Updated: Feb 17, 2021
Your script is finished. You have a nice look book of what you want your film to look like. You may have even done some location scouting.
You need some way of getting that idea of what shots you want out of your head and out to your crew. Do you have excel or google sheets? Do a shot list. Excellent. But what about where the shots fall on the script.
That’s where you can line your script. Create little Ticks, or lines that signify the beginning and ending of each shot.
The first thing we must do is approximate how much time it takes for each shot.
How the heck do we do that?
Scripts are roughly a page a minute. Some longer some shorter but they are about 1-minute per. So, do as the script supervisors do: break down the page into 1/8 increments.
Each page has 8 8ths. That amounts to about 7.5 seconds each. That’s a lot of technical babble but it’s a nice way to approximate. And for me, takes the initial guess work out of the process.
Now that we have our script broken down into 8ths, we can start drawing our ticks. I usually think outside in. That means, I think of the wider shots and then move closer and closer.
But rules are meant to be broken. There are plenty of time where I just let my mind figure out how I want to cut my shots together. I may do a top-down or a floor plan to see where my characters will move from line to line. I’m a BIG fan of reframing, so I do this quite a bit. This way allows me to start drawing ticks all over my script. Not willy-nilly but with a purpose.
Some people like to use a ruler to make their lines nice and straight. I’m a freehand type of guy and just go for it. Wherever the shot seems appropriate to start, I’ll draw the line. I’m careful about that line and even read through the script to find the ending. Unfortunately, I do this all in pen and OFTEN change my mind about how long the shot is. It’s not pretty and sometimes, I must redo the page otherwise it’s a big inky mess.
The best part about doing this process is being able to stand back from the script and see where all the shots lie. You can see if there are holes. If there isn’t a line covering some dialog or action, you better put one in there.
To me, it’s one of the easiest and quickest way to get a lot of pre-production done. Without it, you are just guessing on set. Who has the time and money to do that?
PS – If you do, please email me.