5 Ways to Read a Screenplay Like a Pro

Mar 25, 2024

Reading screenplays is an essential habit every screenwriter must cultivate. It not only helps you think like a professional but also allows you to master screenplay structure. Here are five suggestions to help you effectively read a screenplay like a pro.

1. Read It

Download that screenplay and dive into it. Read through the pages like an audience member watching a movie. When you reach the end, take note of how the story made you feel. Understanding your emotional response is crucial for dissecting the screenplay further.

2. Break It Down

Create a scene-by-scene breakdown of the screenplay. This means identifying every scene or story event and grouping them into sequences. Sequences are a series of scenes that build up to a significant impact or change in the story’s direction.

3. Identify the Plot Points

Look for the plot points in the screenplay. These are the significant events that propel the story in a different direction. Understanding the plot points helps you grasp the act structure of the story and what drives the characters to change.

4. Analyze Character Relationships

Pay close attention to the key characters and supporting characters in the screenplay. Create a relationship map to understand how each character’s journey intertwines with the others. This also helps you identify any subplots within the story.

5. Uncover the Themes

Every screenplay has underlying themes that drive the narrative. Identify these themes to truly understand the story’s meaning. While there can be multiple themes, there is usually a solid overarching theme tied to the protagonist’s journey.

Bonus Tip

The more screenplays you read, the more you’ll familiarize yourself with descriptive terms and screenwriting language. This will not only improve your understanding of screenplays but also enhance your own writing skills.

These suggestions are not strict rules, as everyone has their own unique reading style, but practicing them will definitely help you learn how to read a screenplay. Feel free to share your own methods of reading screenplays and what you look out for in the comments below.

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