If machines could do script breakdown, we would definitely let them – in fact, computer programs like Movie Magic can be really helpful with this. Breaking down a script basically means reading through the screenplay again, but instead of focusing on story and character, you make detailed lists of data for the production. Props, costumes, locations – any element of the script that requires more than a camera and actors should wind up in the breakdown. Even if it’s something like a sound effect that gets added in post-production, make a note of it. You also want to go through and number the scenes to help keep track of when and where each item is needed. A printed script is really helpful for this, so if no printers are available, head over to that FedEx Office and pay the five bucks. In case you’re wondering, all this is as tedious as it sounds, but it’s also extremely important for the budget and shooting schedule. In fact, you really can’t have a final budget or schedule without doing this first. And if you miss any item during the breakdown, it won’t be available in production. There will be enough scrambling and improvising on set, so try to be thorough when doing the script breakdown.
Is there anything more exciting than organization and efficiency? Well, on the administrative side of your project, that’s pretty much what’s required. So if you have a friend who keeps recommending "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," now is the time to tap into that resource. When sorting through all the minute details of the production, always keep in mind the overall big picture of what’s important to you.
The bigger the production, the more difficult it is to schedule. If you’ve ever tried to coordinate something with a group of friends or family members, you know that when more people get added to the mix, it gets complicated. So this is one place where not having a huge budget actually makes life a bit easier, at least on the administrative side. Whether you have five people working on the project or five thousand, it’s still vital to know who is doing what. Is someone on script breakdown? Who is running the art department? Do you even have location scouts? And if you’re doing all of these things yourself, you probably want to make a nice checklist to keep it all straight. Once you’ve delegated the responsibilities, the question is when these things are happening. Script breakdown is most essential, because the budget and schedule will depend on that. From there, you can plan times to rehearse with the cast, head out to locations or order your equipment. Of course, if you are in the smaller budget range, ordering your equipment probably means trying to coordinate all those people who are kindly lending you cameras, lenses, etc. and hoping everything is available when you need it. So maybe scheduling really isn’t any simpler when you don’t have a lot of cash on hand…
After the script breakdown, you can create a shooting script. Despite the name, a shooting script is more like a spreadsheet than an actual screenplay. Going further than the script breakdown, the shooting script charts detailed shot descriptions for each scene, along with essential information like characters, location and props. You can also go a step further than the screenplay and make decisions about camera angles, lighting and other technical aspects relating to the production. If you haven’t already taken the time to consider the visual style of the project, the shooting script is yet another opportunity to do so. Because the shooting script has all the important details relating to location, cast and crew, you can turn it into a production schedule by adding dates. Eventually, you’ll refine the production schedule into a shooting schedule, which gets simplified into the one-liner schedule for the cast and crew. When you’ve done all that, don’t forget to distribute a day-out-of-days document, which basically reminds everyone when they need to show up and where they need to be, as well as some maps so that no one gets lost on the first day and immediately ruins your carefully crafted scheduling. And no, don’t assume your cast and crew can just rely on Google Maps or Waze.
Paperwork – LLC
Yes, we understand, forming an LLC still sounds incredibly lame. But all the cool kids are doing it. Seriously, every film or show you have ever loved had an LLC behind it. And compared to all the other paperwork, it’s actually pretty simple. Speaking of all that other paperwork, hopefully your production coordinator is taking care of it all. If you don’t have a production coordinator, you want to make sure to sign all union or guild papers, as well as filming permits (such as Permit to Employ Minors if your project is a heartwarming tale of a mother and her young son). And do you have any insurance for the project yet (besides the individual health coverage Obama got for you)?