How to use scenechronize to schedule and break down your script

Download 37.42 Kb.
Size37.42 Kb.


The Script as Blueprint: Breakdown and Scheduling

"Script breakdown is the process of analyzing your script to determine all of the components out of which it is made. During script breakdown, you'll systematically build lists of everything from characters, props and locations to special effects, and costumes. But script breakdown is much more than a simple inventory. The process of breaking down your script and the analysis and decisions you'll make when doing your breakdown will generate the data that is required to schedule your shoot and prepare a budget.

Breaking down a script is not just a suggestion; it is an essential step towards starting your production. During the script breakdown process you're going to create a number of lists and schedules, but more importantly, you're going to develop an understanding of your script that will be necessary for answering the thousands of questions that will come up during production. This familiarity with the script will allow you to effectively deal with the changing conditions and concerns of a complex shoot."


The sequence of events in this process is as follows:

  1. Read the script.

  2. Print out a hard copy of the script. Break it down by marking the scenes for page count, scene numbers and elements (cast, props, vehicles, etc. are the elements).

  3. Upload the digital script into Scenechronize and complete the steps that Scenechronize does not do for you (Scenechronize only adds Cast - you have to highlight and add the other elements).

  4. Create a shooting schedule in Scenechronize.

Students often ask why they shouldn't just go straight into the program and upload the script. My position is until you have been doing this a long time and really know what you are doing, it's best to go through all the steps by hand and on the computer so you catch your mistakes as you go and develop an eye for detail and take pleasure in really learning the script as only a production manager can. Until you have suffered on set because of a mistake made back in the breakdown process, you may have trouble appreciating why this attention to detail is so important...

First things first...

STEP 1: READ THE SCRIPT, preferably in one sitting. Don't make notes, just read for enjoyment and to get a general sense of what's involved and the plot. It will help you with the breakdown if you know what's coming next.

STEP 2: To complete the script breakdown, you will need:

--A marker or colored pencil to mark the elements - any color will do, don't highlight over the element, it will not xerox and will be hard to read.

--black lead pencil to mark scene numbers

-- ruler to draw lines for scene breaks with the pencil

--pad for making notes and questions as you go

--multiple copies of the Breakdown Page template you’ll need one page per scene

STEP 3: In a screenplay, a slugline tells the reader that the story has changed in location or time. It tells the reader where and when the action appears and the line comprises three parts:

INT. or EXT. - is the scene an interior or exterior scene?

SET - where does the action take place according to the script?

DAY or NIGHT - what is the time of day?




STEP 4: Make sure there is a SPACE DASH SPACE between the SET and TIME OF DAY.


STEP 5. Mark the scene number in pencil (in case you make a numbering mistake) at the upper left corner of the scene. Then draw a line across the page from left to right all the way off both sides of the page any time there is a new slugline OR it seems to be a new time and place (even if the writer did not give it a new slugline).

If the scene goes on to the next page, write the scene number again and the word CONTINUED (if it’s not already there) at the top of the next page.

Only do one scene at a time - DO NOT go through and number all the scenes in the script and then go back and start breaking down elements. You will miss a scene and have to go back and erase and renumber every scene when you catch your mistake.

STEP 6. In filmdom, scripts are measured in eighths (1/8) of a page. After numbering the scene and deciding where it begins and ends, measure the scene for length.

1 inch of typed copy equals 1/8 of a page.

Each scene, as per slug line, is measured into 1/8's of a page by its number of inches.

The total number of 1/8's (or inches) per scene is then marked in the top right corner of the scene, and circled.

If a scene lasts longer than eight 1/8's, it is converted to 1.

So, a scene lasting twelve 1/8's is marked 1 4/8. If it is less than 1 inch, mark it as 1/8 anyway; it can't be less than 1/8 of a page.

See this link for an even more detailed explanation of counting scenes in eighths: scheduling-and-budgeting.pdf

STEP 7. Do not include the slugline when measuring the scene page count, start with the action description or dialogue just below the slugline.

8. Due to formatting discrepancies, a page can be more than 8/8ths. Keep in mind that you only really care about how long each scenes is, not if all the scenes add up to the same number as pages in the script.

9. Now go though each scene and underline the elements (cast, props, etc) with the colored marker. Underline, do NOT highlight - this will cause problems if you have to Xerox the script.

It is the process of breaking down each piece (element) of the scene to its smallest size that will tell you exactly what you will need whenever you plan on shooting that scene.

Also note down things that you think might be needed even if they are not stated on the page. A good example is background. At the pool scenes, the writer did not spell out that there are other people at the pool but obviously there would be. Under EXTRAS CASTING in Scenechronize, you would add precise numbers of atmosphere to have there. 20 teen age girls, 20 teen age boys, 12 adults, etc. Be specific so you have a rough estimate of how many you will need to budget for. The director and the production manager will ultimately decide how many they want and can afford, but at this point you can guesstimate.

The same thinking would apply for props. There would be pool toys, snorkel masks, towels. Under Production Notes, I would add Water Safety, since based on my set experiences, with all those kids and actors in the water, it's a good idea to have water safety people standing by. These are things you will pick up over time; for this exercise just add what seems logical to you.

10. Make notes of your questions under Prod/Misc box.

To see 3 sample pages with my breakdown markings, click here: SAMPLE PAGES

For each scene, you will write out the information on the blank breakdown page, one per scene. Breakdown Page template

On to Scenechronize!

Helpful Link : Video Production Scheduling

These students are standing in front of the old style production strip board. Back in the dark ages, the production crew (the production manager and the assistant director) would break down the script and then hand-write the information on long cardboard strips. They would then put them into a board like this for scheduling! And you made corrections using several different colors of white out. The colors represent:

Day Interior White

Day Exterior Yellow

Night Interior Blue

Night Exterior Green

Most computer programs for scheduling films are based on this board style. Hence, the name Strip board for the mode where you schedule the days in Scenechronize. And just like the old strip board, you read up from the day break banner, not down, to read which scenes have been scheduled for that day.

Detailed Scenechronize Directions

The point of the breakdown is to “break down” the script into each scene and decide what day you will shoot what scenes and what needs to be there on the day you shoot that scene.

Make sure you have downloaded the pdf file of FIVE FEET AND RISING script onto your desktop. 

1. Go to

2. Click on INDIE OR SHORT>Sign Up for Free!

3. After inputting your name, your e-mail address, and the name of your project, you'll have to wait for a verification e-mail.

4. Once you click on the activation link that takes you back to the site, you'll have to upload your script.

Check your email. Once you receive the confirmation mail, click on CLICK HERE in the mail.

5. For the date, set the calendar for the date of the draft of the script you are breaking down. For this exercise use January 1st of the next year.

6. For the color, select WHITE. First scripts broken down are all white pages usually. As revision get made to the script the page color changes but don't worry about that for now.

7. After you start the upload of the script, you should see this screen.

Leave it set at page 2 and click CONTINUE IMPORT.

Now you will see this:

Answer Yes to adding scene numbers and NO to adding VO and OS charters.

Click on ADJUST LINES. On the next screen click on the line that needs to be renamed – meaning click on the pull down menu item that says END OF ACT. It now sees the highlighted problem line as the end of the act. Click save.

8. You should now see a screen with the results of a brief breakdown of your script .

You can see the script on the left. The breakdown part is on the right and looks very similar to the breakdown page sample. The program has already put the cast in the right place and has identified INT or EXT, SET and scene number.

You begin by writing a brief synopsis for each scene. It should be a BRIEF, pithy synopsis, just enough so that you can tell it apart from other scenes. Keep it to one sentence long. "Susie talks to Bill" is not a good action description, because she talks to Bill in a lot of scenes. Distinguish which scene it is. "Susie tells Bill her cat ran away".

ALWAYS use upper and lower case for the scene descriptions.

I made up this synopsis for the first scene of FIVE FEET. Check your spelling! As of this writing, Scenechronize does not have spellcheck. Bummer.

13. Go through each scene and highlight the elements you underlined in the script. 

Put them in the proper categories on the breakdown page in the program, on the right side of the screen. 

This is done by highlighting the element with your cursor.

A window pops up.

Pull down the menu to click on the appropriate category – in this case COSTUMES and then click on CREATE ELEMENT at the bottom of the box. Don't forget to do that.

It will build a list for you so that if you need that element again, you only have to click on it.

If in doubt about whether something is a prop or set dressing, put it in both categories. Props are small things that actors can hold; set dressing is big stuff, like furniture.  Only call out elements that are special to the scene. For example if they are in Amanda's bedroom, you don't need to make a list if everything that might be in a bedroom.  Just note things that are mentioned in the script ("Amanda opens her dresser drawer, which sticks and she really has to pull it.")

ALWAYS use ALL CAPITALS for sets, elements and cast names (Scenechronize automatically capitalizes cast names). For the action descriptions, always use upper and lower case.

13. Learn the difference between sets and locations. In your script, you're writing sets, when you shoot it, you need to find a location for it. For this assignment, we are leaving the locations blank.

Go through the entire script and break down every scene. Then it’s time to move on to scheduling.

14. Now click on "Stripboard" on the top menu bar.

Go ahead and name the board FIVE FEET AND RISING ONE and include your first initial and last name.

Sort the strips by Set names. This logistically makes the most sense, since we want to light and shoot each scene on the same set on the same day, so we don't have to go back and light it again for a later scene.  This means the movie will be shot out of script sequence, but it is the most cost effective way of doing it.

Set the daily page count for 4 pages. Click CREATE BOARD.

Scenechronize will sort the sets alphabetically. This is a good time to proof the breakdowns – did you forget any synopsizes? Are there any typos or set name inconsistencies? (i.e. Susie’s bathroom, Susie’s apartment and Smith Apartment when they all mean just Susie’s bathroom). Make the set names consistent and precise so you can decide how to group them for the most effective shooting schedule. Try to be logical when grouping different sets together – would it make sense to shoot these scenes on the same day? What minimizes company moves (which suck up time)? Which schedule keeps the actors working the majority of each day and not coming and going each day of the shoot?

A 4-5 page day is the average (obviously, things change when you have more complicated scenes that may only actually take up 1 script page, but might take 5 days to shoot, for example). By checking off 4 pages a day, you're automating the program to insert the day breaks. After you comb through everything, you might find that you can shoot more or less on certain days during a longer project. Read up from the day breaks for what you will shoot that day. The program also automatically totals up the page count per day.

To add a day break or banner (you can put your own text in a banner), hover the cursor over the right end of the strip and click on the plus sign.

You set it for 4 pages so it will group them into days at 4 pages or less. You can now go in and finesse the days. You can shift the strips around by dragging and dropping them into different days. This is the real strategy part of scheduling. Make each day as logical and sensible as you can with what you know. The next step is to be these days into an order that makes sense. The more you prep, the more you will finesse the board. Certain locations will only be available on certain days so they’ll get locked. That will change the order. Then an actor will have scheduling issues and so on. The Art department often has a way they like to do things – big sets later in the schedule for example so they have more time to build and pick up set dressing. So you will be massaging this thing until the shoot is over!

You can set the calendar for actual shoots dates with the tabs on the upper right.

18. When you're done, click "Save and Close”.

19. Right below the top menu bar, under HOME and BREAKDOWN it says "Reports." Click on it.

20. Select "One Line Schedule"

ALL and BLACK AND WHITE should be clicked.

Click OK. You can now view the report onscreen or print it out.


Once you feel confident that the schedule is pretty solid with what you know today, you want to look at the Day Out of Days for the cast. It’s a report that will show you what days each actor is scheduled to work. This is very useful when you are determining the budget. You will know how many days or weeks to budget the cast for based on this report. It’s also a good way to see where you may need to go back and massage the schedule to reduce hold days.

Click on REPORTS>day out of day (pdf or exel)

Make sure the All date range is selected along with the Apply drop/hold rules.

Click OK.

The report will be a couple of pages. The most important part is the last page that shows the summary. If any of your actors are available for a limited number of days or only between certain dates, this is where you will see potential problems.


Questions: 5

QUIZ for MODULE 3 Script Breakdown

1. First things first…READ THE SCRIPT

True False

2. In a screenplay, a slugline tells the reader that the story has changed characters.

True False

3. 1 inch of typed copy equals 1/8 of a page.

True False

4. The pages always add up to 8/8 per page.

True False

5. No exact formula exists for creating an effective shooting schedule.

True False

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page