The Film Business

The Process of Breaking Down a Script

Breaking down a script is a systematic and fun procedure.

1. Read script through, with an open mind, as a spectator.

2. Talk to your team and establish the system you will employ – manual or software-driven? Which software? Decide.

3. Identify scene number. (Start at the beginning.)
4. Mark the portion (in eighths) of a page that the scene covers.

5. Identify resources in that scene – either on paper or with software.

6. Transfer that information to a breakdown form.

7. Go to the next scene (do it sequentially in order, don’t jump around), repeat steps 2-6 until you get to the end of the script.

This process can be done manually, by hand, or using computer software, which has become popular and easy to use.

Many screenwriting software programs incorporating production tools can add scene numbers (you still have to check them) and calculate the eighths of a page (the portion of the page that a scene covers) so you can skip that step.

Manual Version

A. Identify the first scene, draw a line where it ends, and assign it a number (1).

B. Mark 1/8th of a page indicating how much of the page it takes up.

C. Identify each element in the scene.

D. Go to next scene and repeat.

Tools You Will Need: Script, screenwriting program (optional), pencil, your breakdown code. 

The process using computer software is similar.

Computer Version in Screenwriting Software

A. In your screenwriting software, activate scene #s. Confirm that the number of each scene is appropriate (mark hidden scenes or parts).

B. Identify each element in the scene.

Read the rest of the section on The Process of Breaking Down a Scene.

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MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.