Script breakdown

The purpose with this activity is to break down a manuscript into individual scenes and we know whats includes in each scene. We will also assure that the film is ”good enough” and can be produced within budget.

This workflow is based on the assumption that you have developed a story and then written a script for a short film, feature or series.

The main roles involved in this process are: Production manager, Director, Writer, Script supervisor, Cinematographer and 1st AD.

RevIew manuscript

This activity is part of the Development process, but need to be done before script breakdown as part of quality assurance.

Review manuscript and assure that we have a structure in storytelling and it’s good enough.

”Good enough” is a fuzzy term, but there are some basic guidelines to follow when making a narrative film.

  • A clear protagonist and antagonist

  • Well defined story plot with both positives and negatives

  • 15 beats to drive the story forward in a feature  or an episode in a series. There may be fewer beats in a short film..

  • A key frame for each beat in the story to describe the essence in that each important scene 

  • Mood for each beat / key frame

  • Each scene should have a purpose in the storytelling, either a conflict or change

  • Not to many B-stories and to many main characters in a feature or shortfilm

If the manuscript is ”good enough” continue to next activity. If not, either rewrite the manuscript or end pre-production.

FORMAT manuscript

If the manuscript is another format than Final Draft, we have to convert it to Final Draft.

Check that the manuscript is correct and if necessary, make changes in the manuscript.

  • Check the formatting of a Final Draft script before importing into StudioBinder and make the necessary changes.

  • New place in a manuscript must always be a new scene to work in StudioBinder. Ex moving between rooms, a retrospect or a telephone call between two parties.

  • Do not make changes to a script directly in Studiobinder. Make the changes in Final Draft and then update StudioBinder with the new fdx file.

Breakdown manuscript

Breakdown manuscript into set locations, scenes and cast. Base breakdown on scene headings in the manuscript

If you start to open a manuscript written i FinalDraft as *.fdx, in StudioBinder or ShortLister, then name, location, time of day, in/ext and characters are copied from the manuscript.  With Magic movie, you have to use Final Draft Tagger before import or create manually.

The example below is from StudioBinder

Example of breakdown in StudioBinder

Example of breakdown in StudioBinder

Note: If you import a new version of a script, and scenes are renumbered, will changes to cast and locations not be update correctly in Studiobinder. In Movie Magic and Shotlister is it not possible to re-import a manuscript.

Create an initial day plan based on pages per day estimate from development phase. Sort the day plan in scene number order.

After you have done the initial breakdown, initiate casting and location scouting.

Compile elements

Create an initial list of props, set design and other elements based on what is written in the manuscript.

Elements in a manuskript with StoryBinder

Elements in a manuskript with StoryBinder

Add the different elements in production design in the Breakdown script part of Storybinder or Magic Movie after you have imported the manuscript. The alternative is to use Excel lists for the different parts of production design.

Use this list of elements as input to high level budgeting.

Estimate time

Make an initial estimate of the time needed to shoot each scene. 

In order to estimate time for a scene, you need to know how complex the scene is.  Complexity adds time for preparations and cost for equipment, so you have to take this into account in the scheduling and budget process.

We normaly use estimates for Xtra Small, Small, Medium and Large for each scene, but the other sizes are defined for more special scenes. For each size, we have an estimated time for the scene to shoot incl preparations for the scene on set.

  • XXS

  • XS

  • S

  • M

  • L

  • XL

  • XXL

For each scene, estimate size of complexity and then add the duration to the scene in the list in the program, e.g.

Update the initial day planning based on new estimates and sorted by set locations or other relevant factors. Use this estimate of days as input to high-level budgeting.

revise breakdown

Review script breakdown from both creative viewpoint and project viewpoint. Revise breakdown until the story is “good enough” from a storytelling perspective and that there is a possibility to produce the film within budget & time.

Finalise breakdown

After the script is finalised, lock all scenes in Final Draft and mark this version as final draft. All further changes should use revision history.

Don’t change scene numbering after this stage, If an extra scene is needed, then use US, UK or EU ”best-practice” for numbering.

Complete cast and extras for each scene and compile all remaining elements.

Add locations for each scene. 

After you have done the final breakdown, initiate production design based on the list of elements.

There could be minor changes to dialogue, action and kocations after this stage, but main characters should be the same for each scene.

Update day plan based on the final breakdown.

Note: If you make changes to the manuscript in Magic Movie or Shotlister will the breakdown of manuscript not be updated in the program. Only StudioBinder have this functionality.