You do not need any fancy, expensive, or magic movie making software to schedule a movie. You simply need some note cards, scotch tape, and Microsoft Word.
To begin the scheduling process, buy a stack of colored note cards.
Each note card will represent a scene from your script. Use yellow cards for all exterior “day” scenes, green cards for interior “day” scenes, blue for inside “night” scenes, and purple for exterior “night” scenes.
To make a card, match the card color to the scene in your script. Is it inside, outside, day or night?
On the top of each note card, write in the scene number and name. Then write a brief description of the scene. On the right, list the characters in that scene, and at the bottom, any special props or unique elements (such as a car, animal, special effects, etc). Then, at the top right corner, put the amount of time you think it will take to shoot that scene.
How long will it take you to shoot the scene? That’s up to you. Think about it from the standpoint of shooting difficulty. Is it a scene filled with action and multiple shots? Maybe you’ll want to give yourself an extra 30-45 minutes. Or, maybe it’s one camera set up but two pages of dialogue that you think you’d be able to do in less than an hour.
I average an hour of shooting time per one page of the script. So if my scene is two pages long, I’ll write down “2 hrs” at the top of the note card. If it’s half a page, I’ll write down “30 mins.”
Then, once I have all the note cards done for each scene in the entire script, I will separate them into piles based on location. All the scenes/cards to be filmed at the “diner” in one pile, all the cards for “hotel” in another. And so forth.
Once you’ve separated the cards into location piles, you can begin organizing them into “shooting days.”
To do this, lay the cards on the table and count the hours. I try to keep the shooting times each day right around 8 hours total. (Later, when you add in breaks, travel time, lunches, dinners, etc, you’ll see that 8 hours shooting time is plenty; more than 8 hrs makes for a long day. On the flipside, 6 or 7 hours for shoot time is divine).
If your locations are shorter, say, you have just two cards for the “hotel” which add up to 3 hours, set those aside. Either that day at the hotel will be very light, or you’ll match it up with another location and move sets mid-day.
When you’re finished organizing them, lightly tape the cards together on the reverse side (so if you need to move cards around later on, you won’t tear the front off).
Then, tape the strips of days up on your wall.
Each vertical strip of cards represents one shooting day. At the top of each strip I put a pink card that says the location. If you are doing a feature, and organizing scenes based on roughly an hour’s shoot time per page, you should have somewhere between 12 and 18 days, give or take. Of course, that can be shorter if you aren’t changing locations, or longer, if, say, half of your movie takes place in Hong Kong (you’ll add a day travel time just flying there).
Feel free to rearrange the strips of “days” until you are comfortable with the order of locations. I always try and select an easy location to start, as the first day on set is always the one that should be the lightest.
In the next blog post, we’ll open up Microsoft Word and make the shooting schedule.
(If you need help creating your note cards, I’m available for consulting via telephone or Skype.)