There’s a paper-pusher side to making movies. Of course, there’s the script. Then there’s also the budget, script breakdown sheets, shot lists and shooting schedule. If the project is anything longer than just a couple of scenes and involves more people than just a friend or two, all of this stuff’s gotta be written up in order to get the movie shot without getting lost or compromising everything.
Not surprisingly, there’s a whole industry of software to help you make all these documents for your shoot. But since it’s such a specialized field, the quality of this software is usually pretty mediocre, while the price tag is outrageous! A company called Entertainment Partners makes programs called Movie Magic Budgeting and Movie Magic Scheduling which go for a whopping $500 each. But all they really consist of is clunky, user-hostile spreadsheet interfaces that output ancient, golden-era-Hollywood-style reports.
Some software developers have been getting on the ball. Final Draft, the industry standard screenplay word processor, has finally come out with an updated version and slashed the price by half in the process. That’s what I’m talking about.
But truth be told, the modern indie filmmaker can get by without spending a dime on specialized software. Plenty of freely available applications can be adapted for just about any type of film paperwork tasks. You can get free macros and templates for the office application of your choice, which add screenplay format to your word processor or budgeting structure to your spreadsheets. Here’s one for Word, after just a quick search.
And then there’s Google. Ah, Google, is there anything you can’t do?
I’ve found that the Tasks and Calendar apps are an ideal combination for making shot lists and shooting schedules. Calendar allows you to create multiple custom-named and color-coded calendars which can all be displayed in any combination across various time views. What I have done is create a calendar for
- Logistics - where I put all the non-filming work, like arriving at location, setting up lights, lunch, etc.
- Production - which contains the actual shots
I also include a Weather calendar for the area which displays the average expected weather for the day. I then use the simple Tasks app, available inside both Gmail and Calendar, to throw down some actual shots I want to do after lining the script. I use Tasks to brainstorm - add, delete and rearrange the order of the coverage until I finally arrive at a list I’m comfortable with.
Then I use this list to enter actual events in the calendar. In Day view, I drag out rough estimates of how long setups will take and add descriptions. Once they are all in, I go into each event and fine-tune start and end times to make a more precise schedule. After that, I add in the logistics stuff and end up with a very clear picture of the shooting day. Because the calendars are color-coded it’s easy to see how much there is to shoot or whether there are a lot of company moves. Google even lets you print out a neat version of any view. I print out a single day view, ending up with a sheet like this:
I stick that in my notebook with the script and I’m ready to go mess it all up on the set. It’s an extremely convenient tool. In addition, I use Tasks in post-production, sometimes to outline everything that needs to be done on the project, other times to list the visual effects shots left to do. It’s damn satisfying crossing off items on that list because you know that once you’ve crossed off the last one… your movie’s done!
What everyday software do you adapt and use to help in your moviemaking efforts?