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The Pre-Production Process
Pre-production is essential to making any film project, narrative or documentary, work. Pre-production really refers to anything that you do in preparation for production, including planning and scheduling. One important area of pre-production is to transfer the script you have into something that can be interpreted in the regular shooting schedule. This is done by creating a series of breakdown sheets for your script.
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What is a Breakdown Sheet?
A breakdown sheet is meant to take each scene individually from your screenplay and to itemize exactly what is necessary. There are different formats for how breakdown sheets tend to look, but they will usually have comparable sets of needed information.
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Beginning the Breakdown Sheet
At the very top of the breakdown sheet will be the name of the film or program that you are going to be breaking down. Right under that will be the location in the story space that you are filming, and then it will also indicate if this is on a sound stage, a location that is nearby primary photography, or one that is far away. You will also list the producer and director's phone numbers and the date for the preparation of the breakdown sheet. The page number of the breakdown sheet, in the lineage of all the breakdown sheets, will also be indicated in the upper right hand corner.
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Below that you are going to essentially list the scenes that are to be included in this specific breakdown sheet. This is usually a single scene, but occasionally you can breakdown multiple simple scenes as long as they really play into one simple sequence. You will put the scene number, whether it is day or night, whether it is interior or exterior, and how many pages in eighths it takes up of the script. You will then give an overall description of what the scene, or scenes, are. If you are in doubt about whether or not you can include multiple scenes onto your breakdown sheet it is best to just make it one to one.
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After you include the basic scene information you have the rest of the scene breakdown, which means indicating exactly what is needed out of the scene in specially prescribed areas. First you want to number and list all the cast members in the scene. After that you are going to have to search the scene under certain categories so that you can know what is needed for the scene exactly. These categories can include atmosphere or extras, props and set dressings, camera, wardrobe, special effects, special sound and music, special production equipment, animals, children, special makeup, standard hair and makeup, stunts, stand ins, voice over, and many other things depending on how specific the breakdown sheet is.
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Once you have finished a breakdown sheet for a specific scene you will know exactly what you need to do for that scene and how to schedule it. After all the scenes are broken down you will be ready to prepare the shooting schedule and eventually call sheets.