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Script Breakdown And How To Use It for Budget Planning

Using A Script Breakdown To Plan Your Budget

The script breakdown will be your first job as a producer. it will help you to be more realistic about your script and its needs. In this post, I’m going to talk first about how to do a script breakdown and then how to use it for your budget planning.


Before you start breaking down your script, I recommend reading the script once without analyzing it. On the second reading, you can start to break it down.
There are many things you need to pay attention to, but first, you need to check the basic stuff:

Make sure the script is in right format

Once you’re getting the script, you need to check if it’s formatted the right way. Read my post on script format if you are not sure. If the screenplay is not written in the right format, you won’t be able to tell how long the film is going to be, which is an important part of the film budget. If you are having problems with formatting the script, there are many script breakdown software that can help you like the Final Draft Writer

You also need to pay attention to the scene numbers and the scene locations as I will explain now:

Scene numbers

You should also check if there are numbers on the beginning of each scene. If the there are no numbers, the production manager is the usually the one who needs to fix it. The scene numbers are very important to your organized work. If there are more scenes adding during production, you simply adding a letter to the number like 23-a, 23-b, etc. Don’t change the numbers of the scenes once you start production work.

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Script breakdown for locations

The second element to check is the locations of the scenes. Where does it all happen? Is it in a movie theater? Is it in the park? The scene location should be written in the beginning of each scene (See the script format post to understand more). When you write down the name of the location on your script breakdown sheet, it should be written the same way as it is written in the script, to avoid confusion. If the location is not clear in the script, you should call the script writer to clarify it.

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You also need to pay attention to how many scenes are shot inside and how many are shot outside? This is a thing that can really affect the film budget and schedule. For example, if a scene is shot outside, we only have time to shoot until the sun goes down  (since it’s our source of light)and if it’s a night scene that happens outside, we’ll need to create electricity solutions.

Breaking the scene

Now it’s time to take some markers and start marking the script elements by categories. What you need to do is to go over the script and mark in a different color every element that needs your attention. For example, every time there is a special effect, you can mark it with blue color, every time props come up, you mark it with red, every time a stunt man is needed, mark it with a different marker, every time extras are needed, mark it with a different color (you can divide the extras into speaking roles and non-speaking roles) etc. More things you should look at are the cast of the film, special effects, any special equipment, any costumes needed.

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The script breakdown sheet

The script breakdown sheet should be a table with this information: scene number and name, the page it appears in the script, the location, interior or exterior, is it day or is it night, the characters that are needed for the scene, the extras needed, props and special notes Like wardrobe, set dressing, etc. There should also be a brief description of the scene and If there are storyboards to the scene, it should be attached.

Click here to see how a script breakdown template should look like. Also, check this link to see many script breakdown examples. I recommend to go there and choose the script breakdown example that works best for you.

Now the only thing missing from your film budget planning is the schedule:

Making the schedule

What you need to do now is group your information by elements. For example, if you have 23 scenes with the same actor – You should plan it so they are all be shot together. You don’t want to be in a place where you shoot a scene with him and then telling him to rest for 5 hours while you shoot another scene that he is not in it. The only problem now is that moving around from one location to another can be expensive and tiresome too, so you have to take that into consideration too. The main idea here is to take all the elements that you marked before and use them to plan the schedule.

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While calculating the days you should take into consideration the director’s vision and his style of work. Does he like to do a lot of takes or is he a fast worker? While working on the schedule you should also be in touch with heads of key departments, and see if they are OK with what you planned.

As you can understand the schedule and the script breakdown can and probably will change during production. The trick is to find as many elements that need your attention right at the start. With practice, I can promise you, that you’ll be able to find more and more elements to mark and pay attention to and you’ll learn to do it more easily.