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 movie script once without analyzing it. On the second reading, you can begin to break it down. There are many things you need to pay attention to, so listen up!

Make sure the script is in the 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 correct format, you won’t be able to tell how long the film will be, which is an essential part of the film budget. There are many script breakdown software that can help you like the Final Draft Writer if you have problems with formatting the script.

Scene numbers

You should also check if there are numbers at the beginning of each scene. If there are no numbers, the production manager is usually the one who needs to fix it. Scene numbers are significant to your organized work. If more scenes are 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.

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 theatre? Is it in the park? The scene location should be written at 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 written in the script, to avoid confusion. If the location is not clear in the script, you should call the scriptwriter to clarify it.

You need to pay attention to how many scenes are going to be shot inside and how many are going to be shot outside? It can affect the film budget and schedule. For example, if a scene is shot out, 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 go over the script and mark in a different colour; every element needs your attention. For example, every time there is a special effect, you can mark it with blue colour, and every time a prop is mentioned, you mark it with red, etc. You can do it with extras and even divide the extras into speaking roles and non-speaking roles. More things you should look at are the cast of the film, special effects, any special equipment, any costumes needed.

The script breakdown sheet

The script breakdown sheet should be a table with this information: 

  • scene number and name
  • the page appears in the script
  • the location
  • interior or exterior
  • is it day or is it a night
  • the characters needed for the scene
  • the extras needed
  • props and special notes Like a 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 going 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 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 consider that also. The main idea here is to take all the elements that you marked before and use them to plan the schedule.

While calculating the days, you should consider 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 details to mark and pay attention to, and you’ll learn to do it more easily.