Legendary stage director, Harold Clurman, wrote a book every film director ought to read: On Directing. Although he writes within the context of theater, nearly everything he says directly applies to film directing.
One section, in particular, proved invaluable in my own directorial effort with Girlfriend 19. Mr. Clurman advocates the use of a “director’s work script.” He begins by drawing three columns to the left of the script on every page. Each column has a particular purpose. In the first, the director identifies what the characters want at that particular point in the play. More than mere tangible items, the director’s primary task in this column is to determine the characters’ emotional desires, such as attention, avoidance of embarrassment or respect.
The second, or middle column, is where the director determines the manner in which the characters carry out/express their desire. When a boy asks a girl for a date, is he bold, sweet, insecure? Sometimes a character’s mannerism contradicts his/her words. For instance, a man may boast that he’s in the best shape of his life while physically struggling to walk up a flight of stairs. Or a woman may claim she loves her birthday gift while rolling her eyes.
And, finally, the third column is where the director makes blocking notes regarding the characters’ physical action. Are they sitting or standing? Are they occupied with some physical task? How quickly are they moving?
My use of Mr. Clurman’s approach proved invaluable on Girlfriend 19. Because I went through the entire script and filled in the columns, I had a solid understanding of what the characters wanted throughout the script and the manner in which they went about getting it. In the end, I felt very prepared and believe I did my “homework” as much as possible!
In addition to Mr. Clurman’s columns, I printed my script in such a way that enabled me to utilize the right side as well. I used that space to brainstorm my camera shots, i.e., where I would place the camera and whether or not it would move.
Please take a look at pages 6 & 40 of my work script below. You can see the entire page, then, details of the left and right side of the page. There is also a still image from the scene on page 40.