PRODUCER-DIRECTOR-WRITER ABSOLUTE MUST (Want to Fail? Then Don’t Do a Script Breakdown… Now Learn How.)


Poor Script and/or no Production Board (aka: Shooting Schedule) are the two most common reasons why first-time Producers, Directors, and Writers, of feature films F-A-I-L as profitable Filmmakers.

Huh? What do I mean (as if it ain’t obvious).

First is Screenwriting. If “It Ain’t On the Page, It Ain’t On the Stage”. If you have written a screenplay without a proper “Beat Sheet” (aka: Step Outline) you are guaranteed to fail.


Yes, you might (A) have the script and (B) get some financing and (C) make the film but if “It Ain’t On the Page, It Ain’t On the Stage” and your final product will not get past a film festival or two screening.

Second reason for failure, assuming you have the great script, is that you are not properly organized to do-the-shoot.

And, the only way to be properly organized is to prepare a PRODUCTION BOARD.


Once a PRODUCTION BOARD is prepared (CAVEAT: by you, not by hiring someone) then you will be organized with an efficient SHOOTING SCHEDULE with respect to Locations, Logistics, Moves, Availabilities, Props, Wardrobe, Stunts, Effects, Extras, etc.


Below is an organized explanation, in a step-by-step process, by a company, “STUDIO BINDER “, that has an affordable software program and app for hire to help you be organized… Let’s go through their 5-6 Steps.


Breaking Down a Script (using a Script Breakdown Sheet) - StudioBinder

Marking a script is the process of highlighting all the key elements in a screenplay that will be included in a script breakdown sheet and lead to the creation of a stripboard and shooting schedule. In this article, we’ll review the conventions of marking a script.

  1. Read the script as if you were a viewer

Before you mark anything on the script, read the script from an audience’s perspective. You only have one first impression of the story, so give yourself a chance to connect to it. Beyond the emotional connection, the more familiar you are with the story, the more likely you will be to identify all the elements once you begin marking the script.

Pro Tip: Who Marks the Script?

Scripts are marked by different people, at different stages of the project. The producer usually completes a simple script breakdown first in order to create a preliminary shooting schedule and budget. The 1st AD then conducts a more comprehensive script breakdown to create the stripboard, breakdown, and production shooting schedule. The DP marks the script to generate a shot list and equipment requirements. Other department keys (i.e. production design) will do their own analysis as well.

This will continue through pre-production, production and post-production and includes foley, music composition, voice-over and ADR work.

2. Scan the script for formatting errors

 After you have read the script all the way through, read it once more, this time scanning for any formatting errors that may cause hiccups when importing the script file into scheduling software such as Movie Magic Scheduling. Here are some of the most common formatting errors to look out for:
  • Scene locations should be phrased consistently throughout the script.
  • Character names should be consistent as well.
  • Scene headers should be formatted only as INT or EXT (interior or exterior).
  • Scene headers should be formatted only as D or N (day or night).
  • Scene numbers have been generated.

Learn more about How to Properly Format a Script Before the Script Breakdown.

3. Break script pages into 8ths

 Marking 1/8s of a page is exactly like it sounds. Divide every page into eight, 1 inch parts. This measurement is used to estimate the screen time and shooting time for a scene. Just make sure that you and your “scripty” (script supervisor) are on the same page . Sounds funny, but, it’s important that both of you measure scenes in exactly the same way. On a typical dialogue-heavy indie production, you can expect to shoot roughly 5 pages per day where one page equals one minute of screen time.
Script Breakdown – Breaking Down a Script into 8ths – StudioBinder

Some things that take longer to shoot: Stunts, Crowds, Busy Locations, Car Chases, Entrances and Exits, Action Sequences, Gunshots, Musical Performances, Practical Special effects, etc.

Pro Tip: The Trouble With Musical Performances

Be especially conscious of the screen-time:page count ratio for musical performances. Otherwise you may not budget enough time to shoot what you need. It’s common for screenwriters to summarize on-screen performances into brief one-liners like “Stuart performs his song.”  It may be only a few action lines in the script, but the performance could take 2-3 minutes of screen time. The page count should reflect this and be rewritten as 2-3 pages as well. We suggest writing out all of the lyrics as dialogue, with plenty of beats, paragraph breaks, and descriptions .

4. Mark the script using color highlighters and pens

 Again, the purpose of marking is to identify all the elements in a scene so they can included in the script breakdown sheet and shooting schedule. It’s standard to use highlighters and pens to identify each element. This is tedious and careful work. Missing elements can impact departments, so it’s important to be detailed.

You can find “standard” script breakdown colors for marking a script below. It is not essential that you use these colors, but it is important to be consistent and methodical. If you’re using custom script breakdown colors, make sure to create a legend on the script and breakdown.

Script Breakdown Sheet – Marked up script – StudioBinder-min

Pro Tip: Creating New Element Categories

Depending on your project, you may want to create more tailored element categories and colors. For example, if you are shooting a horror film, you may want to define all the elements related to prosthetics. If you are shooting a western, you may need to add categories for horses and weapons. Just make sure to define the custom category and color in a legend.

Standard Script Breakdown Colors

Type Color Marking Style
Cast – Speaking Roles Red Underline
Extras – Silent Roles Yellow Underline
Extras – Atmosphere Green Underline
Stunts Orange Underline
Special Effects Blue Underline
Sound Effects/Music Brown Underline
Vehicles & Animals Pink Underline
Props Purple Underline
Wardrobe Black Circle
Makeup & Hair Black Asterisk
Special Equipment Black Box Around
Production Note Black Underline

Cheat Sheet for Script Breakdown Colors


5. Input Markings into a Script Breakdown Sheet Template

 After marking the script, you’re ready need to input all of elements into a Script Breakdown Sheet, a summary list of all the elements in a scene. Since scheduling software like Movie Magic Scheduling can be a bit pricey, we created a created a free Script Breakdown Template. Just open the link and click File > Make a Copy to save it to your Google Drive.

6. Use Software Like StudioBinder to Generate the Stripboard

With your script marked, you’re ready to start laying out your scenes into a stripboard (or production board). Stripboards essentially hold color-coded strips that represent the scenes of a script. The strips are reordered to ultimately become the shooting schedule.
Happy Filmmaking,


Have you ever prepared a Production Board (aka: Strip Board)?

If you have please share with everyone (A) what you learned and (B) why it is so imperative to do.

Please share.

Dov Simens Hollywood Film SchoolDovSimensFilmSchoolDovSimens Film School(Either of my 3 affordable film school programs also teach how to prepare a Production Board and plan a Shooting Schedule)

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8 comments on “PRODUCER-DIRECTOR-WRITER ABSOLUTE MUST (Want to Fail? Then Don’t Do a Script Breakdown… Now Learn How.)”

  1. Catalina Lowe

    Thanks, Dov for this in depth article!
    Your contribution to screenwriting and film making will go down in history as one of the best!

  2. Superior thinking deteostramnd above. Thanks!

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