Critiquing a Script
Scripts are hard to hear read out loud because, in the end, a script is an unfinished work. It’s
half a movie. It relies on visuals, music, and sound design to help tell the story.
They’re written to tell a narrative, but they’re also written to be a logistical blueprint for the
making of a film. It’s technical and an important document for the budget and production.
We’re not used to reading this kind of format where the writer isn’t telling us what’s going on or
what some character is thinking. And often, character’s lie when they speak, and that confuses
us even more. (In writing a script, if you can’t see it or hear it, DON’T WRITE IT. You wouldn’t
write, Snow White is sad. You would instead write, Snow White is crying. Write visually!)
As we read a script, we need to take extra time, literally, so we can visualize the story and try to
read between the lines. If you’re reading a role, this is not an audition. Most of the time, it’s a
totally cold read, and we really don’t want you to “act.” We just want to hear the words: clearly
and loud. It’s the story we’re interested in.
In critiquing a script, our first job is to understand what the writer’s intention is. We can help the writer by talking about what we experience during the reading. The writer wants to hear if the intention is coming across the way he or she planned.
Also, when we talk about critiquing, it seems like we want to relay the negative: what’s not
working. But it is equally important to talk about the positive: what is working.
It’s better not to give solutions to problems you see (that’s rewriting), but rather to bring up
things that you were confused by or didn’t believe, or simply state what you understood or how
you felt. Asking questions can be helpful as well.
Ask yourself if you understand the objective of the characters? Were the stakes for the main
character clear (that is, the consequences of not achieving the objective)? Did you understand
the reason behind what he or she wanted? Did you feel the characters responses to
circumstances were tied to the objective and therefore realistic? Was the story itself clear? Did
each character’s dialogue feel unique?
If you didn’t understand the main character’s objective, say so. Then the writer will know that
something may be amiss. Good to know.
If you’re the writer, your main job is to make sure that your intentions are clear. That’s why you
won’t be speaking. You don’t want people to misunderstand or go down the wrong path by
reading the words alone. It’s critical that you’re communicating your story and your
characters in a way that defines your intention.
To summarize, we want to say, “here’s what I heard,” or “here’s what I understand.” Then the
writer can say, “yes, that’s exactly what I wanted,” or “holy moly, that’s a misunderstanding of
Nothing here is personal. It’s not about judging the concept or the writer. It’s about helping to
make the script clear and powerful.