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How to master a script breakdown

The script breakdown happens after your script is locked/finalized, and it consists of isolating and making lists of production elements such as cast, props, set pieces, special gear, sounds — every little thing needed for each scene. A breakdown can be done on the script as a whole or by each individual scene.

 

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Some screenplay software will create a script breakdown for you, but even computer-generated breakdowns can miss things. 

This guide will show you how to do a traditional script breakdown by hand.

MARK IT UP

The first step is to mark the script by combing through it line by line and isolating all the production elements — such as cast, props, set pieces and sounds — that make up the script or scene. 

The simplest way to mark the script is to grab a pack of colored markers or highlighters and assign each color to a different element category. For example, you can use pink for cast members, orange for props, yellow for music and sound effects and green for titles and graphics. As you scan your script, mark or highlight those production elements with the respective color. You can be as granular with this as you want. Add more element categories as you find them. Then do multiple passes through the script to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

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BREAK IT DOWN

The next step is to break down the script. Organize all the marked elements into categorized lists on a breakdown summary sheet. 

If you are breaking down your script scene-by-scene, then you’ll want to create a summary sheet for each scene. Referring back to your freshly marked script, transfer the highlighted elements onto their respective lists on the breakdown summary sheet. 

This breakdown will give you an idea of where you may need extra support and which departments should be responsible for specific elements.

SEND IT OUT

The final step is to send out the script. Share the breakdown summary sheet with all relevant production departments or crew members. 

Having everything organized into one accessible list keeps everyone on your team informed about what is being taken care of and by whom. It also can help you determine where to allocate extra resources, funding or time in the schedule.

FINAL TAKE

A script breakdown may seem tedious, but it is an important step in the pre-production process. Keep in mind that not everything you need is always written in the script or initial breakdown summary sheet. Treat it as a stepping stone in the greater planning process. 

For example, your script may not mention the kind of clothing the talent should wear or how their hair and makeup should look. Those elements may need to be figured out and later added to the script breakdown sheet separately or included in your planning notes.

There’s no official format for a script breakdown sheet, so create one that fits your needs.

And that’s a script breakdown.

Download our free script breakdown sheet template to help you plan your next video.


Kathryn Price

Kathryn Price is a video producer and designer at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.