The Director's Chair Issue #3 – June 12, 2000 (Script Breakdown: Script and Scene Analysis)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors
June 12, 2000 Scene 1 – Take 3
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3. Back Issues
4. Quote of the Month
5. Feature Article – Script Breakdown (Part 1)
6. Directing Tip – Page Count vs Set-Ups
7. Links of Interest – Scriptwriting Resources
8. Out Takes – English Subtitles for Hong Kong Movies
9. Suggestions & Comments
10. Copyright Information
11. Subscribe & Unsubscribe Information
Welcome to Issue # 3 of The Director’s Chair (June 13, 2000)
a) The Feature Article this month is on Script Breakdown – Script
and Scene Analysis.
b) Calling all Volunteers! If you would like to contribute
articles, tips, links of interest,industry news, interviews,
special event dates or other resources to The Director’s Chair,
please contact me at: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter D. Marshall
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wants to Direct; a film student who would like to learn more
about Directing; or a “student of film” who just wants to know
more about the Art of Directing from the pros, Action-Cut-Print!
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3. BACK ISSUES OF THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
To read back issues of The Director’s Chair, go to
4. QUOTE OF THE MONTH
FILM QUOTE: “In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they
had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced
Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In
Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years
of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo
Orson Welles to Joseph Cotten in “The Third Man” 1949
5. FEATURE ARTICLE – Script Breakdown (Part 1)
Script Breakdown – Script and Scene Analysis
by Peter D. Marshall
A) Director as Story-Teller
There are many facets of a Director’s prep on any film or TV show
– from location scouts and creative meetings to casting and
But the first, and most important part of your job, is to
understand the script – what the story is about; the themes; the
story points; the characters.
A director is a story-teller, and to be a good story-teller, you
need to understand every detail about the story you are telling.
There’s an old expression that says if it doesn’t work in the
script, it won’t work on the set – and boy is that true!
Understanding the story requires a lot of work on your part
because you need to rip the script apart to find out what it is
about, what works and what doesn’t.
B) Script Structure
Here is the “traditional” Three Act Structure of any story:
ACT ONE – THE SET-UP (Boy Meets Girl)
ACT TWO – CONFRONTATION (Boy Loses girl – fights to get her back)
ACT THREE – RESOLUTION (Boy Gets Girl)
NOTE: There has been a lot of debate lately on script structure –
how many acts there are in a script! Because this is not a
writing course, (and every story ALWAYS has a Beginning, Middle
and End), I will refer to all scripts as having the traditional
Three Act Structure. Even Television scripts follow the Three Act
Structure – they are just divided into Act Breaks because that is
where the commercials go.
Here is a “general guide” to the physical structure of TV scripts:
1) Half-Hour Episodic TV (22-25 pages and Two Acts)
2) One-Hour Episodic TV (50 – 65 pages and Four Acts)
3) Two Hour TV Movie (100 – 110 pages and Seven Acts)
Television scripts can also be broken down further by using a
Teaser and a Tag. So a one-hour TV Script could be divided up
b. Act One
c. Act Two
d. Act Three
e. Act Four
C) Script Analysis
When you first get your script, find a nice quite place and just
read it through once – from start to finish. Your first pass is
to get an idea of what the story is about, where it takes place
and who the characters are. This is when you form your first
impressions of the story and it is probably the only time you
will ever enjoy the script as a story – because from now on it’s
Then, read the script again (and again, and again…) and start
making notes and jotting down the answers to the following
1) what is the PLOT? (what is the story about)
2) what is the THEME? (what is the message)
3) what is the LOGIC? (does the story make sense)
4) what is the EXPOSITION? (what are the characters doing/thinking)
5) what is the COMPLICATION? (what is the drama in the story)
6) what creates the TENSION? (what will happen next)
7) what is the MAIN QUESTION? (what problem is to be solved)
8) what is the MAIN ACTION? (what event hooks the audience)
9) what is the CAUSE OF THE ACTION? (what happens to the main character)
10) what is the RESULTING ACTION? (the answer to the main question)
11) what is the CONCLUSION? (how does the story end)
12) who is the PROTAGONIST? (the main character)
13) who is the ANTAGONIST? (could be one or more characters)
14) who is the MOST INTERESTING CHARACTER? (not always the main character)
15) where does the story TAKE PLACE? (location, time period)
D) Scene Analysis
Once you have an understanding of what the story is about, you
then need to analyze each individual scene in the script.
1) what is the INTENT of the scene? (what is the scene used for dramatically)
2) what are the PLOT POINTS? (points that move the story forward)
3) what is the CLIMAX of each scene? (what is the turning point)
4) what is the RESOLUTION? (how is the theme resolved)
5) what is the CONCLUSION? (how does the scene end)
4) what are the important LINES OF DIALOGUE? (contain story points)
5) which character CONTROLS the scene? (who pushes the story forward)
6) what are the BEATS/UNIT CHANGES? (where does the story change directions)
E) Other Structural Elements
Here is a partial list of some other elements you need to look
for during your script breakdown:
2) recurring motifs
3) scene transitions
7) clarity of information
8) action and stunts
9) comedy scenes
10) special effects (explosions etc)
11) visual effects (CGI, green screen etc)
F) In Conclusion
Your script breakdown will be a never-ending process. Each time
you read the script, you find out something different about the
story or the characters.
The script will constantly evolve. It will change because of the
your creative notes – writer changes – actor changes – producer
changes – network changes – location availability and on and on
As long as you know what the story is about and where the story
is going, you can adjust to all the changes.
NEXT ISSUE: Script Breakdown – Part 2 (Character Analysis)
6. DIRECTING TIP – Page Count vs Set-Ups
When you look at the 1st AD’s call sheet and see all those scenes
and pages you have to shoot each day, remember: it’s not the page
count that matters as much as the number of set-ups (shots) you
have each day.
7. LINKS OF INTEREST – Scriptwriting Resources
1) E-script:The Internet’s Scriptwriting Workshop –
2) Robert McKee’s Story Structure –
3) Screenwright; The Craft of Screenwriting –
4) The Playwriting Seminars –
8. OUT TAKES!
Actual English Subtitles Used in Hong Kong Films:
1. I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.
2. Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.
3. Gun wounds again?
4. Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.
5. A normal person wouldn’t steal pituitaries.
6. Damn, I’ll burn you into a BBQ chicken!
7. Take my advice, or I’ll spank you without pants.
8. Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?
9. Quiet or I’ll blow your throat up.
10. You always use violence. I should’ve ordered glutinous rice chicken.
11. I’ll fire aimlessly if you don’t come out!
12. You daring lousy guy.
13. Beat him out of recognizable shape!
14. I got knife scars more than the number of your leg’s hair!
15. Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected.
16. How can you use my intestines as a gift?
17. This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I
am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave
them out on the dessert flour for your aunts to eat.
18. Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short
rabbits and can now deliver you violently to your gynecologist
for a thorough extermination.
19. Greetings, large black person. Let us not forget to form a
team up together and go into the country to inflict the pain of
our karate feets on some ass of the giant lizard person.
9. SUGGESTIONS & COMMENTS
Send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice to:
10. COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
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