How to Analyze a Screenplay

Sep 13, 2023

It’s a handy skill for a screenwriter to know how to analyze a screenplay. Screenplays are the blueprints that filmmakers and actors use to turn a story from the page into a movie. But before a screenplay can make it to the big screen, it needs a thorough evaluation to uncover its strengths and weaknesses.

Before you analyze a screenplay, the first step is to read it from beginning to end. Never start analyzing until you’ve finished the whole script. Sometimes, things that seemed confusing at the start might make sense later on.

Once you’re done reading the screenplay, these are some of the things you should look out for in the story to aid your analysis:

 

1. Authenticity of the Concept

Think about how original and marketable the concept is. Does it carry the right emotions and themes that the writer intended? Every story should have a clear theme that runs through it, and it should be something that resonates with the audience.

 

2. Clarity of the Plot Structure

Check if the script follows a three-act structure or another structure that suits the story. Even if it doesn’t follow the three acts in a strict order, there should be a clear beginning, middle, and end. It’s crucial to grab the reader’s attention within the first ten pages. A strong start is a must for any script and an even stronger finish.

 

3. Quality of Descriptions

The descriptions in the script should be well-written and vivid. They should make the reader feel like they’re watching the action unfold on screen, not just reading words on a page.

 

4. Authenticity of Characters

Characters are the heart of any story. Check if they behave authentically and if they have distinct personalities. Understand their goals, motivations, and character arcs. These elements should be clear and believable.

 

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind (2019) | Netflix

 

5. Quality of Dialogue

Dialogue is vital in a screenplay. It should be concise and relevant to the story. Each line of dialogue should serve a purpose, whether it’s advancing the plot or revealing character traits. The way characters speak should also reflect their personalities.

 

6. Use of Genre Tropes

Look out for genre tropes – the elements that make a story identifiable within a specific genre. The goal is to make the genre tropes visible but not to copy and paste movies that have already been done. So, while evaluating a script, you should check for the presence of suitable tropes and how well they are utilized to make the script stand out.

 

7. Authenticity in World-Building

To properly analyze a screenplay means that you’re looking at every aspect of the story, including how well the world-building has been done. Ensure that the world in which the story is set feels authentic. Characters should behave in ways that make sense within the context of this world. Inaccuracies or inconsistencies can disrupt the audience’s immersion.

 

8. Proper Script Formatting

Formatting matters. Even if you’re a great storyteller, poor formatting can confuse the crew. So while analyzing a script, ensure that it is well-structured and properly formatted to avoid confusion.

 

9. Impact of the Opening and Closing Scenes

Consider how the script’s beginning draws you in. Does it make you want to know more about the story and its characters? And by the end, do you feel satisfied with the way the story concludes? Characters should get what they deserve or end up where they should. The more impactful the opening and closing scenes are, the more memorable the movie will be to the audience.

 

It’s an exciting thing to analyze a screenplay. Once you’ve examined these aspects listed above, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the screenplay at hand, which means you can provide actionable feedback to the screenwriter who needs it to make improvements. 

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