Jan 2, 2010

Breaking Down A Script

A Comment on my What do Scripty's Do all Day post read:

Blogger Glemaud said...

This post was quite informative, and I can't think you enough for taking the time to write it. Being a beginning Scripty, it's hard for me to really get the ropes without anyone there to tell me what I'm doing right and wrong. I have read the Script Supervising book, and still had unanswered questions, in which I had answered in this post.

I would hope there are to be later installments similar to this, detailing other pieces of information (Continuity One-Liners, please!) I'd massage your feet, thrice daily were you to do that.

Thanks again.

So for the promise of virtual foot massages, here is how I do a continuity One-Line:

For some reason, breaking down the script is quite possibly my favorite part of the job. Step one is to make sure you have the latest version of the script, which should also be the version the AD is using for his/her one-liner (as fun as this is for me, it's amazing how it loses its luster when I have to do it a second time).

A question I get a lot is, "what's the difference between the scripty's one-liner and the AD's one-liner?" The difference is simply that the AD one-line is in SHOOTING order, the Script/continuity one-line is in STORY order.

I typically lay the script on the floor grab a sharpie, a ruler and my lap top. You can do it however you like, but for some reason sitting on the floor makes me think with more clarity. Just another one of my lovable quirks.

I'll start out with the fun and easy part. With sharpie and ruler I will separate each scene by drawing a line across the page where each scene begins and ends. This will give me and the editors a clear indication of where each scene starts and stops.

After the sharpie fumes die off and I no longer see music and hear colors, I do some mental gymnastics and assign page count. AD's typically work off a software that will provide page count for them, but I like to do it the old fashioned way. Generally speaking, a page of script equals a minute of movie. So if you have a 118-page script, that should turn into a 118-minute movie, give or take (depending on action sequences and such). That way as you time each day's coverage you can check it against the page count and you can easily tell if the movie is running long or not. This of course is predicated on the notion that the script is in standard script format. If the script comes to you written on torn out sheets of spiral notebook paper, well, then I just feel sorry for you.

The next step is to divide the script pages into eighths. Stare at a page and image it divided into eighths (go ahead, I'll wait). If a scene starts at the top of the page and ended in the middle of the page that scene would count as half, or 4/8 of a page. A scene that spans an entire page would be 1 page. Now of course, not all scenes begin and end on a page so let's say scene 10 fills 1 page and then half of another the scene would be 1 4/8 page.

I typically do my own page count then tweak it with the AD's page count to make sure we match up. If there's a huge discrepancy we'd have a page count throw-down, but I don't like to talk about those. They can be ugly.

Filling in the one line breakdown from left to right it's typically,

Scene #: (which you pull from the script starting on scene 1)

Location: again pulling from the slug lines on the script (e.g. Ext. North Woods).

D/N: Day 1 or Night 1. This requires you to read the script and determine when in the story time passes to the next day. Some scripts are easy to read as the slug line will tell you NEXT MORNING, or something to that effect. Sometimes you will have to place a call into the AD, writer or director to verify when the next day starts. Then your day count will read as D1 (meaning Day 1) then N1 (meaning night 1) next STORY day will be D2 etc. aligned with it's particular scene number. The day night progression is an extremely important part of your continuity one line which will become the bible for Wardrobe and Make-up.

Page Count: which we already discussed.

Characters: Enter the list of characters appearing in the scene.

Scene Description: A very short sum up of the scene. Many an AD love to put their own personal spin on the scene description. I just give a quick sum up. It's never a good idea to try and out-funny the AD.

For example a scene description might be "JAKE ARRIVES AT HIS CABIN". Primary importance is that it has to be clear succinct. Of secondary importance is to be amusing (like "KILLER MONOLOGUES" OR "AMY AND MARK MAKE THE BEAST WITH TWO BACKS"), stuff like that, of course always being respectful of the content since the writer will get a copy, as will all department heads.

Then, make a zillion copies of the thing, bring them to the production meeting and make any changes when the new script pages show up (notice I said 'when' and not 'if').

That's pretty much it. Hope that helps!

My virtual feet await...


Frank said...

I have 1 question that I can't seem to find the answer to.

So I have a script and am needing to shoot out of order. When slating the scene, is my first scene on the first day of shooting going to be scene 1 take 1 or no? Keep in mind the first thing we are shooting is not the first thing in the script. How do I break up the scenes? Is it basically when a day changes or a location changes? This is a sitcom.

Scripty said...

Great question.

You will always slate the scene number according to the script NOT the day.

So the first day of filming the very first scene might be scene 20. Your slate and script scene number should match.

Breaking up the scenes typically is done by the writer, but if you need to go in and break up the scenes and assign scene numbers you can break the scenes up as you stated, by location and story day.

Best of luck on your show!

Sara said...

You helped me sooo much! Thank you!!

Scripty said...

Glad to help Sara! Thanks for stopping by!

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Just discovered your blog, and I really like it - I only wish you wrote more often :)

Scripty said...

Gosh Thanks Kid In The Front Row- Thanks for stopping by the blog, I typically post once a month, think of it as a monthly magazine...HEE!

tene said...

Can you give a breaking a script down template in xls? Please I have no money for a software and I can't find it in google!
my mail

Scripty said...

Hi Tene!

You could make your own breakdown easy on XL your self, just follow my directions starting with the paragraph that starts out "Filling in the one line breakdown from left to right it's typically..."
and fill in each column with the information I've written about.

For a more proper perspective purchasing the Script Supervising Book (conveniently found on my website) will also help you.

Good luck!

Sandy Montgomery said...

I can't find where your links are to older blogs... help?

And I have a blog, albeit not all about Script Supervision. But it's a fun read if you start at the beginning.

I am looking for some answers to script supervising for a sitcom. Have you done this?

Thanks! Sandra

Scripty said...

Hi Sandy!

If you are looking for older posts, you can just type a key word/topic in the blogger search box (upper left) and a post should come up if there is one about that topic. But I'll save you some search time and let you know that I have not worked on a sit com. Maybe another nice scripty out there could help? Please contact Sandy on her site!



Teagan Jackel said...

Hi Scripty,
Isn't there also a breakdown you do on the script? How do you go about doing that one?

Scripty said...

Hi Teagan!

I'm sorry but I'm not sure I understand your question. The post was about doing a script breakdown for the Script Supervisor's one-line.

Are you thinking about the production one-line from the AD department?

Feel free to e-mail me for any additional help. Click on my profile and there will be a link for my e-mail thanks!

Felecia said...

Hello Script Goddess,
Do you live in the Los Angeles area? Offer any scripty training? Or recommend anyone for script supervisor training. Any tips for getting started in business?...I'm a newbie and trying to suck all info I find, but really just want to get on a set. I just came off of 44 day shoot but we were a 4 person crew just making it happen. Everyday I realize there's so much more I need to be on top of continuity-wise. Thanks so much, and I'm so happy to find your blog...Felecia

Javier Mejia said...

Good afternoon,

Ok, I am new to breaking down scripts and I've found tons of info on breaking it down but I still do not understand it fully.

I've line separated all my scenes. For each scene I've created, I've assigned a numerical value. So I have scene 1 as the very first 3/4 of my first page since that's one whole scene.

I've also divided each scene into eights. Next to the scene number I've put down the eights count. So now, I have a scene and to the left margin I've put the scene number and next to it, in a circle, the eights count.

Now what? haha! I'm not entirely sure I understand how this translates into the production phase or the slating process.

Any help will be truly appreciated.

It is

Scripty said...

Hi Javier!

I think you are well on your way!

Using your example scene 1 is 3/4 page long. This page count tells each department how long the scene is, and it helps you/ the studio/ the producer keep track how many pages the production is completing each day.

But the most fun I find is that the page count helps you keep a running time of the movie as well! If the script is done in the correct format 1 script page equals roughly 1 minute of screen time.

Hope that helps if not, please feel free to click on "contact me" on the right side of the blog!

Anonymous said...


I know that every day the script supervisor hands over copies of their notes for the editor and production but at the end of a show does the script supervisor also hand over their original notes to production?


Scripty said...

Hi Anonymous!

I typically put together a final lined script for production that is all bound together in one neat package.

Years ago prior to going digital, I would make a copy of all my notes so they would be on fresh paper (not all curled and bent from the harsh climate of production)

thanks for the comment!

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