This is a continuation of our “how to” on creating daily script sides for your film production. You can read the introduction before you read this, or just dive in (like I usually do).

Step 1: Get a PDF of Your Script

This is perhaps the biggest single thing that makes this whole workflow happen. Many modern word processor apps, and nearly all screenwriting apps will export to a PDF. But you don’t have a PDF? What the hell is wrong with you?

Okay, if you don’t have the script in PDF, then grab your scanner or multi-function printer/scanner/fax that you own that will output a PDF and scan the thing. Or hit up a friend who has a scanner and who can scan it to a PDF. Worst case, go to a FedEx Office location and scan them into a PDF, all you pay for is computer rental time. But you have to start with a PDF of the script, otherwise this workflow is meaningless to you.

Okay… not awkward at all, moving on.

For this fine little tutorial, we’ll use a script I pulled off of Daily Script for the film “I, Robot”. It’s well-formatted and reasonably put-together.


Step 2: Look at the Call Sheet

Get your scene numbers together. These should be on the call sheet for tomorrow’s shoot. Yes, sides really only work for the following day. They are kinda useless if you’re flinging them together the morning of, and don’t even get me started about making sides for days you’ve already finished.

No call sheet? If you’re using Movie Magic or Gorilla, print out the “boards” (I don’t want to get too deep down the jargon rabbit-hole, so holla* if you need a decoder ring). No MM or Gorilla? What, do you have any schedule at all written down? Are you serious about making a film? Get organized, sheesh.

Okay, for this experiment, let’s say that the call sheet says we’re shooting four scenes at one location today (namely “INT. SPOONER’S APARTMENT”) which are scenes 2, 90, 92 and 94. Assuming for sake of argument that the director really wants to shoot the later scenes first. Sometimes that is prompted by actors’ needs, location availability, daylight or nighttime. So the call sheet says something like this:

    Spooner wakes up on couch, bruised.
    Calvin steps into apartment, talks to Spooner.
    Calvin and Spooner talk about Sonny.
    Spooner wakes up.

Step 3: Find the Pages for the Scenes

Here’s where having a PDF made from a screenwriting software program really helps. Either that or OCR your scanned PDF to make a searchable copy (again, not that I don’t want to explain every little thing — it’s the technical writer locked deep inside my brain — but Google is your friend if you have questions as to what OCR is or how it is done). I search for the scene number and take note of the page or pages that the scene is on. Most screenplays have numbered pages, and many have numbered scenes. If your scenes aren’t numbered, then you should seriously consider not reading this tutorial, as you might be playing with forces you don’t understand.

I jot these page numbers down, in shooting order (but again, this is where a 1st AD might insist that the sides be arranged in “script order”: the order they are in the script, versus “shooting order”, which is the order in which you’d film them), on a little notepad. I’m retro that way.

Okay, now for example “call sheet”, once you’ve found the scene in the PDF, and if the scene starts and ends on the page, then just note the page number. If it continues past the page, then note the starting and ending page numbers. Something like this:

  • Scene 90: pg. 68
  • Scene 92: pp. 68-69 (heh, heh-heh*)
  • Scene 94: pp. 70-72
  • Scene 2: pg. 1

Again, much of this is going to be the same if you did it on paper or with a PDF, but I’m pedantic that way.

Step 4: Slice and Dice a Copy of the PDF

It’s very important that you do this with a copy of the PDF and not the original. That is, unless you like rescanning or re-exporting your script to PDF again and again. This can lead to suicidal thoughts, not just for you but your production staff as well.

Fortunately, with Preview on OS X Lion, this is pretty straightforward. First, with the PDF open in Preview, click File → Duplicate in the menu and it will create a new PDF with all the pages of the original. Other programs, you might have to use “Save As…” or something similar.

Notice I’ve circled the title, which now says “irobot copy”:


Now, select the “Contact Sheet” for all pages. Again, I’ve circled where you need to click, yo:


Okay, now based on the list of pages that you wrote down, delete the pages that are NOT on that list. Be aware that sometimes, the title page of a script is not numbered or counted in the page count. So in our example. Scene 2 is on page 1, but is marked “2” on the contact sheet view. You’re clever, you’ll adapt.

Once the hack-and-slash is done, you’re left with the pages you need:


This leads us to our next trap: scene order. Here we are going to assume (mostly because I think most AD’s want it this way, but I’ve been totally wrong before) that we want the scenes in shooting order: that is, scenes will be ordered 90, 92, 94 and 2. So drag and drop pages in the contact sheet view to get them looking the way you need:


WTF dude, where’s the rest of it??

Relax, you can read the last part of this and be complete in your life.