It is hard, impossible even, for me to speak in the name of all the analysts, as each of us has a different style, philosophy and voice, implying that we should keep in mind the variability of perspective in an analysis. But this article takes account of some of the most common aspects considered and valued during a script analysis.
Anatomy of an analysis
Any exhaustive script analysis will summarize the most potent and original aspects of the script in question prior to proceeding to a detailed description of those aspects that need more development. This is where the analyst focuses the most, explaining why they cause problems, and why they still don’t work. As an example, a script can have a protagonist with a clear objective, but the consequences of not meeting this objective are low or not strong enough. In response, the analyst will give illustrative examples to increase the risk the protagonist must confront, oftentimes giving two examples. Our goal in this instance is to offer more than one solution and direction for the screenwriter.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic bullet that a script must follow. We don’t read your story structure under a magnifying glass to certify that it follows the 3 act structure, neither that each act takes place in a pre-defined number of pages, nor are we looking for the trendy number of plot twists in it. No, our job is to assist in a project in achieving its goals. If we are given a minimalist project with two acts, we won’t force it into a three-act structure because it’s the most common, rather we will help the story ensure it’s using the adequate tools to work on the chosen structure.
Aside from the plot analysis, it should be taken into account the social moment that is setting in, with a stronger debate on how to adequately represent underrepresented communities in the audiovisual format. As a consequence, it is harder to differentiate social representation from the content of the story, and the analysis includes more observations related to the representation of a certain community; how are women represented, for instance, in the script. These comments aim to give the writer an idea of how the script is perceived and offer an opportunity to change it if it is considered necessary. In countries such as the US, this perspective in the analysis has become a common feature.
Tips to get an A+
Or the equivalent, tips to write an excellent script. Quite a difficult and pretentious title. Here is a list of points you should revise before submitting it to extensive analysis. This list tries to describe aspects oftentimes ignored, trying not to enter too much in the abstract nor the obvious.
Without further delay, these are the aspects we recommend to follow before a submission:
- Ensure that the argument has enough dramatic strength. In other words, confirm that the arguments create opportunities for a conflict with high stakes.
It is also possible to ask yourself if you’ve found the most original perspective possible, the originality many times goes hand in hand with finding two non-often-linked or opposed elements (rewriting and shaping the outline can help you work on the argument).
- Review that all the elements of the story are related to the theme. For example, the supporting characters have troubles that expand, contrast and oppose the theme that the protagonist is living. As such, a debate will take place in the script.
- Think about the point of view with which you tell the story and if it’s the best. If the protagonist is present in all the scenes the audience will develop empathy towards the character, whereas if it also includes points of view from other characters — if the protagonist is not present in all the scenes — this will create tension. Both options are good for different types of stories. Once you’ve made your choice, make sure you’re working in a consistent & conscious fashion to avoid changes of perspective midway through the script — harming the work previously done.
- Ask yourself if the protagonist is sufficiently motivated, if his goals are clear and what’s at stake if he doesn’t make it. Ensure that the character’s arc is realistic. Sometimes there is so much interest in making the character change that the arcs become too big and unbelievable.
- Confirm that you’ve explored all the ways the conflict can twist in the argument and that these conflicts are not random, rather that there is a clear cause and effect with the core conflict.
- Review the dialogues so that each character has its own voice, reduce exposition to the minimum and save it for the scenes of conflict. Confirm that you’ve created subtext.
And, last but not least:
- Review the SCRIPT FORMAT to live up to the work you’ve done up until now.
How to process feedback
Learning how to process feedback is part of the creative work, learning how to use it as creative ammunition to drive your story to its limit, it’s part of the job.
A very important point to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t rush to make the suggested changes. In fact, we recommend letting that feedback breathe so, with the days you clarify the changes you want to make. In case those comments are negative or adverse, it’s normal to be disappointed, but you must overcome the pain to choose what is best for the story.
It’s very possible that not all comments will be useful for you. We, analysts and doctors, don’t hold the absolute truth, but very few people read and analyse as many scripts as we do, which is why it’s important to listen to our opinion, or at the very least, brood.
I can’t tell you how many times we receive new versions with minimal changes, which does not help the new analysis to bring a new perspective. We recommend that when you make a new version of the script following an analysis, don’t go with the mentality of saving as much as possible of the previous version because you won’t be moving forward and risk going back on previous ones, Be bold, the important thing is to try and expand the possibilities of the story when you’re rewriting it.
We want to end with final confidence or wish if you like. Stop viewing the script analysis as a judgment or a test to overcome and start to think about it as a tool to save you time on the development and keep an objective perspective on the story. Helping screenwriters keep alive the reasons they chose to focus on a concrete story in a galaxy of possibilities is one of the main goals of our job.