Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Script breakdown

Pretend you are a production designer; feels good right ;-)

Anyway, you now have a brand-new script in front of you. What do you do now?

Step one, just read it through. no thinking, no note taking, just read it to experience it.

Good job. Now, go back to page one with either a bunch of highlighters or using Adobe reader's highlighter function and get ready to make your breakdown. Now I said production designer, but this a time honored process for any decision-maker on set. (PD, AD, Artistic Director, Props master, Wardrobe Supervisor, you get the picture.)

Breakdowns are the skeleton you will need to get started on the project ahead of you. I like to pick a different color for each of the following categories as I delve into the script.

  1. Scene description- where, time of day, general descriptive notes in the script "INT. Grandma's house, Morning"
  2. Weather because sometimes, they want it to rain or be foggy, and you get to rig it up- "rain trickles past the window"
  3. Set dressing- highlight any specific set dressing notes "the ancient couch groaned beneath his weight as he sat."
  4. Props  (including vehicles) - "He sipped shakily from the chipped blue tea cup"
  5. Characters- "JAMES walked into the room"
  6. Wardrobe (aka costumes) often have distressing (mud, blood, damage) and I always note that in red, because the continuity of these things is always important to keep track of- "his shirt was soaked with rain and covered in blood, mud coated the cuffs of his jeans"
  7. SFX (special effects like monster make-up or wounds)- "He winces as he pours rubbing alcohol over the gash on his shoulder."
Once you've made it through the script it's time to open up a spreadsheet. I tend to use Googledocs- because it's free and accessible anywhere (just make sure to make it offline accessible. there's nothing worse than relying on the cloud for your information and then having no signal). Excel or Evernote works also.

Next make a three sheets in your new workbook. They should be "Wardrobe" [which will have all the wardrobe, character, and SFX/make-up notes], "Props", and "Set Dressing" [which will also be home to any weather notes]. 

Each sheet should be set up as follows: the first column should be scene number, followed by location, followed by the category in question.

Check out the example below:

Ta-da! You just made a breakdown. From here you can make up your budgets, checklists, and track your purchases.

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