Among the many tedious elements of film production, breaking down a script can be the most time-consuming and least exciting, but it's arguably the most important.
A script breakdown, or a list of identified production elements within a scene, requires a meticulous eye for detail. You'll need to read and reread your 90-some pages until your eyes bleed, looking for keywords that indicate a tangible element that will appear onscreen (such as props, set dressing, and cast members). Identifying these elements will prove invaluable to every single production department; it will impact the specifics of their work down to the most minute detail.
A new video from Studiobinder, which promotes film production software and templates, outlines the basic process of breaking down your script, using Deadpool as an example. Below, we've distilled the most important steps in the process.
1. Read the script a million times
This will not only help you in terms of production but will also solidify your understanding of your story.
2. Estimate screen time by dividing your script into eighths
As a general rule, one page equals approximately one minute of screen time.
3. Highlight elements
Next, get out your highlighter and look for "elements." These are any items that can either be seen onscreen or could impact what you see onscreen. Each element should get its own color; in the end, your script should look like rainbow sherbert.
Here are some important elements to identify in your script:
- Cast members
- Set dressing
- Special effects
- Additional labor
4. Count it up
Next, go through each scene, count up the elements, and print and fill out breakdown sheets for the entirety of your crew.