Home Planning How To: Script Breakdown

How To: Script Breakdown

by Celtx

You’ve completed your script. Time to start shooting, right? Wrong! It’s time to do your script breakdown. Between writing and production, the pre-production phase is perhaps the most mysterious part of filmmaking for those new to the craft. 

The script breakdown is the document of pre-production. In combination with the catalog, it helps you schedule your shoot, organize your assets, and create a budget. Moreover, it identifies everything that you’ll need to capture to bring your story to the screen. Celtx makes the process pretty straightforward.

Follow these steps to ensure that your script breakdown is accurate and effective.

Step One: Know Your Story Before Script Breakdown

Have a script. Know the script. Read it over a few times. The first time, just read it for fun. Understand how the story flows. The second time, read it over and visualize each scene in your head. The third time, start thinking about the particulars. What colour is that vase that’s always in the background? How is the lead’s hair styled? Where does it all take place?

Step Two: Get a Sense of What You Need

With a properly formatted script, your breakdown is already started- the characters are already tagged for you. Now you use the tagging and highlighting option to mark up the rest. Some prefer to go through the whole script, tagging each prop, then each location, then each set dressing item, etc. Others will go scene-by-scene tagging everything in that scene. Whatever workflow is best for you, use it.

Step Three: The Nitty Gritty

Each item you tag in the breakdown will create a catalog entry. Here you can associate an image, add in details, provide a location and contact details for sourced assets and calculate a budget. Think about each item you’ve tagged from the script and the ancillary items you’ll need as a result:

  • Actors dressed in period costume? You’ve tagged wardrobe, but don’t forget hair and makeup. 
  • Tagged a prop? Is it breakable at all? Remember, between your crew and actors it’s going to be moving through multiple hands, not to mention whatever actions take place during shooting itself. Perhaps you want to buy duplicates or even triplicates just to make sure you have the same prop available throughout your shoot. Keep the spares unopened (and receipts tracked) so they can be returned if unused. You can even take a picture of the receipt with your phone and add it as media to the catalog item to keep everything in one place.
  • Setting the location? Will you be constructing a set or filming on location? There’s a lot to consider including best use of lighting, tear down walls for camera angles, expense, and transportation. Each option will have additional items required, everything from a power source (and bathrooms!) if filming on location to construction crew on hand for repairs if filming a studio set. A location scout can help with these choices.
  • Filming an effect? It might have several components to it. For example, take a helicopter crashing into a downtown street. You’ll have a mechanical effect for a pre-rigged pyrotechnics, an optical effect for the camera to shake, and a special effect added in post production to add computer generated smoke and fire. In other words, although you can highlight items in the script via the breakdown, not everything you need will always be visually present in the script.

The end result is an in-depth, detailed guide to everything that is required to execute your project. You’re now ready to start purchasing, sourcing, and scheduling.

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