If you’re a Producer or 1st AD, then you’re no stranger to script breakdowns. The process of marking a script occurs to highlight elements of a screenplay that relate to specific production departments. This is done before production begins as it can affect the order of your shooting schedule. We’ll teach you how to do a script breakdown. Follow these steps to effectively mark up your script.
1. Read the Script Like it’s Your First Time
Before you mark anything on the script, read it from an audience members perspective. You only have one first impression of the story, so give yourself a chance to connect to it. Beyond the emotional connection, the more familiar you are with the story, the more likely you will be to identify all the elements once you begin marking the script.
2. Look Out for Potential Formatting Issues
After reading your script thoroughly, read it once more, but this time keep an eye out for any formatting errors that may cause issues when scheduling or importing the script file into software such as Movie Magic Scheduling.
- Scene locations should be phrased consistently throughout the script.
- Make sure scene numbers have been generated.
- Character names should be consistent as well.
- Scene headers should be formatted only as INT or EXT (interior or exterior).
- Scene headers should be formatted only as D or N (day or night).
- Learn more about How to Properly Format a Script Before the Script Breakdown.
3. Begin Breaking Down Your Script into 8ths (Don’t forget Scene Breakdowns)
Divide every page into eight, 1 inch parts. This measurement is used to estimate the screen time and shooting time for a scene. Just make sure that you and your script supervisor are on the same page. Sounds funny, but, it’s important that both of you measure scenes in exactly the same way. On a typical dialogue-heavy indie production, you can expect to shoot roughly 5 pages per day where one page equals one minute of screen time.
4. Use Colored Highlighters and Pens to Mark Your Script
The purpose of marking is to identify select elements in every scene so they can be included in the script breakdown sheet and shooting schedule. The best method to achieve this is to use highlighters and pens. It could be a time consuming process, but it’s extremely important. Script breakdowns have a specific set of colors which you can follow, however, it’s not essential. If you’re using custom colors, be sure to create a legend on the script and breakdown.
Depending on the project type and genre, there’s a chance you’d want to create more tailored element categories and colors. For example, if you are shooting a horror film, you may want to define all the elements related to prosthetics. If you are shooting a western, you may need to add categories for horses and weapons. Just make sure to define the custom category and color in a legend.
5. Use a Script Breakdown Template
Once you’ve finished marking your script, you’ll need to input the elements into a Script Breakdown Sheet. This is the summary list of all the elements in a specific scene. Scheduling software like Showbiz Scheduling can be expensive, so we’ve created a free script breakdown sheet template. Dont’t forget to review and approve the script together with your team.
Other Script Breakdown Templates you can use:
6. Generate Strip Boards Using StudioBinder
After the script marking is finished, it’s time to lay them out in a stripboard. Stripboards are color-coded strips that represent the scenes of a script. The strips are reordered to ultimately become the shooting schedule. You can use production software like StudioBinder to make you more efficient.
7. Script Breakdown Examples
Often, it makes sense to check out some examples of others before starting to create a script breakdown. You can have a look at the following script breakdown example to learn more about creating the perfect script breakdown:
Darya Danesh is the Cofounder and Content Director at StudioBinder, a leading film production software company that helps production companies manage their crew, schedules and call sheets. With over 10 years of experience as a Producer, LP & UPM, Darya has worked on large projects including PBS, Direct TV, Syfy, Animal Planet, Fox, YouTube, Sony, Atlantic, Island Def Jam, Gaiam & BMW.
With an insatiable appetite for sales, marketing development and success, he loves tackling new projects.