Good actors can read a script and perform the text. Great actors analyze a script and build characters. Script analysis is one of the most important things you can learn to do as an actor. Not only does it make your auditions more compelling it sets you up for success once it's time to actually perform. So what exactly is it and how do you get started?
As the name implies, script analysis is about analyzing a script. You take as many context clues as you can from a script or sides and use that information in your process. As I mention in this blog post, finding out a character, let's name them Sam, is in space versus Iowa, will impact your understanding of who this character is. If you're given sides and a limited amount of text, being able to do a little bit of research and find out that :
Director: Ava Duvernay
Setting: Space Station
Sam: mid 20s, scientist
Speaking to: 80yr woman
Location: Space station pub
you can learn a lot very quickly. What if we also see in the text that Sam is talking to Nancy (80yr woman) but calls her gran? It's not explicit but duh now we know Nancy is Sam's grandmother. I am very deferential to all of my elders but my grandparents always got a little extra sauce. If I'm having an argument with Nancy in this pub, I'm likely not being aggressive, she's my elder. I'm not treating her like a stranger, that's my gran. From one word, you can find tone or at the very least relationship.
Often, there are things sprinkled throughout a script that are giving you information. If you notice that Sam's last name is the same name of the space station, hold on a second, their family might own it! Scientist Sam is going to carry themselves differently if their family owns the place versus just being another passenger. It can be fun to dive into scripts this way. For many actors, this is their favorite part of acting! The more you do it, the better you should get. How do you do it more?
Read Scripts and plays. Start reading scripts, plays, and books to gain a deeper understanding of storytelling and character development. This will likely ruin lazily written tv shows and movies for you forever, sorry about that. You'll notice a bit of information that was given in the first act and catch on to the plot or the ending before you're supposed to. Find a viewing buddy that doesn't mind you talking through shows. I want to say a special thank you to my husband for loving me as I am.
Have fun with this and pay attention to what information can imply about a character. Remember being good at script analysis is a large part of becoming an actor. It will help in real life as well.
P.S. Go watch Ava Duvernay's new film Origin in theaters now!