Script Breakdown Sheet: What Is It & Why Do You Need It?
When you plan the production of your film, everything must be running as smooth as possible. Imagine this, you are ready to shoot a scene, and you find out you forgot a prop or a piece of equipment. It could cost you quite a bit to move on from that hiccup.
Luckily, that's not going to happen if you have a Script Breakdown Sheet! And don't worry, we have done all the groundwork for you!
Here, we will go through what it is, why you should use it and how it works. If you already know, then go ahead and download your FREE Script Breakdown Sheet template right here!
If you need more documents for your film, then fear not. Whether you need a cue sheet or a film budget, we have gathered all of our film production templates available for FREE right here!
What is a script breakdown sheet?
A Script breakdown is when a producer goes over the script and breaks it into sections to plan the production.
When you break down a script, each page divides into eight different parts. In this way, you can better manage each part of the script. A script breakdown sheet is a document used to streamline that process.
A script breakdown sheet can be edited in software like excel or printed out and handwritten by the responsible party. Editing on the computer makes it easier to share and make multiple copies to whoever is in need.
Why should you use it?
Using a script breakdown sheet makes your production more efficient. Much like a shooting schedule helps manage the time, a script breakdown sheet helps manage what you need for production.
Here is where you would put any special equipment, extras, special effects and more that you need.
By planning everything out ahead of time, you will not be in a situation where your production will halt because of pre-planning.
How to breakdown a script
You used to write everything directly on the script. With a sheet, it becomes easier to manage.
You will still colour code/put symbols on the script, and you use the sheet for reference and elaborations on this. In that way, you will not overload your paper with information.
We will go through the two sections, general information and production information.
General info concerns all the information needed to identify production, page of the sheet and scene-setting. In the production information, you note everything of value to the production team. In this way, they will know what to get for the scene.
The general information concerns all the information needed to identify production, page of the sheet and scene-setting.
Here you will fill out the production company, production title, director and producer.
You will also fill out the different scenes, breakdown page, script page, page count, int/ext, day/night, scene description and location. The page count uses the 1/8 breakdown mentioned earlier.
It means you can count as many "eights" the specific scene needs from the script. For example, if you need one and a half pages, write "1 4/8" in the page count.
The production information is where you note everything of value to the production team. By doing that, the team will know what to get for the scene. The categories are colour coded and use symbols to tag the script.
In our template, we have grouped categories to avoid an overload of confusing colours and symbols. The template also has a section that explains the different colour codes. You can edit the colour codes to your needs.
In this category, you will fill out the cast members needed for the specific scene. In the template, we have featured a cast list to give each cast member a number ID.
You do this instead of writing the full names of the characters every time.
There is also a category to note any amount of extras needed for the background or brief dialogue. It could be people in a concert or an employee at a coffee shop.
In this category, you would write any props needed for the scene. It could be a blender or a blue french horn.
There is also a category for animals if you need any. It is vital to plan, as you will typically need an animal handler as well.
This category is for noting any music needed for the scene. It allows you to start the licensing process earlier. It also allows the director to envision the scene better. If your script requires a concert, you don't play the music while filming. You add the music in post-production.
There is also a category for sound effects if you are planning to use any in the post-production. Planning this makes your director know how the scene would be with the sound there. It could also be a general sound needed directly in the shooting.
Here you will note any costumes needed for the scene. If your script situates in the 1930s, you are probably going to need some old-time clothes.
You will also have to note any makeup needed for the scene. It includes things like gunshot wounds, scars or a specific styling of a character.
In this category, you note everything needed for the set design department. If you need a bachelor pad, you can't have everyone showing up on set to an empty apartment.
You also have a category for greenery, which is everything concerning plants and the like. If you use plants or the like, it will need caretaking. So if you're shooting a scene in a jungle or the woods, this is important.
The category for visual effects is for everything that includes effects done in post-production. While the editing department can do their fair share of magic, they need you to do the groundwork for them. It means using a green screen on set to help your VFX designers.
You would also note down every special effect you want to happen in the scene. You don't need to go into specifics. But if you want it to rain or need an explosion, you would note it down here.
In here, you would note any specific vehicles that you need for a scene. If you need a car or a bus, it is a great idea to write it beforehand. In this way, you can plan out the renting of the vehicle. You can also start any licensing that could come with it.
You also have a category for special equipment, for example, if you need a crane for shooting the scene or a slow-motion camera.
In this category, you write everything miscellaneous that is needed. It accounts for everything that does go into the other categories.
If you have any specific notes for the scene, this is where you would write it down. It could also be a reminder, like remember water-proof make-up for the rain scene or fire extinguishers for the burning building.
So here we are. I hope you learned about the different sections and categories to look for when breaking down a script.
If you want to learn more about production, check our article that covers everything on filmmaking.
Script breakdown sheet FAQ
What is a script breakdown?
A script breakdown is when the producer goes through everything needed for a script to come to life.
They typically break down a single page into eight parts. It helps make the production efficient and manageable.
What is a script breakdown sheet?
A script breakdown sheet is a sheet used for noting everything needed in the production of a scene. Each breakdown sheet covers the planned scene.
How do you fill out a script breakdown sheet?
You will need to fill out any section that is relevant for a given scene. It could be special effects, makeup or cast members.
You then colour code the script with any section of the sheet relevant for the different parts.