The pre-production process is one of the most difficult challenges that new filmmakers face when working on their first projects. Even for seasoned veterans, sometimes all the ins and outs of pre-production can get pretty overwhelming if they don’t have a production team to rely on. However, there is one key step of that whole process that makes everything easier from that point on: breaking down your script. It might seem tedious or too simple a thing to make a difference, but it is suggested that you know the script like the back of your hand regardless of whether you are in production duty or not.
How to Create a Script Breakdown for Pre-Production
What is a script breakdown?
A script breakdown consists essentially in identifying and separating all the different elements present in your script. For beginners, the whole concept may seem a little abstract despite being very straightforward. This is because, at first, we have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that not everything we put on paper necessarily translates well into the big screen.
How can you break down your script?
There are different variations of the script breakdown process, but most people stick to certain categories regardless of what else they take into account. These categories are:
- Cast (main characters and extras)
- Set decoration or dressing
Depending on the screenplay you are working with, or on your style if you wrote the script yourself, some people add a couple other categories such as:
If you feel you need to include something that is very important and deserving of its own category, feel free to do so if you are in charge.
The traditional way of breaking down a script is a method that some people dread with passion: you sit down with your script and give it a thorough read. You identify your categories and assign a color marker to each one. Then, you go over the script for each category highlighting all the elements that belong. Repeat as many times as necessary until you have a complete list.
Nowadays, there are specialized software that can help you tag and color code your script in a much faster manner than the traditional way. It is a matter of preference, but there are alternatives if you don’t want to do it manually.
Why break down your script in pre-production?
Breaking down your script in pre-production is essential to organize your script and your priorities. When you go through every element at this stage, it is easier to tell when some things are essential or not, so you can decide to cut them before you actually make an investment in getting props or hiring extras, for example. A script breakdown can help you save a lot of money down the line, so it is always a good idea to do it before actually moving forward with big decisions and other processes.
Another important reason for breaking down your script is so you can delegate responsibilities. By categorizing the elements of your script, you can give your department heads their corresponding lists so they can start taking care of what they need to have ready for when filming starts. You always need to keep in mind your cast and crew, so make sure to either do the breakdown yourself or have your team members help you in their designated areas.