Friday, November 14, 2008

Lecture: Breakdown Scripts

 It Begins with The Script
 Definition
 "The script is the blueprint of the story told after the final edit
of your film."
When putting together any product, you start with the blueprint (the
conceptual drawing) and use it to generate a list of materials.
That's what the breakdown process is about. From this you create a
 Preproduction
Writing the script, raising funds and packaging the film take place in
development. After Development you begin…
 Preproduction
 Definition
 "The gathering of all the elements necessary to begin principle photography."
 Acquiring and manufacturing all the raw materials required for the
next phase.
 The UPM's Raw Materials
Script Breakdown
 Production manager reads through the script and color codes
information from the script.
 Break the scenes down into 1/8 pages.
 Color Code elements in the script to create lists of what's needed
for production.
 The UPM's Raw Materials
Frequently Asked Questions:
 Why do we break the scenes down into eighths of pages?
 Breaking each scene down into eighths of pages give the PM and AD a
better understanding of how much they can expect to shoot in a day.
 The UPM's Raw Materials
Frequently Asked Questions:
 Why do we break the scenes down into eighths of pages?
 Example: You have a 90 page script and you're going to shoot it
over 24 days.
 How many pages must you schedule each day to stay on track? Is
this schedule actually possible?
 Answer: 90 pages/24 days = More than 3 pages per Day, or 3 6/8
pages per day. Which is more accurate?
 Yes, this schedule is plausible. (Aim for 3 pages per day for a
Film, 5 pages per day for Television/Video)
 The Color Coding
 Every element is underlined the first time it appears in the scene.
 Broken down into 1/8s pages to better calculate how much time will
be required to shoot the scene.
 The Color Coding
Notes on Script Breakdowns:
 Do not mark any element around dialogue.
 Example: CHARACTER NAMES, talk about a knife, people mentioned in a
 Elements that may exist in the scene that do not appear in the
action line must be accounted for in that scene.
 Example: The same three kids leave one scene and appear in the
next, they had backpacks and coats in the last scene.
 The Color Coding
Notes on Script Breakdowns:
 Any element that may be found in a scene that isn't mentioned in
the action lines must be written off to the side in black ink and
marked appropriately.
 Example: Each kids name written in the margin and underlined in red
or yellow (if they're speaking or non-speaking). Their backpacks
accounted for under their names and circled in black ink for wardrobe.
 Talent Categories
What are the differences between characters marked in Red, Yellow and Green?
 Any character that has a spoken line anywhere in the script should
be marked in Red (as a speaking role) in every scene he or she
 Example: Remember Silent Bob must always be marked in Red even
though he only ever speaks in one scene in a movie.
 Talent Categories
What are the differences between characters marked in Red, Yellow and Green?
 Any character that is featured on screen but does not have a spoken
line should be marked in yellow because he or she must still be cast.
 Examples: A rude waiter drops off food at a table but doesn't
speak, the clerk in a store that rings up a speaking character but
doesn't interrupt the conversation between the two characters, etc.
 Talent Categories
What are the differences between characters marked in Red, Yellow and Green?
 Any groups of characters that are required in a scene but do not
interact with the primary characters in that scene (only add realism
to the scene) are marked green as Atmosphere.
 Examples: The group of protestors in front of a courthouse trying
to save a condemned man's life, other passengers waiting to board an
airplane or a bus, other office workers that are busy in the
 Props, Set Dressing, Wardrobe,
Makeup & Hair
 You're shooting a contemporary movie where most of the actors will
bring their own clothes.
 Do you need to write in and mark every piece of clothing the
characters may wear?
 If instead you're shooting Star Wars or a film that appears in
Elizabethan England, does that change things?
 (How many of you own Elizabethan Gowns and Wigs?)
 Props, Set Dressing, Wardrobe,
Makeup & Hair
 In your contemporary movie, what about hair and makeup?
 Do you need to write in and mark every persons hair and the fact
they'll need beauty makeup for every scene?
 If instead you're shooting Star Wars or a film that appears in
Elizabethan England, does that change things?
 Props, Set Dressing,
Wardrobe & Hair
 A character walks over to the window and opens the curtains to see
how bad the weather is outside.
 Do you mark the curtains as Set Dressing or Props?
 Props, Set Dressing, Wardrobe,
Makeup & Hair
 A character then comes into the room and takes off his hat. He
throws it across the room and it lands neatly on the coat rack.
 Do you mark the hat as Wardrobe or Props?
 Props, Set Dressing, Wardrobe,
Makeup & Hair
 The first character pulls a book off of a book shelf filled with books.
 Do you mark the book he or she pulls off of the shelf as a prop or
set dressing?
 What about the other books on the shelf?
 Props, Set Dressing, Wardrobe,
Makeup & Hair
 The other character goes to put his coat into the closet. When he
opens the door, a dead body falls out with hands and feet tied in
barbed wire.
 Do you mark the coat as a prop or wardrobe?
 Do you mark the body as a prop or silent bit?
 Do you mark the barbed wire as a prop or wardrobe?
 Sample Action from Script
How would you mark this action line?
We track along the wall, past maps and drawings tacked up
on it, past the window which SHATTERS in our faces!
It's just a single pane, knocked in by someone's hand.
 Sample Action from Script
We track along the wall, past maps and drawings tacked up
on it, past the window which SHATTERS in our faces!
It's just a single pane, knocked in by someone's hand.
 Assistant Director
 Creates overall shooting schedule
 Tracks daily progress vs. prod. Schedule
 Arranges logistics
 Prepares daily call sheets – cast and crew
 Maintain order on set
 Rehearses cast and directs background extras
 Assistant Director
 Assist the Director in almost every task
 Manages day-to-day problems that arise
 Assists in preparation of each shot
 2nd AD assist AD in getting cast, crew and extras in the right
place at the right time
 2nd AD assist AD in preparing for the next day's shoot
 Assistant Director
 Historically a stepping stone to directing; i.e. Alfred Hitchcock,
James McTeigue (V for Vendetta)
 Now the common transitions from AD are Production Manager and Producer
 Breakdown of AD Roles
 1st AD as mentioned is directly responsible but supervises 2AD
 2nd AD serves as a liaison with actors, getting them to makeup and
wardrobe; also supervises 2nd 2nd AD
 3rd AD works with above Ads to move actors from trailers to set;
also organizes crowd scenes, supervises PA's
 Breakdown of AD Roles
 Additional AD's or AAD's fill in where assistance is needed; i.e.
scenes with large number of extras, sometimes assigned to logistics of
particular stunts, special effects, period work, etc

Lecture: Production Hierarchy

Preproduction – The Team
Filmmaking is a Collaborative Effort
No filmmaker works alone. Producers have directors and writers,
directors in turn have actors and camera and so forth and so on.
To succeed in this industry you must be able to work with others and
stay objective to criticism.

The Production Process
The Production Hierarchy
WhoÕs In Charge?
Sample Test Question:

Who is the person thatÕs really in charge of it all?
a)The Producer
b)The Executive Producer
c)The Director
d)Orson Welles

Executive Producer
Is generally the financier of the film and handles the business issues.
May act as representative of studio or production company.
May have prior involvement with the script, literary work or property
that has since been optioned into a film.

Supervises, controls, coordinates and initiates matters such as
raising funds, hiring key personnel, procuring distributors.
Involved from development to completion

Production Manager
Supervises below-the-line personnel
Creates and enforces schedule
Creates and manages budget
Directly supervises Production Coordinator

The Production Manager
The King of Preproduction
Approves all Hires
In Charge of Scheduling and Budgeting
Is Responsible if Things Go Horribly Wrong on Set
People Hurt
People Not Showing Up
Equipment Not Showing Up

Determines creative direction or ÔvisionÕ
Controls overall Ôlook and feelÕ of film
Directs actorÕs performances
Directs crew – dept. heads, locations, special equipment, etc.
Oversees the creative aspects of film

Production Designer
Responsible for executing the visual aspects of the film according to
the directorÕs ÔvisionÕ
Sets, Props, Make-up and Wardrobe
Works with Director and Cinematographer to achieve the ÔlookÕ of the film

Art Director
Reports to Production Designer
Supervises artists, designers and decorators in execution of overall
production design

Director of Photography
Chief of Camera Crew
DP + Camera Op = Cinematographer
Decides on the lighting and framing of each shot in connection with
the DirectorÕs vision.
Works directly with the Director to achieve a certain look.

Camera Operator
Physically sets up the cameraÉ
(with lenses, on dolly, etc.)
May even set up the shot according to the direction of the D.P.

First Assistant Camera
Sets Focus
Checks shot prior to shooting to set focus; this is done by measuring
the distance between the subject and the camera
Pulls Focus
Pulls focus with a Ôfollow focusÕ device to compensate for the
cameraÕs movements or the subjectÕs movements

Second Assistant Camera
Operates clapboard
Loads film in the absence of a film loader
Keeps record of film stock
Keeps track of camera equipment and oversees transport of equipment
from one shooting location to the next

Chief Electrician
Certified Electrician in charge of all electrical work on a production.

Oversees team of electricians who install lighting equipment and
arrange the power supply.

Best Boy, Electric
Assistant to the Chief Electrician
Supervises Gaffers

Responsible for the execution of the lighting plan for the production
Install, position and operate lights for production
Control Risk Assessment and Electrical Safety

Key Grip
Chief Grip on set
Head of Set Operations
Sets up ÔThe SetÕ
Works with DP to achieve the best arrangement of set pieces for
optimum lighting and blocking

Best Boy Grip
Assistant to Key Grip
Oversees Grips
Oversees assembly of equipment

Ensures camera movement is achievable and executes move during shoot,
i.e. on dolly tracks
Provides support to camera operators
Lift, carry, set up, strike equipment
Pros/Cons - Physically demanding but very educational for an entry
level position

Sound Mixer
Head of Sound Department
The person in charge of sound quality going to tape during production
In charge of mixing all sound to ensure there is no interference or interruption
Operates sound recording device

Boom Operator
Assistant to Sound Mixer
Operates the Boom microphone
Responsible for effective microphone placement and movement

First Assistant Director
Oversees day-to-day management of cast and crew schedule, equipment,
script and set
Manages and maintains a working environment; allowing the director,
principle actors and primary crew members the ability to focus on the
creative aspects

Second Assistant Director
Directs background action and extras
Assists 1st AD with scheduling, booking and script supervision

Second Second Assistant Director
Liaison between Department Heads, Production Manager and Director
Manages resources for Department Heads
Distributes information regarding needs of talent and crew
Monitors the whereabouts of talent and crew when not needed on set

Chief Editor
Sometimes present on set during production to help arrange shots that
require special effects or other aspects that will affect post
In post production, cuts the shots into a coherent film with the help
of the director

Production Coordinator
Assists the Production Manager
Organizes logistics of production
Confirming Crew
Checking on Locations
Renting Equipment
Checking Availability of Talent

Production Assistants
Assists 1st AD with set operations (setup)
Assists Production Coordinator with general office duties in Production Office

Transportation Captain
In charge of all drivers who transport talent, crew and equipment
In charge of daily transport of talent and key crew members to and
from set during production
Coordinates driving schedules; plans who, when, where and how many
vehicles necessary

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Acting Process: Critical Questions for Actor / Director

This is what our assignment typically is: to answer questions with
respect the scene or monologue. Great tool to 'know' your character
and what to do in the scene. All actors should do this. Below is also
a list for director, which is quite similar to the one for the actor:


Answer the following questions as they relate to your scene:

1. What are your first impressions of your character?

2. What are the 'given circumstances' in the scene?

3. What is happening to your character before this scene?

4. What does the character want/need from the other characters in this
scene (character objective)?

5. What does the character do to accomplish that objective? (Write 4-5
action verbs.)

6. Did the character accomplish his/her objective and get what he/she wanted?


Answer the following questions about your scene:

1. What is your first impression of the scene?

2. What are the 'given circumstances' in the scene?

3. What is happening before this scene? The back story?

4. What are the characters objectives in the scene? What do the
characters want from each other?

5. What are the character actions? (Write 4-5 action verbs.)

6. Did the characters accomplish their objectives and get what they want?

Thoughts on Package, Acting Exercises & Break-down Script

This mail is for Ankur, but maybe others can 'enjoy' this bit. I was
talking to him and discussing what he may practice for acting. And
this is 'my learning' (as of now.) Some of which I had talked about
earlier too.

One is to watch a scene in a film; observe the package of the
character or even multiple characters, write it down and try to play
it on his own. This one's tricky, since one may get influenced by the
actor especially if it's a good performance. Hmm...think Aamir in Dil
Chahta Hai (in the scene with Preity, where he discovers rather
acknowledges that he is love with her.) The deal is to behave in your
own way - Aamir does it in his own way, Bajpai will do in his own,
Bachchan will follow his route and Ankur should do it in his own way.

The thing is: you have to be in the 'REALITY OF DOING' (ROD). Let your
conscious mind imagine; use the magic 'IF' (If i want this...if this
is what I am...) - be what you want to be in those moments, in those
circumstances. I think this ROD is the key in performing - though any
one can and may act, one should be able to operate at a good level of
ROD; lot of top directors in the world have worked with non-actors,
like Ray, but....they wouldn't have picked up anyone; the ability to
ROD would be critical.

Here's another way that I was thinking about - think of some
situation, any situation...think of a will
he or even she would react. And work with the 'package', and change it
to see how it works differently. Involve Drupa, as i think she can be
a good observer, who can give good feedback, or anyway do it on your
own...say when you are in your car. Or record your performance in the


Background (where he is 'coming from'; backstory; history)
Circumstances (what's happening now)
Inner Objective (what you truly want, rather need for yourself)
Outer Objective (what he wants from the other character)
Action Verb - what will you use to get into action to accomplish your
Objective against obstacles (conflict)

Two more things:
Energy (out or in; positive and negative)
Status (high, low, low-playing-high, or high-playing-low)

The package flows from the same concept of story-writing:

a CHARACTER (has background)
WANTS something (objective)
takes ACTION (within the circumstances)
meets with OBSTACLES (conflict)
leading to CLIMAX and RESOLUTION

(the character - the protagonist, can be good or bad...and may
accomplish his goals or may fail...but the story will resolve; this is
the classic deal; of course there are films/stories, which can be very
open-ended or too random.)

I was thinking: How will you play, Raj Thackeray?

What will be his package:
While talking to his people?
Talking to Bala Saheb?
Talking to someone who points a gun to his head.

Another character:
A worker of Raj Thackeray

Change the package by changing circumstances:
What if one of the worker of Raj Thackeray's best friend is a Bihari?

Raj's Status is evident:
(but it could change with Bala Saheb...maybe not; NOTE: it can be ANY
thing...just 'behave' within that package)

You change circumstances and things change.
You change Action Verb and behavior changes
Change anything for that matter....

Ok, here's another gyan, which actors should do, and even writers:
Breakdown Script (capture the beats:)

Beats: Behavior change within the text

Take a scene and see the package. Observe the change of behavior; also
remember - there is no right or wrong - all of us can observe and work
with different beats; of course in the end, you work with the director
since he is the person taking the call.

Another interesting exercise we do while breaking-down to understand
the character: Paraphrasing (figuring out the emotions at play.) In
fact, Galina at times tells us to forget the dialogues, if memorizing
is a pain - just observe the emotion at play. (Of course in front of
camera, while shooting for a film, you better know the exact words!
The writer / director have it for specific purpose; yup...some
directors are open to changing that too. But it's an interesting
insight - typically, once you are at the set, you stick to the words
and everything; the changes and improvs should happened at rehearsal.
It also seems as if not everyone is able to 'find time' for rehearsals
in Hollywood! Personally, I think it's essential for solid
performance. Though for my next film (In-A-Minute), it's likely it
will not happen! (Managing my own work/assignments and actor's
schedules is quite a pain.) But yeah...for a film that's not too crazy
time-bound, I will hopefully get into it.)

Do Note: while directing or acting: NEVER talk 'feelings' (emotions);
just action verbs - your action/behavior will result in right
emotions: if you are begging for life, when someone points a gun at
you, automatically you will start crying; you don't have to cry for
the sake of it! And what if we change the package: you won't beg for
life, you will 'challenge' the guy to shoot you....your behavior
becomes very different! Your status changes from low to High in this
case, and you will work from +ve energy, which can be in or out.

I think this needs practice, to get into the right 'mindset'; even I
am guilty of operating from 'feelings' perspective. So
yeah....practicing right is the solution.

So take the text/dialogues and try to see what's the underlying
development: what's the character doing / wanting in that particular
dialogue - write in english (in different words.)

Let's take Dil Chahta Hai scene:
Hmm...was it Preity or Aamir who says (think it was Preity) - "both of
us know that moti opera singer was not the one you were talking
about"? (It's a powerful scene within the film, since both of them
acknowledge their connect/love for and yet know that their
circumstances are different, as she is already hitched.)

So...what's Preity really saying/doing:
If we paraphrase it, it would be the person saying to the other:
"Don't fool yourself, you know the truth: it was ME, you meant"
(Well, yeah, this is the subtext we are trying to figure out.)

What's her:
Status:'s (kinda) Low
Energy is '-ve' and 'in'
Action Verb: Acceptance (of truth), (kinda) confrontation, (maybe)
challenge {you can put any and work with one...but one can see it can
border on many}
Want (Outer Objective): Tell him the truth
Inner Need: Wants true love (at this moment, she will not get
it...that's why the scene gets pretty touching; of course, it has been
built up by showing their rapport/connect with each other.)

So pal, keep practicing and observing and analyzing...that's all there
is to this :-)

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, questions, let me know....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Acting Deconstructed

First of all, let me salute all actors and budding-ones!

A bow to Ankur and Manish, the two actors I know, and anyone who acts
or can act and can recite monologues!

I did that last Thursday and sucked. Found reciting the monologue much
tougher than improvisation; I also felt i needed more time to work on
it; i did have some but i am not good enough to focus in a short time
i guess :-(

The chief hassle was in front of camera and the small bit-role in BGG
showed me the same. In rehearsal, in front of four guys I wasn't
actually bad...I could remember it 4/6 times, but when the camera
started i took 3 takes wasn't fun.

I enjoyed the activity though (including the tension in front of the
camera!) and it again made me realise how a challenge it can be - just
to step back, relax, concentrate and let one self go; i do believe
it's a great therapeutic exercise and everyone should practice it :-)

I am so lucky - got an instructor like Galina. If any one of you had
been training under her, you would realise how easy she tries to make
it - you don't have to act, just behave - use your conscious to
imagine and that's it...and of course, use some tools to create that
world, and just by changing that package, you can behave in the right
way. (was reading an interview of the acclaimed director, Sydney
Pollack today and he talks exactly the same thing - acting is don't have to act, just behave. It's also amazing how
many people tell budding directors to go and take an acting class,
even one is good enough and i surely can vouch for it.)

As Galina says, everyone has a soul and it's different. So if De Niro
acts in an awesome way, that's not your way, your own unique way is
awesome too; same for tom, dick, harry or amitabh. You just have to
behave within the given it simply...that's it. (And remember - acting is a non-intellectual process.)

I agree with it. The problem tends to be over-acting and trying to do
too much. Incidentally this is also the funda of writing and directing
held by many guys including one of my favorite - David Mamet; the
scene should be as simple as possible; every thing should be
'uninflected'. In India, typically things work the opposite. The best
example in acting is Amitabh, who can be simply awesome (if you check
out his ol' flicks) and also be so over-the-top; yeah, one can blame
his directors too but i wonder if he knows what he is doing. Of course
all of us observe things differently - some people believe that he was
brilliant in Black, while I think otherwise. Though I do consider that
was fantastic in the role of a cop in Bunty Aur Babli. Anyway....(let
me focus on self than AB!)

I also discovered that I am a better director than actor, though of
course that doesn't mean i am a good director! Directing actors is
definitely critical, but it does involve more than that; however, if
you get a good DP, lighting and an editor (like they profess in
Hollywood), then your main job remains working with the actors, who
are your biggest tools besides a rock-solid script, after all the
objective is only one - to tell a good story effectively.

I also had a good fortune of being directed (within the class; all
monologues are 'directed' by other students) by a guy, who I thought
was quite off-the-mark; he was changing the package just for the heck
of it (this was on Tuesday; on Thursday he was in sync with my
package.) In a way, that's absolutely fine, but...i think one has to
know the chief objective of the monologue. But i agree one, can change
that too and create different experience; yet...for an exercise like
ours, it's a challenge enough to do it right in the manner you want

Btw, my monologue was from Dead Poet's Society - Keating (Robin
Williams) lectures his student on the courtyard.

Ok, here's some (quick) gyan:

Acting is all about 'package'. That's it.

Know your...

BACKGROUND: Where you belong - your history, where you are coming
from, though i guess one can go easy on it

CIRCUMSTANCES: What are the current events are.

INNER (Self-Connecting) OBJECTIVE: What's you (inner) need

OUTER OBJECTIVE: What's your want: the character always wants
something (which leads to conflict as he faces obstacles)

Use ACTION VERB to behave. (This is the key. NEVER tell actor to be
angry, depressed, no emotions, no feelings....tell him/her what does
she want in the scene, through an action verb: plead, he
becomes emotional, if required.)

Imagine a 'hafta-vasooli' scenario: where a guy threatens and gets
money; now make it to beg - a bhai begs, which will be comic, but the
scene changes completely.

(The above (Package fundas) was told to us in the 1st quarter of our
class; the next part comes below, and that's all there is to the
basics of acting (in this class):)

Be aware and play your:

STATUS: Not to be confused with class. It's simply the state of being;
the state of mind. (a servant can have a higher status than the

It's either:

High (positive frame)
"I am good. I can never be down. I shall conquer. I will go on and on.
Nothing can get me. I am good..."

Low (negative frame)
"Life sucks. Am going to fail. My life's a failure. Life is always so
harsh one me..."

Low playing High (negative playing positive)
"my life's a bitch, but i will do something. all misfortunes come to
me, but okay...i will deal with it"
(am not able to give a good example; think this one's also a
pretentious state, but i need to check on this.)

High playing Low (positive playing negative)
"oh my problems never get over. i won a million dollar lottery and i
have got so much tax to pay".

(in fact, for our 'baby class', we are not going to touch the 4th
status and may not even the 3rd one; btw, we are supposed to become
'adult actors' after this class! And this is the most basic of all
Galina's classes; i think I said before, we are likely to start a full
degree course on acting from next yr.)

The other thing is...


Positive (in or out)
Negative (in or out)

'In' means soft, 'Out' means shouting.

So Brando, as Godfather as high status throughout and has Energy as
'In'; from what i recollect he practices both positive and negative.

So the principle we use to figure out the story (to start with), the
same holds true for acting: know the wants/objective of the character
and for acting, think of an 'action' verb to achieve your objective.
That's it....

We shall soon get into dialogues and later (maybe) trilogues; all of
use are supposed to act, direct and get behind camera. 2-3 guys may
have to give up 'directing' to do an extra role, and guess what? If
offered that option, I am thinking of going for it :-)

So folks, if you are game for a role in future, simply 'behave'! Be
aware of the above fundamentals, and we may get to work together, but
you also need to remember one thing, the boss is the director ;-)