You are writing this script to be made. Crew members are going to read it. Heads of departments are going to read it. At least, that’s the theory. Actors are going to read it.
When you write, you imagine a scene, floating in glorious living color above your computer. You watch the scene. Over and over, you replay the scene and redo it. When you’re satisfied, you write it down. Generally, the first draft is exactly what you saw floating above your computer. That’s fine.
The problem comes when you don’t rewrite to make it more actor friendly.
“She sits at the table and puts her face in her hands.”
Actors hate this. You should hate it too.
You should be telling the actor what you want them to feel at this moment, not do. If you write detailed physical description of action, an actor is going to do precisely what she is told. She may question you about it… but, she may silently acquiesce. Once you tell an actor to “put her face in her hands,” she is going to assume, because it’s in the script, that it is very, very important.
That gesture may have been something from the scene hovering above your computer that you simply transcribed onto paper. It may not have been that big a deal to you. But if you leave it in the script, it becomes a big deal.
Just because it got written does not necessarily mean it is good writing.
When the actor puts her face in her hands, you just eliminated a host of other options that had been open to her. Now, all she can do is put her face in her hands. Why would you take away an actor’s opportunity to give you a thoroughly nuanced performance? Why would you force an actor to do something that might be considered ham-fisted or lame?
If you wrote…
“Janine feels wretched.”
She can take that feeling and translate it into physical action in countless possible ways. Give your actor the freedom to make the best possible choice for that moment in that scene. Avoid making the choice for them.
If a character runs out of the room and slams the door, and it’s crucial to the story, then of course keep it in. Micromanaging the actor’s physical performance on paper is not a great way to have the most successful experience when you are shooting. Give the actor emotional moments to play not tiny, detailed, “she lifted her eyebrow in suspicion” moments.
If you have a tendency to give an actor precise physical directions, try to figure out a way to un-have that tendency. That’s what rewriting’s for!
Go through your script, all of it!, and see how many times you give the actor specific physical instructions. Ask, “is this something I have to say?” Or “can I turn this action into an emotion and let the actor choose what to do when the camera’s rolling?”