How often should you read your script? 9 times, as the books recommend? Actually, most of us just read the script ONCE.
1: Read the script.
Take notes as you go, and at the end of the reading, write out your instant phrase that sums up what the script/episode is about in your Notebook of Ideas. (You can – and should – do this for each scene as well.)
2: Add tabs to the edge of the pages.
Go through the script, adding a tab to each scene, so you can easily and quickly get to any scene you want when studying the script. If really keen, you can also colour each tab according to the location (such as all the scenes in the Pub could be yellow, making it easy for you to check all the Pub scenes for a particular reason).
3: Prepare the Location Chart.
Read through the script to prepare the chart, noting down how many locations there are, how long each scene will be in that location, and any problems that the location may pose. This allows you to see where the weight of the filming will be.
4: Prepare the Actor Chart.
Go through the script noting down where each character appears, so you can create an overall pattern for the entire script. This is useful to see who interacts with whom, and where. This also helps when an actor asks “Where do I next appear?”
5: Make the Prop list.
Go through the script carefully, noting down what particular properties you may require for each scene. Note down any that may take time or money to obtain.
6: Do your Costume and Make-up Notes.
Go through each scene, making any notes that occur to you about costumes and make-up. In particular, note down anything that may add time to the shoot – such as the use of a prosthetic, blood, or someone washing their hair on camera (and so taking 1½ hours in the make-up chair for their hair to get back to “normal”).
7: Start planning the Extras List.
Go through the script to note down where your extras will appear, and start to note down what type of extra you would like: what age, characterisation, costume, or activity that would contrast or echo the action going on in the scene.
8: Make the Shot Complication List.
Go through the script carefully to note down which scenes may attract a particularly difficult shot, with extra complexity such as a track or a crane or Steadicam – anything at all that would add texture, complication (and time) to your shoot. Note down anything out of the ordinary, such as wanting to pull focus, the use of a very long zoon lens, filming in/on a moving car etc.
9: Read the script through once again.
Read it simply, with all the knowledge you have got from creating your lists, noting down any new thoughts in your Notebook of Ideas.
Wait a minute – you have just read the script 9 times!
And that is why it is best for you to make all your lists, and not delegate the job to an assistant. As you scour the script for these different reasons, all sorts of other good ideas will come into your head, and end up in your Notebook of Ideas – and you will know your script so much better.
What does a film director do after they shout CUT? Read Film Director’s Check List Number 1