So in this latest session we started talking about how to analyse a script, from the apparent to the less-than-apparent. What is apparent on the page are things such as the title of a script, its writer, the characters in it, the stage directions, etc.
To get to the less-than-apparent stuff, Abang Wan asked us to use questions as the key to gaining access to it, mainly the 5Ws and 1H (what, where, who, when, why, how). By asking all these questions, we get to dive deeper into a script and therefore gain a better sense of what the script is trying to do and what story it's trying to tell.
Abang Wan is of the school of thought that when a script goes from the page to the stage, the director is the main story-teller (instead of the playwright), so there are certain liberties that the director is able to take in order to tell a story on a stage. However, before the director can take those liberties, they have to respect the script by analysing it as thoroughly as they can.
The director must get to know the playwright, why they wrote a certain piece, what their thoughts are, what scripts were written by the same playwright around the same time, what the playwright's critics say about them, what their tendencies are, what they value in a story, what environment were they writing in, and so on and so forth. This is done to respect the writer and understand the core of the written story.
Once that step is done, a director can start diving into the theme of the script. What is the main thing that the script is trying to say? What are the recurring ideas in it? The director decides whether or not they want to keep the main theme. If not, then the director has to find a way to highlight different themes within the same story (not the easiest thing to do, I imagine).
The director also has to find out what questions are being raised by the script. These questions can form the main Acts in the story, as discussed in this Lessons From The Screenplay video here. I like the idea that is put forward by Michael in the video, that Acts are questions that are asked by the story and an Act beginning when the question is first asked and an Act ending when it is answered.
A director also needs to analyse the characters in the story. A director needs to understand their motivations, why they say things the way they say them, their relationships with each other, their relationships with themselves, etc. A director ideally needs to get to a point where they know the characters even better than their actors will. This is so that the roles are cast as well as they can be, and any questions that the actors might have about anything relating to their characters can be answered by the director without wasting much of either's time.
After rereading my notes, I've noticed that in the four weeks we've been going for this workshop, there's not a whole lot about the elements of story in our discussions. We don't talk much about what a story consists of, story structure, what makes for a good story, and similar questions geared towards servicing story. Given that my understanding of the director's job as being the main story-teller, I find this lack of story-related questions a bit peculiar.
But at the very end of my notes for this week, I wrote "find out matlamat utama kita punya watak utama, dana apa yang menghalang dia daripada matlamatnya," and that's like the first thing about what makes most stories, stories: a character wanting a thing, but is kept from the thing by an obstacle or obstacles. So that's comforting. I hope more story-centric discussions happen in the coming classes. I'll also have to do my part by asking story-related questions, if those discussions are going to manifest themselves.