Week 9: Scheduling and Budgeting 1

posted Apr 25, 2012, 6:14 PM by Priya Nayar   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 6:19 PM ]
This week, we begin a two week look at scheduling and budgeting, two of the core functions of the producer, no matter what the medium. While my lecture notes are primarily geared toward traditional media production, the basic principles of the process can apply to web development and live action production as well. You must break down your project into basic units -- pages or screens for the web, days or hours for the event. What goes into each unit? Make a list of the components and then determine what will be required to implement each one -- personnel, facilities, and, most important, time. At this stage, you are not laying down a hard and fast date certain production schedule, rather a timeline from day 0 to the completion of the project -- release print, air date, site launch, or end of event. By analyzing what will be required, and for how long, you will be able to easily move into the next step -- creating a budget, which we will get into next week.

By this week, you should have completed a breakdown of your script, outline, site planning document, or event. This will provide you with the information you need for this next step, which is to develop a preliminary schedule. Now, this is not a date certain production schedule, but rather it is an estimate of the amount of time that will be required for each stage of your project, starting at day 0 and going through completion. Once you have the breakdown and the schedule, you will have all the information that you will need to develop a budget.
In this folder, you will find some examples and forms that will help you to work out your schedule.
Please complete and upload your schedule to the Schedules discussion thread by Thursday 5 April,. If you have any questions, that is the place to post them. I'll be checking it fairly frequently.

You can use any format you choose to create your schedule -- a simple calendar program, a spreadsheet, Project Management software, or a dedicated scheduling program.

Here are some links to Scheduling and Budgeting software. This is only a partial listing. There are many others, as well as templates for Microsoft Office programs.

 Software Links:

Website from Course on Production Scheduling. Some of our forms have been cribbed from this site. Also has nice interactive scheduling tool: http://www.danwilton.com/mde/604/

Film & TV Production Forms: http://www.megadox.com/index.php/document/category/action/browse/frmCategoryID/118/a_id/74/

Showbiz Software is a website from a store that specializes in software and productions supplies. There is some free stuff available for download on the sire. Good resource to know. The NY store is at 19 W 21 St.:http://www.showbizsoftware.com/

You may not be ready for these folks, but it is nice to know that these services exist. The site also offers some good industry links. http://www.scriptsunlimited.biz/index_scripts.html

The Writer’s Store is another source for film production software: http://www.writersstore.com/

This is a page with a number of free script and budget form and template downloads: http://www.dependentfilms.net/files.html

Here is a source for cheap – but not free – scheduling and budgeting tools for Microsoft Excel: http://www.boilerplate.net/

Attached Files:
  • File prelim_shoot_sched.pdf (23.008 KB)
  • File Crew Call Sheet.doc (67.5 KB)
  • File Scheduling Template.pdf (16.009 KB)
  • File Blank Call Sheet.doc (87.5 KB)
  • File Scheduling Template.xls (20.5 KB)
  • File Call Sheet.docx (24.863 KB)
  • Week 9 Video

  • Scheduling

    • Once you have broken down and marked up the script ready, it’s time to begin making a schedule
    • The breakdown provides the information the allowing the producer to create an optimal schedule. Optimal meaning the most cost effective way to produce the project.
    • Before the advent of computers, this process involved something called Production Boards consisting of color coded strips of cardboard that would fit into a holder that allowed the individual strips to be rearranged. Today, specialized scheduling software is used to speed the process, but the principle is essentially the same, and the software creates electronic versions of the strips on a production board.
      • Each discrete “scene” is given its own strip – an object with boxes that mirrored a vertical column of variable categories for each scene.
      • These categories included location, actors (there were boxes for all the principle actors, so one could quickly see who would be needed in which scene), day/night, special equipment, etc.
      • The strips can be easily re-arranged by the producer (or production manager) to figure out the optimal scheduling, day by day.
      • To get an idea why Production Boards were so useful and how they worked, consider the category of actors.
      • On each strip there would be different box for each of the principal actors appearing in that particular scene.
      • When breaking down the overall script, all the scenes in a particular location would be given a color: say pale blue for a central location inside a space ship.
    • This way, the producer or production manager could easily look for all space ship scenes (pull the blue strips). Or the producer could pull all those strips that had a very highly paid cameo appearance by a well known star.
      • In planning things out, it might be better to schedule a shooting day around the star, even if it meant using different locations.
    • An understanding of production boards or their digital equivalent can help in appreciating the various criteria around which one must work when scheduling and budgeting. The two go together.
    • There are computer programs that handle this task today and, in fact, there are companies that specialize in production breakdowns but you can break down your project via clear thinking and careful inventory of all that must be accomplished.
    • Schedules are the first step and budgets the second.
      •  It’k s impossible to develop an accurate budget -- or any budget, for that matter -- without a schedule.
      • A schedule tells you how long an actor works, how many days off between days on set (you’re paying for all of those), which days you need the crane, when the helicopter needs to be rented, when you need your expensive explosives expert and when you can get by with a bit of effects makeup.
    • Let everyone know what’s needed
      • Where
      • When
      • How long
      • We know when pre-production starts
      • We know when the shoot starts and ends
      • We know when post-production begins
      • We know our deadlines, airdates, release dates, etc.
    • A schedule tells you how long an actor works, how many days off between days on set (you’re paying for all of those), which days you need the crane, when the helicopter needs to be rented, when you need your expensive explosives expert and when you can get by with a bit of effects makeup.
    • A schedule determines what kind of deal you can make with your Steadicam operator (you get a better rate for one solid week of work than five days spread across a 2 month shoot).
    • It’l s easy enough to say “we’re shooting for, oh, about eight weeks.” But, on which of those days will you need a stunt coordinator? When will you need the set builders? When and where will you shoot the crowd scene? Night shoots? Car chases?
    • We make schedules so we can make budgets. To make a budget, we need to know who’s doing what, how many, when, where, with whom, and for how long….
      • When it comes to shooting, your schedule should break down to days. In fact, the budgeting process may require you to figure out what you will be shooting hour by hour (and whether you are working 8, 10 or 12 hr days – or longer!)
    • Traditionally, scripts in the studio system were scheduled by eights. You would divide the page into 8 roughly equal parts by line count, and schedule accordingly.
    • How would you schedule a scene like this? The scene here is an eighth of a page.
    The forces of the free world fought the great World War. Around the, cities burned and armies fought for their treasured ideologies. At last, world weary and resources depleted, peace arrived reluctantly.

    CUT TO:
    • Page count scheduling is a myth. The concept originated in the early days of television when writers were instructed to write one minute of screen time on each page. That’s fairly easy in a studio drama or situation comedy – if the script is printed in Courier 12, it averages out to a minute a page.
    • Unfortunately, this rule does not apply to other kinds of productions. OK, you can say that an average script of 120 pages will probably run around 120 minutes. But, depending on your budget,
    • you may have to shoot those 120 pages in 30 days or 60 days or 120.
    • And that says nothing about what is actually on each page of the script, let alone each eighth of each page. Nonetheless, that’s still how we count script pages. It’s just really not a way to make a schedule.
    • o That has to be done by counting shooting time and setup time. The number of screen minutes you’ll shoot in any given time period (hour, day, week) will depend on what’s happening in that scene, and, ultimately, the production budget.
    • o If you’re actually making the schedule, you need to think in terms of setups. How many times does the camera has to move? How long will it take to make each move? How do you know that? Experience. Or ask the key crew.
    • Or start blocking each scene in your mind’s eye. The time required for any set-up depends on the degree of technical difficulty of the shot , the complexity of the scene, the emotional level of the acting, the quality of the lighting….
    • If you plan to shoot one page a day, but that page is going to require 30 setups, your “day” will be more than one day. On the other hand, if you have a half‐dozen pages that can be covered with only two or three setups, you may be wrapped before lunch.
    • The quality of your film depend on the number of setups you finish each shoot day. If you try to shoot too many setups in a day, neither your director nor your crew will have the time to deliver their best work. If you shoot too fast, or try to cram too many setups into too little time and budget, you probably won’t get a very good movie.
    • Every time the camera moves counts as a new set-up. So what does that mean? Any ideas?
    • Here is a basic list. Depending on the scene, there may be others. You may need to set explosives, load guns, get a flying rig ready, position vehicles for a chase, clear the road, etc.
      • Clear the set
      • Camera move/lens change
      • Lighting changes
      • Reset flags & clear flares
      • Adjust dolly track
      • Props & sets
      • Make-up & hair
      • Adjust wardrobe
      • Return talent to set
      • Rehearsal
      • Check continuity
      • Final adjustments
      • Shoot performance
      • Do it again!
    • Whether or not you have a director, are the director, or there is no director, here are some questions that need to be answered before you can start building a schedule:
    1. How many hours do you want to shoot per day? Some directors thrive on 18 hour days. That may be okay, but you’ll have to explain the cost both in dollars and morale. Others work no more than eight or ten. (Add a few hours for makeup and setup and you’ve got a reasonable shoot day.) Clint Eastwood has been known to wrap by lunch. Alfred Hitchcock was known to direct without leaving his car.
    2. Where did the prop come from in Scene Two? We just saw the actor put it down and walk away in Scene One…? Every instance has to be resolved. Now’s the time, before the crew is standing around waiting. Or, worse, before you have to reshoot to fix it. Yes, finding the logic is YOUR job.
    3. Montages can be disasters if you don’t resolve them now. In order to make a schedule you have to figure out every scene, shot by shot. Even though the script says you’ll shoot EVERY store in town, that’s not likely. So what is?
    4. Scripts are creative. Schedules are not. It’s your job to translate flights of fancy (“The sky was filled with helicopters!”) into reality. Into a reality that you can afford. At $5000 per helicopter, perhaps you’d like to spend your money elsewhere.
    5. This is the hardest of all. You can’t lock it down, but you have to think about how each scene will be shot. One setup. Three? Ten?
      • For documentary productions, a schedule will identify interviews, events that are being covered, locations that will be shot, size of crew, special technical elements, etc.
      • Documentary scheduling:
        • Who or what are you shooting?
        • Interviews? Action? Performance?
        • How long will it take to set up your gear?
        • How long will it take to shoot?
        • What will be covered in the interview?
        • “ B” roll? Or are you covering an event or happening?
        • Where are you shooting?
        • Local or distant? Is travel required?
        • How long will it take to get to location?
        • How many cameras or units?
    • - Start by laying out out the narrative – the story – and how you plan to tell it.
      • Of course, it will change, but you need to start somewhere.
    • Whether you are working from dramatic script or documentary treatment, you will need to determine, at the very least, the number of different locations you will have and how long you will need to shoot at each location. (Remember, you need to estimate travel, set-up, and breakdown time – not just the time needed for actors to do their thing, or to shoot an interview).
    • o Once you have a schedule, you are now ready to develop a budget.

    Scheduling and Budgeting Lecture Notes

    Attached Files:
    • File Budgeting Lecture Notes.pdf (2.57 MB)
    We're going to spend two weeks on scheduling and budgeting because it is such an important aspect of the job of the producer. This is the PowerPoint, with lecture notes) that I will begin with this week. There will also be a presentation by Steve Bizenov of Showbiz Software on scheduling and budgeting software.

Priya Nayar,
Apr 25, 2012, 6:14 PM
Priya Nayar,
Apr 25, 2012, 6:15 PM
Priya Nayar,
Apr 25, 2012, 6:15 PM
Priya Nayar,
Apr 25, 2012, 6:15 PM
Priya Nayar,
Apr 25, 2012, 6:15 PM
Priya Nayar,
Apr 25, 2012, 6:15 PM