Director’s Diary: Scanning the Script

Director's Diary: Scanning the Script

When I’m doing my initial preparations for a new show that I’m directing, the first thing I do is an initial scan of the script. This is a useful way to start getting your thoughts and plans in order. Get ready to start analyzing!

What you’ll need:

  • Your script
  • A notebook and a pencil (I specifically suggest a pencil because you’ll probably want to erase or change a note at some point!), or a word processing program on your computer
  • Various coloured highlighters (I like to colour-code)

Choose a fresh section in your notebook, or open a new document in your word processing program.

Create eight columns or pages:

  • Lights
  • Sound
  • Costumes / Hair / Makeup
  • Props
  • Set
  • Special Effects
  • Concerns (problems, potentially difficult scenes, aspects to assign to the musical director or choreographer, etc.)
  • Ideas (notes about creative solutions to problems, concept thoughts, and so on)

Start reading through your script, page by page, and noting anything that comes up relating to each section. I like to make notes and then colour-code lighting and sound notes right on the page of my script — usually lighting is in yellow, and sound in pink, but that’s just my preference. Include page numbers, as well as line numbers if you use them, so you can refer back to your notes later.

Look for obvious lighting and sound notations, but also less obvious ones. For example, consider the stage direction “Suddenly, a bolt of lightning splinters the ship and throws the humans overboard” (which is one of the first stage directions in my upcoming OKTC show, Tarzan!). That one sentence incorporates a whole bunch of stuff — a lightning effect (Lights), possibly thunder as well as the splintering ship (Sound), throwing the humans overboard (could be Set, Special Effects, Concerns, or Ideas, depending on your staging plan). Start writing that all down.

Note specific requirements for costumes and props. For example, “A Victorian Father and Mother cling to each other and their baby for safety.” Victorian refers to style of dress and hair, so that’s a specific hint as to what those actors might be wearing (suit and dress rather than sweatsuits or bathing suits). Is the baby an actual human baby actor or a prop? Most likely it will be a prop, so onto the props list it goes.

Concerns and Ideas are kind of your miscellaneous sections, but with a focus. Concerns are items that you’ll need to come back to later, or perhaps address with another member of the team. Ideas are just that — brilliant ideas on how you’ll stage something, or an aspect you’d like to include.

And so on! Go page by page through the script, making as many notes as you feel are useful. The more details you have, the easier it will be to organize your thoughts when working with your artistic team, actors, and design crew. If you’re writing by hand, you might want to leave space between your notes so you can make additions later. You might want to make copies of certain lists to give directly to your team members (for example, give the Props list to the props head, give the Set list to the set designer, and so on).

You’ll probably go through this process many times throughout the rehearsal process, but this is just the first step to get you started!

How do you approach your script for the first time?
What notes do you include?
Share them on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below!

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