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Scheduling and Budgeting Film and TV for Beginners – Scheduling a Script

Scheduling a script is a step-by-step process that you can learn to make your film, to see your script as a producer does and ultimately, to help improve your writing. Paula Landry takes you through the steps of scheduling a script for use in budgeting, and ultimately to making your project.

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I’m sure you are wildly jazzed to schedule your script, or someone else’s. It’s amazing to see words transformed into these technical formats that are one step closer to a movie being made.

This is a continuation of the last two blog posts, Scheduling and Budgeting Film and TV For Beginners and Scheduling and Budgeting Film and TV for Beginners - Breaking Down a Script, where I described in detail how to break down your script.

scheduling steps

So there are three steps to the process of scheduling and budgeting your film or video:

  • Breakdown 
  • Scheduling

  • Budgeting

To move to the scheduling process, it is assumed that you’ve already done the breakdown, as covered in a previous blog post.

From Breakdown To Schedule

Since production management is resource management, once you have completed the breakdown process, you have organized all of the resources needed to create your screenplay.

Scheduling is organizing those resources – or elements – in the most efficient and effective order. The reason this is so important is that films are generally shot out of order of events from the screenplay. Some old-time filmmakers used to do this (Hitchcock) because they could. That is rarely the case anymore. Efficiency in time management not only saves time, it also helps you save money. Ultimately a well-thought out schedule will optimize your shoot.

Remember, planning offers creative freedom.

The Steps Of The Script Scheduling Process

  • Transfer information from Breakdown into Scheduling program (f you did your breakdown in a software, then this is done) 
  • Group Like or Similar things
  • Working one scene at a time - Arrange these elements for maximum efficiency

Once you have started a new schedule in the software of your choice, start by filling in the production information that you know. This includes key information like the date, producer, director, production company. If you know whether the production will use specific guilds, or shoot locations you can include those too.

1 breakdown sheet is 1 scene is 1 strip

Now, one breakdown sheet (which is one scene) at a time, transfer info into Scheduling program.

Trasfer breakdown to schedule

Verify consistency of information

Let’s get into a bit more detail.

Step 1 - Transfer Information Into A Scheduling Program

I mentioned several media-specific programs previously such as movie magic or showbiz, but you can also use excel -

A. Fill out Production Information, Title, Key Team Members

B. One breakdown sheet at a time, Transfer all of the information into schedule. Verify the consistency of information

C. Then Assign Cast ID Numbers

What will happen is that each breakdown sheet will effectively become a scheduling strip. The strip, just like the breakdown sheet, represents one scene in the movie.

Step 2 - Group Like Things

Similar Items Markus Spiske Photographer

Arrange your schedule by arranging similar elements together creates efficiencies. As you do this, you will start to get a sense of what will make the most effective schedule.

Start by grouping:

A. By Set, Int/Ext, Day/Night. Grouping by set is a no-brainer since location costs and availability are a primary concern for independent filmmakers.

B. By Cast –grouping together scenes that involve Major characters

C. As you get more information – you can start grouping By the most finite resource (special equipment, star with limited availability)

arrange for max efficiency

Step 3 - Arrange For Maximum Efficiency

A. Start schedule with two “easier” days

B. Exteriors first, then interiors

C. Move shortest physical distance – if you actually know where you’ll be shooting.

D. Follow up: Consult your team, to establish how many pages to get each day and discuss how to improve and refine your work

Scheduling is a process that will continue to be shaped with new information. So as you pinpoint specific locations, or identify cast and crew that you want to hire, that may influence the schedule.


Learning To Schedule A Script Will Improve Your Writing

If you’re a screenwriter with an interest in producing your own script or teleplay or web project, this process is going to teach you so much about your project. Here’s what you will learn:

1. To question the dramatic weight of your writing

2. To look at your script with a producer’s eyes. You’ll ask yourself, is this scene necessary? How about those characters?

3. You’ll write more thoughtfully. Once you schedule a script, you write with more awareness about resources in general, particularly locations and characters.

Often, screenwriters will add locations, characters and scenes when they are in creative mode, and that’s perfectly correct. Once you have created a schedule, and realized the full import of each person, moving from one place to another, inside, outside, and coordinating all of these resources, you can now see through the eyes of a producer.


However, in the rewriting process, you have an opportunity to consider the cost effectiveness of your dramatic choices and you can really ask yourself, can dramatic ingredients get condensed for dramatic effectiveness? Often they can. Sometimes seeing the visual of scenes lined up on a schedule hits that point home – you realize that every one of your 29 locations aren’t really critical to telling your story.

This is not to censure you, rather to get you on the same mind-set of producers so that your writing leaps off the page dramatically and as a business investment. As with any new skill, it takes time, patience and practice. If you are looking for a book on this process, I've written one, available here and you can contact me at The point is learning to schedule a script for video, film or television will improve your overall filmmaking skills in addition to your writing!


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