In our ongoing effort to help those of you in the filmmaking community take action, get off your butt and make a movie, I wanted to share a few tips on how to complete your final movie production schedule. Completing a proper schedule is necessary for determining your budget.
Before we get too far into the article, many of you will report that some of the following steps could be performed by production management software. And while this is true to a point, it is still important to understand the fundamentals of how to break down your screenplay and schedule your movie – And why!
In the following article, I have outlined some steps to help you break down your script.
1. Number Each Scene
Once you lock your screenplay, you should then go through it and number each scene, by placing a number next to each slug line. What is a slug line? It’s the little line that explains where each scene takes place.
It looks like this in the script: INT. JASON’S OFFICE – DAY
Once you number each scene, you will want to actually measure the scene. Since screenplays are usually printed on paper eight inches tall, every scene is measured in 8th’s of the page. You will need to go through each scene and determine the length.
For example, if we assume that each page written in proper screenplay format – then we can also assume that each page equals at least one minute in screen time. So if we come upon this scene:
INT. DINER – NIGHT
And let’s say this Diner scene measures 4/8th (or half the page) then you can guesstimate that the scene will be roughly 30 seconds long in screen time.
2. Highlight Each Element
In addition to knowing final screen time, this information will help you determine how long it will take to actually shoot the scene (and also which cast, crew, props and equipment is needed to shoot the scene), which influences your schedule.
Speaking of elements, you will want to go through the script and highlight each element, for each scene.
3. Determine Shooting Schedule
Once complete, you will want to figure out when you want to shoot your movie and how long you plan to shoot. You can determine this by choosing how many pages you want to shoot per day. For example, you may decide to shoot 5 days on and 2 days off, or 6 days on and 1 day off. Or maybe you want to shoot your movie over a few weekends. Keep in mind that unions have rules on how you schedule your movie.
In addition to time constraints, you will want to consider momentum. Filming your indie film over a series of weekends may seem convenient. But doing so can actually diminish the creative flow and can make it tough on cast and crew holding jobs outside of the production. Sometimes it makes sense to just marathon your movie schedule. Get your movie done so you can get it to market as soon as possible.
Resources To Help Schedule and Budget Your Movie
If this seems overly complex and detailed, you’re right. Line Producers, Production Managers and First Assistant Directors make their living breaking down screenplays. When not actually working on set, many of these professionals complete dozens of breakdowns for indie filmmakers who are putting together a budget and business plan.
Script Breakdown Course: If hiring one of these professionals is outside of your budget, you may want to check out Peter Marshall’s Movie Script Breakdown course. This online program will teach you the nuts and bolts of creating a schedule.