The script breakdown of a script is the most crucial element to beginning pre-production of a film.

The breakdown provides a clear picture of what the size and scope of a production will be.

However, most filmmakers don’t understand how this process can make the success of your production fully visible from day one.

We overlook one of the major benefits of the breakdown in its’ ability to align creativity and budget. We don’t fully understand that the breakdown is a finished puzzle with extra pieces. Those pieces can be removed or steered accordingly.

Here we will take a look at two films with similar production values but with wildly different budgets: Titanic vs. Brooklyn.

Yes, we’ll compare the most expensive movie ever made in its’ time with one that cost 1/20th of that price. Their prospective breakdowns allowed filmmakers to make informed creative and financial decisions. Those decisions shaped budgets, schedules and the stories themselves.

Script Breakdown Example: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Script breakdown EXAMPLE: Titanic vs. Brooklyn

It starts with the script breakdown

Titanic, directed by James Cameron and Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley are two beautifully realized films, each with period details, romance and sea voyages.  

They both achieve their goals as they tug at the heart strings with memorable cinematic moments throughout.   

One had a literal Titanic budget and the other, Brooklyn, had a much more modest backing.  

Both scripts are well visualized and both achieved acclaim, but the budgets meant that their breakdowns, and therefore their paths to screen, became a difference of David and Goliath proportions.

script breakdown Definition

What is a script breakdown?

script breakdown helps identify the key scene elements that are needed for your production. Walk through our guide on how to break down a script.

The breakdown for Cameron’s masterpiece must have been titanic.

This revelatory scene at the dock has everything an epic film could ask for in thousands of extras, amazingy detailed costumes, brilliant art direction, A-list talent and CGI galore.

There is a car floating in the air onto the boat!  No doubt everything James Cameron asked for.

This scene is one of the most expensive ever filmed with a price tag of at least 2 million dollars.

In contrast, here is a “comparable” scene from Brooklyn :

John Crowley’s breakdown didn’t sink Brooklyn.

Brooklyn, has a boat scene on the docks and the water but the film’s entire budget could fit into three scenes from Camerons gigantic  film.

The difference in the planning and execution of both begin with a breakdown of the scripts.

Script-Breakdown-Titanic-Free-Screenplay-Southhampton

Titanic film scene

Script-Breakdown-Brooklyn-Free-Screenplay-Ship-Blasts

Brooklyn film scene

The scripts are not so different but the realization are.  In both we have a ship, horns, a crowd with luggage and the sea.

But they are not so similar on screen as on paper.

In Brooklyn, the ship is unseen even though it is a major part of the scene and the story.  

We have the sounds of the ocean voyage with horns,seagulls and the noise of the crowd and wa but we don’t see any of it.   

The water is created with Computer Generated Imagery and there are a couple of well-placed extras.

The contrast on screen is stark but both pictures are stunning.  

This comparison goes to show that each and every department on a film production defines what is necessary for the scene to be fully realized.  

However, learning to fill the screen with necessary elements for the story is a very subjective goal that a breakdown edit based on finances makes apparent.

Brooklyn shows what happens when each department asks only for what it needs.

Titanic shows what happens when a director breaks down a script for what they want.

There are always ways to cut corners and cost and it starts with a breakdown.  

Remember, before James Cameron spent 200 million dollars on TITANIC, he spent 20 thousand dollars on Exogenesis.

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: TITANIC vs. Brooklyn

1. Approach the talent you see on the little screens

A-List stars are great, but they can cost as much as an entire indie film.  Lesser known talent can keep your story, budget and schedule honest. Working for scale is common to someone who already has a steady income and wants to work.

Reach out to the agent or manager of your favorite TV actor.  If you let them know you have written the perfect role for their client, they will consider reading your film.

However…

With smaller budgets, many reps won’t consider your project unless it comes from a legal rep.

So, don’t ignore your lawyers.  For smallish fees, they will get your script directly to talent.   Also, It shows you are serious even if your budget isn’t.

The cherry on the new media Sunday is...

Social Media Influencers are a new wave of inexpensive talent. Netflix and Youtube are already committing to projects with this new kind star.  You might have an inexpensive and symbiotic relationship.

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: TITANIC VS. BROOKLYN

2. Consider locations from at least 3 different angles

There are two locations to consider during your breakdown.  

The first to be considered is the location in the story.  This is literally where your story takes place. Is it in England or Ireland or Brooklyn?

The second location to consider, is the actual location where the shoot will take place.  Ninety-nine percent of Brooklyn was shot outside of the United States.

Why?

Travel cost can’t eat up your budget like a PA next to craft services.

Another reason...

Tax benefits by location can add real money to a budget!

I know I said three angles to consider, so...

Can the location be substituted for a sunnier place?  

Is it cheaper to do it on the stage?

Here is a good reason to hire a location manager.   They will help you think outside the box.

Remember, film shoots happen in Hollywood because production supplies are plentiful.  You can’t find a porta-jib in Cheboygan, Wisconsin.

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: TITANIC VS. BROOKLYN

3. Know what is seen and un-scene on screen

Look at your breakdown…

What MUST be shown in the scene to get your point across?  

What don’t you need to show?

What you do and don’t show can make a huge dent in the cost of your film.

And…

What you don’t show can be as important as what you do.  

For example, when a scene is really about the dialogue, cut the visual and financial distractions.

Furthermore, necessity is the mother, father and entire family of invention.

An example...

You have  a scene set in the 1920’s.  But you don’t have the budget for cars, buildings or props…

Again, Look at your breakdown...

Put your characters in costumes and set the scene in a park?  Add period appropriate music. Throw in a few extras crossing with parasols and voila! Sunday in the park… 1920’s… but if those extras want to get paid, start throwing extras away… literally.

Independent filmmaking is a “By any means necessary” art-form.  

Don’t have a dolly?  Grab a shopping cart!

Can’t be Moulin Rouge in 1880’s set it in any Parc in Paris.  They’re all timeless. 

Finally...   Just remember it’s what your characters are saying that matters.  The details of where or when are usually secondary.

Yes, film is a visual medium, but one that starts with a story.

Action!

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: WHAT's next?

Up Next: Equipment and Gear: The Land Of Plenty

How to keep your crew from going hog-wild with equipment in the land of plenty.

The script breakdown of a script is the most crucial element to beginning pre-production of a film.

The breakdown provides a clear picture of what the size and scope of a production will be.

However, most filmmakers don’t understand how this process can make the success of your production fully visible from day one.

We overlook one of the major benefits of the breakdown in its’ ability to align creativity and budget. We don’t fully understand that the breakdown is a finished puzzle with extra pieces. Those pieces can be removed or steered accordingly.

Here we will take a look at two films with similar production values but with wildly different budgets: Titanic vs. Brooklyn.

Yes, we’ll compare the most expensive movie ever made in its’ time with one that cost 1/20th of that price. Their prospective breakdowns allowed filmmakers to make informed creative and financial decisions. Those decisions shaped budgets, schedules and the stories themselves.

Script breakdown EXAMPLE: Titanic vs. Brooklyn

It starts with the script breakdown

Titanic, directed by James Cameron and Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley are two beautifully realized films, each with period details, romance and sea voyages.  

They both achieve their goals as they tug at the heart strings with memorable cinematic moments throughout.   

One had a literal Titanic budget and the other, Brooklyn, had a much more modest backing.  

Both scripts are well visualized and both achieved acclaim, but the budgets meant that their breakdowns, and therefore their paths to screen, became a difference of David and Goliath proportions.

script breakdown Definition

What is a script breakdown?

script breakdown helps identify the key scene elements that are needed for your production. Walk through our guide on how to break down a script.

The breakdown for Cameron’s masterpiece must have been titanic.

This revelatory scene at the dock has everything an epic film could ask for in thousands of extras, amazingy detailed costumes, brilliant art direction, A-list talent and CGI galore.

There is a car floating in the air onto the boat!  No doubt everything James Cameron asked for.

This scene is one of the most expensive ever filmed with a price tag of at least 2 million dollars.

In contrast, here is a “comparable” scene from Brooklyn :

John Crowley’s breakdown didn’t sink Brooklyn.

Brooklyn, has a boat scene on the docks and the water but the film’s entire budget could fit into three scenes from Camerons gigantic  film.

The difference in the planning and execution of both begin with a breakdown of the scripts.

Script-Breakdown-Titanic-Free-Screenplay-Southhampton

Titanic film scene

Script-Breakdown-Brooklyn-Free-Screenplay-Ship-Blasts

Brooklyn film scene

The scripts are not so different but the realization are.  In both we have a ship, horns, a crowd with luggage and the sea.

But they are not so similar on screen as on paper.

In Brooklyn, the ship is unseen even though it is a major part of the scene and the story.  

We have the sounds of the ocean voyage with horns,seagulls and the noise of the crowd and wa but we don’t see any of it.   

The water is created with Computer Generated Imagery and there are a couple of well-placed extras.

The contrast on screen is stark but both pictures are stunning.  

This comparison goes to show that each and every department on a film production defines what is necessary for the scene to be fully realized.  

However, learning to fill the screen with necessary elements for the story is a very subjective goal that a breakdown edit based on finances makes apparent.

Brooklyn shows what happens when each department asks only for what it needs.

Titanic shows what happens when a director breaks down a script for what they want.

There are always ways to cut corners and cost and it starts with a breakdown.  

Remember, before James Cameron spent 200 million dollars on TITANIC, he spent 20 thousand dollars on Exogenesis.

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: TITANIC vs. Brooklyn

1. Approach the talent you see on the little screens

A-List stars are great, but they can cost as much as an entire indie film.  Lesser known talent can keep your story, budget and schedule honest. Working for scale is common to someone who already has a steady income and wants to work.

Reach out to the agent or manager of your favorite TV actor.  If you let them know you have written the perfect role for their client, they will consider reading your film.

However…

With smaller budgets, many reps won’t consider your project unless it comes from a legal rep.

So, don’t ignore your lawyers.  For smallish fees, they will get your script directly to talent.   Also, It shows you are serious even if your budget isn’t.

The cherry on the new media Sunday is...

Social Media Influencers are a new wave of inexpensive talent. Netflix and Youtube are already committing to projects with this new kind star.  You might have an inexpensive and symbiotic relationship.

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: TITANIC VS. BROOKLYN

2. Consider locations from at least 3 different angles

There are two locations to consider during your breakdown.  

The first to be considered is the location in the story.  This is literally where your story takes place. Is it in England or Ireland or Brooklyn?

The second location to consider, is the actual location where the shoot will take place.  Ninety-nine percent of Brooklyn was shot outside of the United States.

Why?

Travel cost can’t eat up your budget like a PA next to craft services.

Another reason...

Tax benefits by location can add real money to a budget!

I know I said three angles to consider, so...

Can the location be substituted for a sunnier place?  

Is it cheaper to do it on the stage?

Here is a good reason to hire a location manager.   They will help you think outside the box.

Remember, film shoots happen in Hollywood because production supplies are plentiful.  You can’t find a porta-jib in Cheboygan, Wisconsin.

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: TITANIC VS. BROOKLYN

3. Know what is seen and un-scene on screen

Look at your breakdown…

What MUST be shown in the scene to get your point across?  

What don’t you need to show?

What you do and don’t show can make a huge dent in the cost of your film.

And…

What you don’t show can be as important as what you do.  

For example, when a scene is really about the dialogue, cut the visual and financial distractions.

Furthermore, necessity is the mother, father and entire family of invention.

An example...

You have  a scene set in the 1920’s.  But you don’t have the budget for cars, buildings or props…

Again, Look at your breakdown...

Put your characters in costumes and set the scene in a park?  Add period appropriate music. Throw in a few extras crossing with parasols and voila! Sunday in the park… 1920’s… but if those extras want to get paid, start throwing extras away… literally.

Independent filmmaking is a “By any means necessary” art-form.  

Don’t have a dolly?  Grab a shopping cart!

Can’t be Moulin Rouge in 1880’s set it in any Parc in Paris.  They’re all timeless. 

Finally...   Just remember it’s what your characters are saying that matters.  The details of where or when are usually secondary.

Yes, film is a visual medium, but one that starts with a story.

Action!

SCRIPT BREAKDOWN EXAMPLE: WHAT's next?

Up Next: Equipment and Gear: The Land Of Plenty

How to keep your crew from going hog-wild with equipment in the land of plenty.

Solution Icon - Screenplay and Script Breakdown Sheets

Easily create script breakdown sheets online.

Import scripts. Tag elements like props, wardrobe, and cast. Create breakdown summaries and DOOD reports in a snap.

Learn More ➜

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