Hi Bri, well I make it a point not to give advice, but I can tell you what I do when I’m hired to direct someone else’s script. I read the script 6 times, then I speak to the writer, I don’t email I phone or meet up with them. I retain more when I see the passion from said person, what I’m looking for is the meaning and motivation from the scenes and characters, I make notes and afterward I send a follow-up email so we are on the same page.
Then I think about how I can show said meaning and motivation visually, or without dialogue, how can I move or frame a shot that visually shows fear, loneliness, anger etc, etc. 9 times out of 10 the audience doesn’t register the camera move/frame that expresses a mood but if you do it right subconsciously they will and in theory should connect with the scene. Also guiding the actor’s performance is crucial in creating and expressing the tone of the scene, once you know the meaning and motivation you’ll be able to steer them in the right direction.
Even if you don’t have time to use the camera the way you want and have to drop shots you still have actors to direct to display the tone of the scene. Or think of ways to do a Spielberg oner (a long take).
A shot list and storyboards help move things along on the day because time is the enemy. Also, a read through with the actor and rehearsals 2 weeks beforehand is always a good thing, you talk about everything in rehearsals so when you get on set it’s merely a formality. Well, that’s my 2p worth. Hope it helps.