By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on April 14, 2016
So, you're done with the script of your film. Your team has the freshly printed and bound copies of the script in their hands. You could be the assistant director or the line producer or the production manager- the most daunting task is now ahead of you. The execution part. It could be a short film with a 3 day schedule or a project of a much larger scale with a 30 day schedule, meticulous planning is the way to success from now onward.
And the very first step towards a pitch perfect plan is to break down your script thoroughly. In this brilliant video by RocketJump Film School, Andrew Spieler, Assistant Director on RocketJump: The Show walks us through the process of script breakdown, explaining the entire process point by point.
While the exercise is often undertaken by 1st ADs, who ultimately have to keep track of the entire process, the exercise is also highly recommended for the director, says Spieler. First, breaking down the script gives you gives you a sense of the difference between what you had in you head & what's on paper. Also, the breakdown helps to build clarity in your head as a director.
In the video, Spieler takes a script and breaks it down to the minutest details. In his sample script, there's a scene where someone is going to get shot and die. It looks like a simple scene having a two sentence description, but there's much more to it.
So this kind of a scene might be tackled with various filmmaking elements like stunts, special effects and make-up. So, how does one go about it? What kind of make-up is required in the scene? What gun needs to be used for shooting? If it's a period-specific film, you might need to find out an older version of a gun, which was used in the specific time period. And so on and so forth. More the questions, more the clarity.
In this tutorial, Spieler advises the use of specific color coding for each element, so that one can spot and mark these elements in the script. For example, if red is assigned to props, each place where a prop appears in the script would be underlined with a red marker. Of course, you don't always have to do this in an analogue fashion, most screenwriting softwares like Final Draft and Celtx allow you to do this. However, in case of the unavailability of any such software, you can always have a little fun with all the stationery!
Script breakdown is a thorough, detailed & extremely tedious process. It requires you to be extremely detail-oriented, and keen on getting all the answers required. However, as it goes, there are no rules to it. Your method can be as unique & innovative as you like, as long as it works for you. What the tutorial provides is an approach towards breaking down a script and it sure is insightful.