The Significant of Script Breakdown Process in Filmmaking
According to Frank Delario (2017), a script breakdown is separating and numbering each scene in a script, and then highlighting and listing the elements in each scene as written. These breakdowns are usually done by the Assistant Director with the help of the Production Manager. Filmmaking, on the other hand, was defined as the direction or production of films for the cinema or television by the English Oxford Living Dictionaries. As stated by Future Learn, film production consists of seven stages. These stages are called development, pre-production, production, principal photography, wrap, post-production and distribution.
The process of breaking down a script is a tedious work. The Production Manager needs to be very detail when combing through each page. They need to find any elements that are consider vital. An element is an object, person or process that you need in order to produce a specific scene. The elements required during the process of breaking down the script includes the props, picture vehicles, actors, stunts, special effects and a few others as well. Stunts and special effects are called process elements while actors can be divided into cast members and extras. Cast members are the characters that have dialogues or characters that does not have any dialogue but often appear in many scenes and play important role in the plot. Extras can be divided into two smaller subcategories which are Atmospehere, people who simply fill the space, and Featured Extras, characters who interact within a scene but do not hold any important role in the plot. This must be done in order for a production to make their budgeting and scheduling. For example, when going through a scene, the Production Manager may stumble upon a description that requires a prop that either needs to be build or needs to buy. These kind of elements will affect their budget and talent’s schedule as they need to prepare and have some time to solve the issue first.
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During the process of a script breakdown, the Production Manager must consider the characteristics. The topic of characteristics can be a broad subject. It can be the characteristics of a breakdown sheet, what should be included in the sheet, or it can also be the characteristics of the characters themselves as these characteristics also play a huge role in determining the elements such as costume, hair, make-up and even location. For example, a 50 year old woman from Kedah works in a paddy field. So what kind of costume would she wear? How would she look like? What kind of house does she lives in? From this character’s characteristics, we can see that by highlighting one short sentence, we can break down several elements at once. For breakdown sheet, it is actually a kind of chart that a production used for making a quick chart of scenes. The things that need to be included in the sheet, as stated by FilmmakersFans (2015), are scene number, date and time. Second, clarification of “INT/EXT” (Internal/External) and Day/Night. Third, scene description and location. Fourth, casting according to the call sheet. Fifth, special effects description if it was required. Lastly, production notes where all the costumes, make-up and extra notes are.
Before learning the flow of breaking down a script, there are two ways on how you can break down a script. You can either choose to do a digital breakdown or a traditional breakdown. An online service company, like the Studiobinder, can create a digital breakdown to a production that wanted to create a film. But if a small production that wanted to do a short film, it can be a bit costly for them. The solution to this problem is to do it the old fashioned way. First, the Production Manager will have to line out each scene based on the scene heading and number it. Then came the hard part where the Production Manager needs to highlight all the elements and the categories that were in the script such as the cast, extras, special effects and even make-up and hair. This has to be done scene by scene. For example, in make-up and hair, the Production Manager needs to list down anything unique than the established look for a character such as determining the colour scheme of a character’s costume based on their emotions scene by scene. A big advantage when a production company use a digital breakdown is that programs such as Magic Scheduling and Final Draft Tiger are great at highlighting and tagging all those elements and putting them in breakdown sheets for them. This obviously saves a lot of time but can be costly.
The process of a script breakdown is important to the filmmaking because mainly, a producer use it as a tool to make financial planning. The producer have to pay attention to how many scenes that will be shot inside and outside. This is because if a scene needs light, the will have to create an electricity solution and that causes money. The producer will also needs to see the shooting schedule. The producer would not want the crew to be in a place where they shoot a scene, went to another location to shoot another scene and then came back to the first location to shoot another new scene. Moving around from one location to another can be expensive and not to mention tiresome too. A script breakdown is also important because it is to make it easier for the Production Manager and the Location Manager to search and fulfil all the description of the writer and the script. It allows them to determine and list out every single elements that were needed to prep, schedule and budget their film production. It is used to determine the needs for every department, both on the technical and creative side. It also allows the production to time their schedule and keep in track of their budget. By making a script breakdown, it can solved many unanswered questions during shooting day and it will helps smoothen the shooting process.
We can conclude that the process of breaking down a script is a significant part of pre-production. The person in charge of breaking down the script must be very thorough and immaculate when going through each scene. This is because every little details matter in order to maintain the continuity from one scene to another. As the essence of foundation of creating a production board, the breakdown sheet must be perfect and leave no room for questions. By making a breakdown script also helps a production to manage their financial and their time as well. A delayed production means more extra time and that equals to more money spend. A good production house knows how to run their time so that they will not exceed their budget. Typically, an excellent film the audiences saw on screen was run and made by an excellent team that knows their work and do the best out of it. So as a Production Manager or as the person in charge of breaking down the script, you must put in mind that your task gives huge impact to the production and every department involves. In order to make a box office film, you need to be very careful and connect with heads of every department.
Dellario, F. (2017, July 11). How to Breakdown a Script. Retrieved from
English Oxford Living Dictionaries. (n.d.) Definition of film-making in English. Retrieved from
Future Learn. (n.d.) The seven stages of film production. Retrieved from
Shorr, A. (n.d.) The Complete Guide to Mastering Script Breakdown Elements. Retrieved from
StudioBinder. (2016) How to Break Down a Script (with FREE Script Breakdown Sheet). Retrieved from