. This is all part of the director’s task of establishing a comfortable atmosphere, where suggestions and variations are encouraged. Everyone wins when creative individuals aren’t afraid to make bold choices in the pursuit of emotional truths.
Comfort Breeds Discovery
When intuition strikes, actors cannot second-guess themselves or that vision may be lost. As our imaginations open up, allowing for unfiltered ideas to spring forth, we discover those little surprises that stay with us forever. This happens most often with lines that have room for interpretation, since they tend to give actors the most wiggle room.
Lots of different things can foster creativity, and it’s impossible to use a formula to breed these moments properly. The best thing you can do is let your actors off of the leash, and allow them to experiment freely. You may not get the result you were expecting, but that could be the best outcome of all.