Arts & Entertainment

Breaking Down Your Script

Nancy Cartwright

Lesson time 13:29 min

Nancy shows you her process for preparing for a recording session. She gives examples of how she notates a script and how doing so makes challenges like recording in other languages easier to tackle.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Performing in Other Languages · Demo: Script Breakdown


[MUSIC PLAYING] NANCY CARTWRIGHT (VOICEOVER): For voice actors, breaking down your script means going through your lines to plan your performance. Preparation is everything, and I thought I could walk you through how I go about it. NANCY CARTWRIGHT: So let's say that you have a script emailed to you. First thing I would do is print it out. I prefer to have a hard copy, and I'll tell you why. Because you're going to want to use your handy tools-- a pencil and a highlighter-- these are my nifty tools. Don't leave home without them. Because you'll want to mark your script. So then I read the script. Kind of makes sense, right? I'm reading it generally for content. What's the script about? But while I'm doing that, I'm also noticing some things and marking it. Like, for example, I will come across words or references that I don't understand. So I stop immediately, actually, and look them up. Because I want to know what these things are. So let the dictionary be your friend because seriously, if you don't understand what you're talking about, nobody's going to-- nobody's going to get it. You have to know everything about it. So look for words that you don't understand. The other thing I look at is, is there any singing? Are there any songs in here? If there are songs, are they going to send me a reference tape of the tune to that song, or is it just sung to the tune of "Happy Birthday" or "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or something like that? If that's the case, if there's references in there-- sometimes they have YouTube references, so I can get the YouTube reference and look at what they're needing and wanting. So that's the first thing that I do. Get the general idea about what the story is, what the scene is, the relationship of your character, how many characters you're playing in this, make note of all that. Then I go back to the beginning, and then I use Mr. Highlighter, and I highlight all my lines. I've saved every Simpsons script, and I used to use a different color highlighter for every different character. And you know what? Starting out, that's what I had to do. I had to do that because sometimes these characters were right next to each other. And if I don't do that and they're all in yellow, it could get a little confusing. So sometimes it's-- you can either put a circle around it, you can put a square around it, but identify your lines. OK, so when I get a script and I've read it and I understand what's going on, I go take my magic helpful pen or pencil and I start to mark. And I orchestrate my script, if you will. It's like I make notes for myself. I identify who the character is. I put some emotional range there. I use some symbols, like lines, and I circle things and I do more exclamation points. I make it so that as I'm reading it, these symbols will indicate to me how I need to then communicate these words that the writer has written. And then-- I learned this from my mentor, from Daws Butler-- you can even get so...

About the Instructor

For nearly 40 years, Nancy Cartwright has voiced some of the most iconic animated characters on screen, including everyone’s favorite 10-year-old underachiever. Now the Emmy winner takes you into the recording booth to teach you the art of voice acting. In our first class to feature original animation, you’ll learn how to develop characters, get performance tips, and hear Nancy’s career advice. It’s time to get animated.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Nancy Cartwright

The legendary voice actor reveals her creative process for giving life to animated characters with emotion, imagination, and humor.

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