How to Break Down a Script for Film Production Scheduling

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The breakdown of a film script is a very important component in the scheduling of the production of a film. Without a script breakdown, the coordination of each scene to be shot is made much more difficult. Making a script breakdown itself isn’t a particularly difficult task; all it basically consists of is reading the script, making notes pertaining to the contents of each scene and then using those notes to plan out the scenes’ production.

Read the full script at least once, then number each scene in order from the beginning to the end of the script. Then, at the bottom of each scene, draw a horizontal line across the page to designate where the scene ends. That way, if the scenes aren’t going to be shot in sequential order, they can be more easily grouped into categories where they could mostly be shot at the same time, such as outdoor daytime or nighttime scenes.

Determine the length of each scene by counting the number of pages and then dividing each page into an equal number of eighths. For example, if a scene measures one-and-a-half pages long, it is the equivalent of one page and fourth-eighths. Or, if a scene lasts two-and-a-quarter pages, it is considered 2 pages and two-eighths in length.

Write into the script’s margins the specific details of each scene that may or may not be explicitly spelled out, such as whether the scene takes place during the daytime or at night, whether it’s in an indoor location or outdoors, and whether there are special costumes or props needed for the scene, like umbrellas. Also notate how many characters are in the scene.

Assign each character in the script with speaking role a permanent number. For example, the main protagonist could be assigned the number 1 and the character in the second-most number of scenes could be number 2, and so on. The characters should be identified by these numbers in all future scripts as well as any other schedules that follow.

Take the pertinent information that’s been gathered for each scene, and then use it in the formation of a breakdown sheet for each scene. The breakdown sheet is a list of elements needed to schedule and produce the screenplay, such as the number of characters, page count, location and wardrobe. A breakdown sheet should always be on hand and used as a sort of checklist during the shooting of each scene.

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