Pre-Production: How To Write a Scene Breakdown

Pre-Production is the most important stage in the production process because the quality of your shoot is determined by how well you prepare for it. One of the first pre-production steps is to write a scene break down. Now there are two kinds of scene breakdowns. There's the Director's breakdown which handles the creative decisions and then there is the Producer's breakdown that handles the logistics of the scene.

Writing a Director's Breakdown

The Director is the central decision maker on the production. All actions revolve around his / her decisions. And what he decides begins with his / her breakdown. Now, his / her decisions are creative based and there is no right or wrong way to make them. How he / she arrives at them is a personal method. But here is a general format to follow.

Make a Beat Sheet

Break the scene up into beats. A beat is the most basic unit of the movie's story; it's the individual action that occurs. Create a beat sheet so that every story beat is recognized and analyzed. Once that is made you can start developing a shot list. Some beats are vital to a scene and should be over emphasized, like one character picking up a gun while the other's back is turned. You may decide that the scene would play better if the camera moves on a dolly. You're the boss and should feel free to be an artist and not hold back.

Writing a Producer's Breakdown

A producer's break down is based on logistics instead of creativity. You can begin coming up with this break down before the director finishes his. The initial break down is composed of five main parts: Where is the location? Does it take place at night or during the day? Which characters are in the scene? What props are needed? How long is the scene page wise? 

How a Breakdown Affects a Schedule

Once these factors are determined a shooting schedule can be put together. The schedule is determined by what scenes a character is in as locations. Is it cheaper to pay the actor to come in for two days of work so we can spend one day in a location or is it more cost effective to go to the location twice and pay the actor for one day? All of these factors influence how a movie will be shot.

Altering the Producer's Breakdown

The producer's breakdown is expanded more once the director's breakdown is in. This lets production know that they may need special equipment for specific scenes such as a crane. Because the Producer is responsible for running the show it is important for their breakdowns to be as detailed and organized as possible. 

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