Analyzing a screenplay is key to planning

Analyzing a screenplay is an absolute necessity. It may look strange to start a film shoot on an excel sheet or something like it but analyzing a screenplay is an absolute necessity. You have to know what you are looking for and why you take your screenplay apart. As we shoot a soap a lot of departments will need information about what the needs will be on any day of our shoot.

First they will group all sets and location shoots. If an actor A is present in Set 1 for 15 scenes, they will try to put these in one or two days. Already things get complicated: planning will first split location shoot from studio recording. We have a 1 in 10 ratio of location and studio. So for every 10 scenes in studio we have 1 scene on location. This is part of the format of our soap. So on average once in each episode we have an outdoor scene. Sometimes this is an exterior of our studio locations, which match the windows and doors from our studio sets. Sometimes this is a story location such as a train station, an airport hall, a park (bench), a museum or a restaurant and so on. Sometimes these are night shoots. They all add to the “realism” of our stories as they show that there is an outside world. They also make for an interesting switch for everyone involved and it gives the writers some creative freedom. (Or so everyone hopes.)

Planning will search each scene for which character is needed. They will match this need with the actors and actresses agendas. We have over 30 lead actors… So bringing them together is priority 1. They will block the actors agenda to make sure they are available.

Next they will try to work as economically as possible. This means grouping the actors’ scenes so that each actor has to be present as little as possible. This way they avoid that actors should come for just one scene.

Once they know who will be needed and for how many scenes, they build a shooting schedule. Each day 18 or more scenes will be recorded. This means exactly one episode is shot on each day, as one episode in our format consists of 18 scenes. This is also a format choice. As we shoot a daily soap, we can’t spend more than a day on an episode. If we do, time will catch up with us and we won’t have anything to show our viewers.

This means that our location shoot is done at the same time as the studio recording. So we have two teams working in parallel. One is shooting on location with a single camera and one in studio with three cameras. It is obvious that the location shoot (Electronic Field Production or EFP) is more time consuming. We shoot about 6 scenes on a day on location, compared to 18 on average in studio. We shoot 215 episodes or more each year. And we only have a 20 day summer break. So time is catching up and we have gone into a new system. We now will be shooting in 2 studios simultaneous AND on location at the same time. So starting in september we will have 3 teams in parallel: 2 teams with 3 cameras and everything that comes with it: switching, sound recording, booms, etc. One studio team will shoot every weekday and the other just 2 or 3 days each month in order to catch up.

It is clear from this that we have more than one director on our sets. In fact we have 6 directors. And each one is always somewhere in a cycle of 10 episodes.

Here is their schedule for 10 days:

A: Director 1 is analyzing and making his blocking and staging notes
B: Director 2 is shooting on location
C: Director 3 is shooting in studio
D: Director 4 prepares editing
E: Director 5 is editing EFP and Studio
F: Director 6 is reading, location hunting and in meetings

And the next 10 days:

A: Director 6 is analyzing and making his blocking and staging notes
B: Director 1 is shooting on location
C: Director 2 is shooting in studio
D: Director 3 prepares editing
E: Director 4 is editing EFP and Studio
F: Director 5 is reading, location hunting and in meetings

And this is the next 10 days:

A: Director 5 is analyzing and making his blocking and staging notes
B: Director 6 is shooting on location
C: Director 1 is shooting in studio
D: Director 2 prepares editing
E: Director 3 is editing EFP and Studio
F: Director 4 is reading, location hunting and in meetings

All this goes on at the same time. And everyday our writers put our a screenplay. Each time a director has finished his shoot in studio (phase C), his new screenplays are ready for a first reading.

In one word planning is everything!

,