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5 Things Writers Can Expect When Your Screenplay Starts Filming


So … your project has been greenlit and the first day of principal photography (aka filming) is set. Yay!

However, a lot of writers are unaware of what happens AFTER you’ve hit *send* on your “final-final-final” draft. It’s time to shed light on the production stages of your script and what happens during the filming stages … Right up to post-production!

Here’s 5 things writers can expect once their project starts filming… ready? Let’s go!

1) Yet More Drafts

Oh, you thought you were finished?? NOPE!

Once your project is greenlit and you’re working towards the first day of principal photography, you can expect the following draft terms to pop up. Here’s what they mean …

i) Production Draft (roughly 1 month prior to filming)

The Producer will be working from this draft to create a more comprehensive budget breakdown, while the 1stAssistant Director gets to work on the filming schedule. The Director will have started storyboarding, plus scenes will be numbered and ideally locked, and the first Heads of Department to join will be using this draft to gauge how many people to hire in their teams.

ii) Read-through Draft (roughly 1-2 weeks prior to filming)

A great day for writers, as this is when the actors and crew will read the script in the same room. You will hear the dialogue read out loud and make notes of your own, but this is the cast’s chance to give feedback on any lines that aren’t quite working for them or pitch suggestions for their character. It’s also a chance for you and your script team to catch any things which aren’t working and for the network and Executive Producers to feed in with any final notes.

iii) Tech Recce/Location Recce Draft (roughly 1 week prior to filming)

The crew and HODs visit locations, and this is an opportunity for your Director and 1st Assistant Director to communicate any last-minute changes to scene blocking (e.g. he runs up the stairs, no longer down the corridor). It sounds small, but these tiny edits save hours of confusion on set. You will be fine-tuning to fit the locations for the episode in question as everyone must be in agreement on what’s on the page before you go to:

iv) Shooting Script (the week before filming)

When shooting commences, your script will be labelled “Shooting Script”. It will be presented on all white pages, usually with no stars/revisions. Pages are now locked, and any amendments that push text into the next page will create “A” and “B” pages.

This is when your Script Editor will take over the admin of the script, and become very protective of the MASTER copy. Editors are trained in script revisions and distribution, so they will guide you through the process of amendments so they can communicate future changes to the crew through memos. We’re here to help!

2) Clearances and negative checks

Scripted clearances relate to the people, places, and things written in your script. A “neg checker” will write a report on which names (characters, businesses, verbal references) are clear to use. Clearances are when you have something mentioned or in vision, which feature a recognised product or brand. If your character drinks a popular fizzy drink, production will have to receive permission from the brand to use it. Bear in mind permission can get denied, especially if it’s during a contentious scene. That’s when you and the script team will have to create fictional alternatives.

3) Colour revisions and Memos

Once further production challenges pop up, amendments will be grouped into colour pages. (Pink, Blue, Yellow, Green…).

Ideally your Script Editor will collate these notes for you. They will also keep an eye on which scenes are affected and when they appear in the schedule. You will then amend the script as the script team will draft a memo listing changes.

The pages and scenes are locked in a way that your edits will be easier to track. Changing the final draft revision colours.

4) “On the floor” edits

Be prepared for ANYTHING during filming. Actors can have last minute ideas for their character and suggested tweaks to their dialogue, a cast member may become unavailable or even a location may suddenly fall through and you have to edit a sequence around a new setting. Usually these are communicated by the Director, Producer or Script Supervisor. Your Script Editor’s job is work with you to dream up a compromise that satisfies the note while protecting the story.

5) ADR

Filming has wrapped (huzzah!) … But during the post-production process, there is Additional Dialogue Recording (or Replacement). This is when an actor’s dialogue is re-recorded in a studio to either replace original dialogue taken from set.

This might be due to numerous factors – environment, unintelligible delivery, actors in motion). Additional dialogue may also be deemed necessary for extra clarity or story detail.

You may be asked to draft dialogue that has been changed to fit with the current edit of the project, or dream up lines for characters heard down the phone or off-screen. MORE: How To Become A Script Editor

Last Points

Overall, be flexible to the fact that the filming process presents a complicated set of challenges which require constant edits. Tweaking to fit these elements provide the opportunity to dream up fun alternatives which almost always serve the story better. A whole crew is working to execute your vision, and a writer’s role requires patience and adaptability. The most important thing to remember? Keep your phone switched on.

Good Luck! 

BIO: Ruth Trippitt is a Script Editor and Writer, with credits on ITV, Channel 4, Netflix, BBC and Sky. Find her as @ruthtrippitt on Instagram and Twitter.

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