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Chopping Up Your Screenplay

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/5/2010

Learn how to coordinate and identify each scene in your script for the breakdown.

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    During pre-production on your digital video narrative film you have to begin considering all of the things that will eventually be a part of the production. The script itself is not ready to film from until it is broken down and itemized. One of the important elements of interpreting the script is to put it into segments.

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    The idea of segmenting your script is to isolate each scene by numbering it. This means that you go through the screenplay and identify any time that there is a specific event happening in a particular location. This is done in combination with marking how long those scenes are. This is done traditionally by labeling it by eighths of a page. Take the script and look for every scene, marking lines in between them. Then figure out how long each scene is and mark next to it how many eighths of a page.

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    This eighth of a page format is then used on the script breakdown form that would come next in the script preparation process. Here you would create forms for each scene, including how long it is. The purpose for dividing up the scenes is to make sure that every scene is accounted for, and that each scene will then be able to go to the next stage of the breakdown process.

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    Non-Traditional Scenes

    When you are doing this you need to make sure that you do not just consider scenes in the classical sense. A traditional scene is one that occurs within a specific period of “real" time. The problem is that film can show a number of different locations within the same real time period. Look for things like an image out of a window, a video on a computer screen, or something happening by the side of the road when the scene is taking place in a passing car. Each of these cut aways are a unique location and series of events so it needs to be marked as its own scene. To do this you can simply mark how long the scene is and then subtract that amount from the parent scene in which the cut away appears.

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    Keeping Records

    Organization in pre-production is key to having a successful production period. Keep in mind that these script breakdown formats are only a guideline, but they have worked in the past.