Script Breakdowns

A breakdown is a list of all the information and resources required for the implementation of a scene. It's the foundation of many processes during preproduction.

A scriptwriting breakdown is a tabular summary of a scriptwriting scene based on the information it contains, as well as all the resources needed for its implementation, both in front of and behind the camera. They not only include resources that are mentioned in stage directives and dialogues, but also those that are not listed in the script and still used in the filming.

Each scene has its own breakdown, and scenes that are not shot in one go for staging or technical reasons are subdivided into sub-scenes with their own breakdowns. Breakdowns do not have formalities, and their shape depends on whether they are created manually or by computer program. Their creation is mandatory for scheduling because the information and resources they contain are the ordering principle for filming.

Breakdown are often started by tagging important objects in the script.
Breakdown are often started by tagging important objects in the script.

Breakdowns are subdivided into positions that are loosely based on the departments of a film production, but go far beyond. Information such as the scene number, the spatial location of the scene (Int / Ext), the lighting mood and the set name can be found in the header of the script scene. The three key pieces of information which are important for estimating the required workload – estimated time, scene length and intended number of camera shots – have to be derived from the script as well as the synopsis – a short summary of the scene content.

The other information arises from the script written scenes, but also partly from the preparation of the sets and the staging vision of the director: roles, extras, animals, vehicles, stunts, special effects, visual effects, pre-production, additional equipment and personnel, equipment and props, costumes, make-up, cameras, lights, sound, music and feeds as well as the point in time.

It's important to differentiate between costing breakdowns and director's breakdowns. Costing breakdowns are prepared by a production or production manager in the financing phase as the basis for a calculation. They limit themselves to the basic cost-related information and resources of a screenplay and present a hypothetical outline of how the script could be realistically implemented.

In their creation, attempts are made to answer questions that the script does not answer on its own, and to anticipate the ideas of the director as much as possible. Costing breakdowns are not further distributed, but have the sole purpose of acting as the basis for creating a calculation plan.

On the other hand, director's breakdowns contain all information and resources necessary for the shooting. Depending on the interpretation of the director, they may also deviate from the script or supplement it. They are prepared by the 1st assistant director during the planning stage and are binding for the work of all departments in the shooting process

For this purpose, they are distributed to the staff before the start of shooting after prior approval by the production manager. A distinction is made between the director's breakdowns from the script itself (all scenes in chronological order) and the shooting sequence (all scenes in the order of the shooting schedule).