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Friday, September 20, 2013

Breaking down a scene, intro and overview



   First phase. An introduction and overview

How to start Script Breakdown


   Read everything on the page, study the script and what it is saying. Pay attention to the title given to the script, to the product, to the length and to the different voices implied through the written page. applies to entire scripts,  but it applies  to any side, scene, commercial copy, audio-book or industrial script you are asked to perform.

   Remember your high school English. Look at the narrative arch, conflicts, resolutions, what led to the conflicts. Ask questions.

For more on the basics of "breaking down a script" please click on "read more" below.


   When you are handed a script, do not read anything out loud until you have answered the hidden questions in that script.

•      What are they trying to say?
•      Who am I to say these words?
•      Who am I talking to?
•      Where am I?
•      Where is my audience?
•      Am I withholding information?

   Work on the script and before you ever open your mouth, know how you are going to read each word, phrase, and idea. If you prefer look at overall arching themes and meanings behind the word, sentences and phrases. Both systems work. Many actors use a combination for best impact.
Think about the character and if you can find it in you, think like the character. The camera will read your eyes and if you are truly sincere it will transmit as sincere. What are the clues in the script? What can you add that does not conflict with the script? What is there beyond the obvious? What can you do with it to make this your own, real and believable. Even in farse and melodrama, there are elements of reality and real people.

This is most important as you get close to the final stage. In all other forms of auditioning or performance this phase is needed before you step back and relax and allow yourself to internalize and bring the words and the scene further to life.

   With every scene you start large and work your way down to details.

   Large begins with fully understanding your character. It is usually best to start with your own life, your own personality and your own experiences. If that is not possible, use other people you know, complex characters you have read about or seen in other forms of media. Do not copy, simply learn from. Who are you? Who are the others in the scene? What makes you who you are? Where did you learn the emotional and physical reality you use in the scene? What happened prior to the scene? What happened just prior to the star of the scene the audience joins (all scenes are in progress, even if they start with someone entering a room for the first time).

   Listen, pay attention to, learn from and understand the other characters in the scene. Do not forget that just because a character is not on stage or on camera, their personality and impact may make them a part of the scene. There are always more “actors” in a scene than what the audience actually sees or hears.

   Listen to, react to and interact with the other characters and the actors who portray them. A scene is never simply what your character says. Always react. Always respond. Always be willing to adapt to changes made by others. Look for the gifts in the script, from other actors and in the overall purpose of the scent. Look for conflicts and emotions.  When breaking down the scene, try to understand where this may occur, but be flexible enough to adapt to the other performers and what they bring to the work you are all bringing to life.

   Ask yourself why the scene or character or event is it the script.  Nothing is in a final production without a reason for being there, at least if it is well written and produced. Find out where it falls in the overall story and the overall projects narrative arch. Why is it there. What it the purpose for filming this scene, or including it in a play or other project?

   Say the words as written, unless permission is given to ad lib or improvise. The author may be a decision maker in casting an words may be on paper for a specific reason you might not spot or uncover yourself.

   Next, be ready for an open to change. This could come in the form of word changes or directions. Never shoot or record a change until after you had the opportunity to rehearse it first!

•      What are they trying to say?
•      Who am I to say these words?
•      Who am I talking to?
•      Where am I?
•      Where is my audience?
•      Am I withholding information?

   Work on the script and before you ever open your mouth, know how you are going to read each word, phrase, and idea. This is most important for voice over, as it is close to the final stage. In all other forms of auditioning or performance this phase is needed before you step back and relax and allow yourself to internalize and bring the words and the scene further to life.

   With every scene you start large and work your way down to details.

   Large begins with fully understanding your character. It is usually best to start with your own life, your own personality and your own experiences. If that is not possible, use other people you know, complex characters you have read about or seen in other forms of media. Do not copy, simply learn from. Who are you? Who are the others in the scene? What makes you who you are? Where did you learn the emotional and physical reality you use in the scene? What happened prior to the scene? What happened just prior to the star of the scene the audience joins (all scenes are in progress, even if they start with someone entering a room for the first time).

   Listen, pay attention to, learn from and understand the other characters in the scene. Do not forget that just because a character is not on stage or on camera, their personality and impact may make them a part of the scene. There are always more “actors” in a scene than what the audience actually sees or hears.

   Listen to, react to and interact with the other characters. A scene is never simply what your character says. Always react. When breaking down the scene, try to understand where this may occur, but be flexible enough to adapt to the other performers and what they bring to the work you are all bringing to life.

     Sabastian’s advice applies to all advertising and voice work, whether on camera or behind a microphone:
   “Say the words as written, remember that the ad agency and client have had to live with this piece of copy for weeks or even months.”
   Next, be ready for an open to change. This could come in the form of word changes or directions. Never record a change until after you had the opportunity to rehearse it first!


First posted 6-9-09

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