Scheduling and Budgeting Film and TV For Beginners

Paula Landry breaks down the process of scheduling and budgeting a film into simple steps for the beginning filmmaker.
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Paula Landry breaks down the process of scheduling and budgeting a film into simple steps for the beginning filmmaker.

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After creating a great story, time and money are the ultimate components contributing to getting your project made.

This is the first article in a short series on basic scheduling and budgeting for your TV show, web series, or movie.

Scheduling and budgeting are essential skills you can understand and learn.

Basic Steps to Schedule and Budget Your Movie

Whether you are a writer, producer, or otherwise, it’s good to understand the filmmaking process. Nobody expects you to be an expert in every aspect of the process. However, if you have a sense of what your team does in the course of their jobs, it can help you understand their process and challenges.

Many of us are hyphenates. Whether you’re a writer producing your own script, or an actor producing out of necessity to show off your talents, it can be helpful to understand the producing process. There are several positions relating to producing, generally a line producer, production manager or producer; all involved in production management.

At the end of the day, no matter the title, the idea is that great planning and backup planning will aid you in getting your project made.

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An Overview of Production Management

Production management is the process of planning and managing all of the various elements needed to successfully create a film from a screenplay. The steps broadly cover breaking down a script to identify the elements within it, then organizing the use of those elements for purposes of scheduling and budgeting the project. This series of blog posts will dive more deeply into each aspect of the process. This series in production management will cover an overview of the following:

  • How to breakdown a script
  • How to schedule a script using your breakdown
  • How to budget your script
  • Scheduling and Budgeting resources

Every television episode, movie or video is created from some combination of resources, places, people and equipment, with the purpose of capturing visuals, footage and sounds to be edited to tell a story. Doing this effectively and efficiently requires planning. Production management is that planning.

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It Is Called Show-Business For A Reason

Scheduling and Budgeting are the business side of show business – answering concrete questions such as: When will that scene be shot? Where will be shot and by Whom? What role does that actor play and Why does that gear need to be bought, rather than rented? Where will we rent these props, and how long do we need them, and How many do we need? Where is the next location? What is it going to cost? Why do we need that location?

Various Credits In Production Management

In addition to producer, credits relating to this subject are line producer (LP), or production manager (PM), (or unit production manager - UPM). The primary difference between the UPM and LP credit rests with the Directors Guild (DGA). Unit Production Manager is an official credit for DGA members, while a Line Producer is not. Depending on the scope and scale of a movie, the producer may do most of the budgeting and scheduling, or delegate that work to a line producer, split the work between LP and UPM. An AD (assistant director) works closely with this team and the director to continue to refine the schedule.

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Production management steps include the following

First, read the script:

  1. Breakdown a script
  2. Create a schedule from the breakdown
  3. Build a budget from your schedule and breakdown

In a nutshell, here’s what happens with each step:

Script Breakdown

 Check out Paula's book, now available!

Check out Paula's book, now available!

Breaking down a script is the process of translating screenplay format into a technical format. You can use software for this process or do it manually. The reason to do a breakdown is so that everything you need in the script will be recorded or catalogued for use in the shoot. Keeping track of everything in the script means you can schedule when to use each item, and price them. The strength of the budget and schedule will only be as good as the breakdown.

Here is the script breakdown process:

  • Read your Script
  • Identify each resource, one a scene at a time
  • Put every ELEMENT into its CATEGORY
  • Transfer information onto a breakdown sheet – manually or using a scheduling program

Scheduling has 3 steps:

  1. Transfer info into a schedule
  2. Group similar categories
  3. Arrange for maximum efficiency for your production

Scheduling will continue to be shaped as you obtain new information.

Budgeting has 3 steps:

  1. Identify & Obtain prices
  2. Build a robust budget
  3. Negotiate and Lock-in deals

In the next installment, we'll go into detail about the breakdown process, so that you can breakdown your screenplay or teleplay. Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for taking a look! @paulalandry on FB, @aflickchicknyc on IG, www.paulalandry.com.

If a little is great, and a lot is better, then way too much is just about right!
-Mae WestFrom Grace to Glory...

All images, unless credited otherwise, are covered by the CC0 license.

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