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🎬 Paper to Production (Schedules, Shotlists, Storyboards)

Let’s look at physically realizing what, until now, has been no more than ideas written on paper. On a feature film, this is a huge task, and the groundwork necessary to make the overwhelming logistics manageable.

Breaking Down a Script

Great Resource

On your own without a 1st AD or producer you get to do this job. Though I like to do it with software, there are some who still do it manually.

This is the process of going through the entire script and “tagging” all talent, props, wardrobe specifics, stunts, etc. so that you don’t show up to set without something you’re going to need. It also makes it easier to schedule things, like talent, in a way that’s cost effective. You will not be shooting your film in screenplay order.  

  • Characters = Red
  • Extras = Green
  • Props = Purple
  • Costumes = circle
  • Stunts = orange
  • Special FX = Blue
  • Vehicles = Pink

“After which, these highlights are then organized and broken-down into strips to organize the production schedule within the actual physical production board. This process is more easily done nowadays utilizing a computer than done manually, with features inside Final Draft called tagger, or utilizing tagging mode inside Movie Magic Screenwriter, another effective computer program.[2] This information can easily be imported over to Movie Magic Scheduling to create a digital production board, and then easily imported over to Movie Magic Budgeting to create the entire production budget. Most of the script and production computer software out there comes in both Microsoft and MacOS versions, and even though there is competing software on the market, these which are listed are considered to be an entertainment industry standard.” – Wikipedia

β€’ Divide every page into eight 1-inch parts and figure out how many eighths each scene occupies. Each 1/8″ of a page is considered an “eighth”. (As a general idea, 5 pages per day is generally shootable and each of those pages could be a minute of screen time.)  

β€’ Break it down per scene

β€’ Reports, like the DOOD (a “Day Out Of Days” report that tracks when talent is working) can be generated from these breakdowns.

A traditional production boardstripboard, or production strip is a filmmaking term for a cardboard or wooden chart displaying color-coded strips of paper, each containing information about a scene in the film’s shooting script. The strips can then be rearranged and laid out sequentially to represent the order one wants to film in, providing a schedule that can be used to plan the production. This is done because most films are shot “out of sequence,” meaning that they do not necessarily begin with the first scene and end with the last. For logistical purposes, scenes are often grouped by talent or location and are arranged to accommodate the schedules of cast and crew. A production board is not to be confused with a Stripboard used for electronics prototyping.

A modern version of a strip board will commonly be printed using dedicated computer software, such as MovieMagic Scheduling, Celtx, or Scenechronize, or by customizing general purpose software such as OpenOffice.org Calc or Microsoft Excel.

https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/break-a-script-down-into-a-shot-list/

Scheduling

Movie Magic Scheduling 

Google Calendar For Scheduling

The sharing features of Google calendar work well for small media productions.

  • 1,2,3 keys navigate views
  • T = current day
  • Calendars can be imported to or exported from Google.
  • Google Tasks can be assigned due dates that appear on the calendar.

Lay your scenes into a stripboard for scheduling. This can be done manually with printed sheets or via spreadsheets.

Budgeting

There’s “industry-standard” software used in major motion pictures, but we’ll focus more here on doing the most with the least. Knowing the basics of Microsoft Excel or “Google Sheets” is a basic life skill. Software like Final Draft provides enormous complexity, but sometimes the simplicity of something like Highland makes writing more enjoyable.

Entertainment Partners (“EP”) purchased Movie Magic scheduling, budgeting, etc. software.

Google Sheets for Budgeting

Sheet data can be used in Google Docs. Just copy cells from an Excel sheet and paste (choose linked option) into a Google Doc. If you update the original spreadsheet the doc has a ‘refresh’ option to update it, but sync only seems to work in that direction from sheet to doc.

General things to know:

  • = before the contents of the cell mean it’s a formula
  • $ is used before a cell to make it an “absolute” rather than relative reference. When you drag out the cell into other cells it won’t try and update the column or row (depending on which has a $ sign).
  • “!” after a string tells Excel it’s a sheet. So refer to another cell from another sheet via the name =’Sheet1′!E12
  • You need to use the ‘ quotes if there’s a space in the sheet name.

Shooting Script 

The first step is transforming your screenplay into a “Production Script” or “Shooting Script”. This is a specific format with formatting requirements for revisions. It is “locked” meaning page and scene numbering will not change.

The first step requires numbering the script’s scenes. Scene headers or “Sluglines” (where it says EXT. or INT.) denote new scene numbers on a shooting script.

As changes are made, the entire script isn’t reprinted. Only the affected pages are reproduced and an asterisk in the right margin indicates a change. The new pages follow this color order to denote their revisions: White (original), Blue, Pink, Yellow, Green, Goldenrod etc. If a new page (as opposed to a new scene which I’ll cover in a moment) must be inserted between pages 13 and 14, it will take the number 13A. If a new scene is to be added between scenes 20 and 21, it does not take the name 20A like a new page would. This would too easily be confused as a setup and take designation. Instead, the scene would be labeled A21.

Shot List

There’s a great shot list template here with instructions.

Having decided how you want to visually cover the content of the script. You’re ready to make a shot list. You could use the method of “lining the script” shown below to verify coverage. It’s similar to what a script supervisor will do on set, even though the shot list isn’t really referred to by the script supervisor.

Remember that scene order is different than shooting order. You shoot as organized by β€œsetup” since consolidating lighting and blocking setups will often be the most efficient way to shoot.  The shot list will generally just contain numbered shots, e.g. Scene 34 shot 11. On set, as the setups are executed, the Script Supervisor will be responsible for determining the indexing number and letter that go on the slate (e.g. Scene 34A Take 2).

Shotlister

Shotlister is a cool app for creating shot lists and scheduling. You can sync a project with others who own the same app. It has a subscription option ($14USD/year) for script import, storyboard generation, crew sync (for others who own Shotlister) and lets you circle takes.

Storyboarding

If you have access to the location, a simple cell phone camera and an app like Artemis or Cadrage are highly convenient.

Lining a Script

“Lining” is a way to methodically determine coverage. You need to translate written words to specific shots.

I usually use the term “setup” to refer to where you have the lights and cast and crew generally positioned. A single setup could be used for multiple different shots.

During production, you or a script supervisor now take your scene numbers and append letters denoting the β€œshot” e.g. β€œScene 30B”. You generally start with an un-lettered number so in our example we’d begin with “Scene 30” and “Scene 30B” would be the third shot for scene 30. The script supervisor is ultimately the one in charge of making sure this numbering scheme is working. The 2nd AC needs to make sure the slate matches up with the script as shooting proceeds. The sound department will also listen for the script supervisor to call the shots in order to make sure the proper audio metadata is recorded. The wiggly line represents what is NOT shown on camera.

Script supervisors may review logs from crew before sending to editorial. They make sure every slate has a line on the script page. Most scripts work on a computer now. It’s common in editorial to see script supervisor’s hand-written notes and then the digitized ones as well. They deliver the lined script cleaned up, the editorial logs which outline a day’s shooting in order of shooting and the wrap reports. 

StudioBinder

A fast-growing tool. Very nice, but very expensive at $50/mo for the mid-tier version. Watch the videos from the link for an idea of what each of these processes entail (especially the script breakdown, strip boards and shooting schedule features). Know the software exists for when your scale of project demands it. Sign up for it for a couple months while you need it if you don’t shoot much.

 As mentioned, there are some great professional solutions for realizing the logistics of what, until now, has only been written on a page. Unfortunately, the best of these are paid solutions for working professionals. Here we look at accomplishing similar things with free tools. This is one area, however, that will go much quicker just purchasing the correct software if you’re doing this on anything large scale. Unless your time and that of most of your cast and crew isn’t worth much, I’d advice just paying for a month of StudioBinder when you need it.

StudioBinder has been very competitive in attempting to corner this market. If you don’t mind their constant self-aggrandizement, their site can be a decent primer on the process:

https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/shooting-schedule-stripboard/

Other Software Options:

Yamdu, Production Next, Jungle Software, Google Docs, Slack, and FOXoms, Celtx ($20/month), Studio Binder ($50/mo for version with script breakdown and calendar).


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