Remember that creative script you locked? You locked it, right? Good, because here’s yet another step that will go wrong if you don’t. It’s called the Script Breakdown.

What is a Script Breakdown?

The Script Breakdown allows you to relay information quickly and easily about the script. There are sections for every department, from the producer to the art department.

Why is a Script Breakdown important?

Remember how communication makes everything run smoothly? The Script Breakdown aides in the process. It’s the go-to place for various departments so they know what they’ll need for the shooting day. It would be terrible if the wardrobe department forgot the most important piece of clothing, like if they forgot Batman’s mask or the Winter Soldier’s arm. Not good.

Who is involved with a Script Breakdown?

Someone from the script supervisor’s department will likely be creating the initial Script Breakdown. Department heads would add things that may not be listed in the script. Everyone is affected by the breakdown, even though they may not see it. Not only will the breakdown help keep you organized, but it will be less likely for props, set dec and wardrobe to be forgotten.

What is included in a Script Breakdown?

There are two sections in an average Script Breakdown. The header contains the relevant information about the scenes. Every scene has its own breakdown.

The production company and production title are important to keep files from getting confused with other Script Breakdowns. The date prepared keeps everyone up to date. When a breakdown is re-done because of rewrites or new information about the scene, everyone needs to know. The dates show which file is current.

The rest of the header tells about the scene. Look at the script scene header for the scene.

For this scene, the scene header tells you the scene number (in this case 2), the locations (hospital room), it’s an interior shot, and it’s at night.

For this scene, it takes place in a specific part of the house, at the pool. All given information should be included in the Script Breakdown. It will help with scheduling the scenes.

For this scene, the scene header specifies that the pickup will be moving. This should also be included in the breakdown for scheduling purposes.

The description section should include a brief explanation of what is happening in the scene. This is helpful for when there are multiple scenes with a similar scene header.

Scene lengths are measured in eighths. Divide each page into eighths.

Measure the length of the scene in eighths. If your scene is one and a half pages, put 1 4/8, not 12/8, not 1 1/2, not 1 2/4. Always leave with eighths.

For the rest of the breakdown, determine your areas of need. I like to use the following categories:

  • Cast
  • Extras
  • Props
  • Set Dec
  • Wardrobe
  • Make-up
  • Hair
  • Vehicles
  • Animals
  • Stunts
  • Special effects
  • Sound/Music
  • Special equipment
  • Production notes

Here is a rough idea for how I set up a Script Breakdown.

Here, make-up and hair are combined. If make-up and hair are not being done by the same person, separate them. Vehicles and animals are combined here, but if you have both, separate the boxes. This isn’t a required layout, just one I like to use. Feel free to change it around to best suit your needs.

Here is a template of a script breakdown in PDF and in Excel formats.

So, all you tenacious independent filmmakers, go out and shoot something, but remember to stay organized.

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  • Connor Sassmannshausen is a screenwriter, video producer, and social media organizer with the Initiative Production Company. She loves watching movies, nerdy t-shirts, travelling and taking broken things apart (but not necessarily putting them back together).

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