A guide to making an Extras Breakdown Sheet

You’re the 2nd Assistant Director on a Movie or TV Show and you are faced with the daunting task of organizing and managing extras. Are you ready? Do you a plan of action to coordinate the task in front of you? Maybe its time to update your extras breakdown sheet or get some new ideas so you can improve the sheet you currently use.
Below we have outlined some helpful tips to get you thinking…

Use this FREE extras breakdown sheet to customize for your particular show!

  1. Use a solid template. We have attached one in this blog post (with dummy data as an example)…but if you don’t have a template you are proud of don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow AD staff (or an AD you trust) who may have one tucked away in a dropbox folder somewhere.
  2. Make sure the BG DOOD is accurate. Before you start transferring data from the BG DOOD to the Extras Breakdown its important to check with the 1st AD and assess how accurate this breakdown really is. Often times a 1st AD will sit with the Director and go over the exact numbers with the Director and then get approval from a UPM or Line Producer.
  3. Be as detailed as possible. If you have a funeral don’t just list 100 funeral patrons. Do there need to be family members or friends of certain ethnicity and race? What about minors and their ages? If the breakdown is generic don’t be afraid to approach the 1st AD or Director to get this information so that you are providing the very best information to those who receive the list.
  4. Don’t start too soon. If you start creating your BG sheet right away you will most likely have to change it a dozen times. Wait till you are in a position during prep where the 1st AD feels pretty good about the schedule.
  5. Use colors and various font treatments. Highlighting various things in colors such as locations, featured BG or special notes will make the document easier to read.
  6. Create a Distro List for this document. Every show is slightly different but in general you will want to make sure that various depts receive a copy of the list including (Props, Transpo, Locations, Hair, Makeup, Costumes and essential individuals such as the UPM). You don’t want to send this to the entire crew because the third grip really doesn’t need to know.
  7. Include ADD’L AD and PA staff in the breakdown. If you are going to have a certain amount of Extras you will probably want to schedule and budget additional days for AD’s and PAs on this document. Depending on the complexity of the scene will help you determine how to figure this out. If you have 100 students in bleachers the whole time it will be easier to direct and manage than 100 students crossing in the hallways.
  8. Don’t forget to update when the schedule changes. Changes are the one-liner will change many times during the course of production unless its a relatively short amount of days. When it does change…don’t forget to update this document and distort immediately. Various depts will rely on this info to make sure they are prepared on the day and aren’t surprised by the sudden change.
  9. Save and Label properly. Make sure this document is exported as a .PDF and labeled in a way that shows the current date and version. example MOVIE_NAME_BG_BREAKDOWN_1_1_2020.pdf.
  10. Make it your own. There are no exact rules to a breakdown so make it your own and the very best it can be. Take pride in making this breakdown the very best it can be for that particular show you are on.

Need software to manage Extras?

Consider using the RABS App to digitally check in and wrap Extras in an efficient and secure style.

7 ways to encourage social distancing on a film set

The idea of social distancing on a film set has the potential to sound like an oxymoron. Almost every memory I have working on set involves lots of people working closely together for very long periods of time. While it may be too early to conjecture there are still things we can plan and prepare for.

Using technology, avoiding paper and going digital used to be a nice suggestion over the last several years. These tools/technologies were often optional devices that productions would use to streamline things and make things more efficient. Today in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic that we face digital tools will serve as a primary and necessary way to help in our efforts to create a safe set and maintain productivity.

Below I have outlined 7 ways to encourage social distancing on a film set in light of the COVID-19 virus.

  1. Use technology to allow a video village system that is not dependent on 1-2 monitors. Teradek has a great product called SERV PRO that allows a video system to stream up to 10 devices (combination of iPads and phones). Using this device will allow the people that really need to see a monitor (various dept heads and Producers) the opportunity to view without having to all be clustered around the same monitor as the Director/DP/Scripty. In addition this system makes it extremely helpful for ADs when placing and setting background in very large spaces to carry their monitor with them.
  2. Have signs on set to remind cast and crew of Social Distancing efforts. Consider placing these signs in key spots such as restrooms, trailers, entrances to set etc
  3. Limit in-person meetings and auditions. Consider using software like Zoom to conduct production meetings, table reads etc.
  4. When working with Background Actors consider using software like RABS to decrease contact between staff and the Extras. RABS is great for handling digital vouchers and creating a paperless system that will give you peace of mind.
  5. Go digital with sides, call sheets and essential paperwork for cast and crew. A few companies that are making waves in this industry are Setkeeper, Croogloo, Studio Binder and Scenechronize. By avoiding passing out paper documents you will be minimizing crew interaction in a significant way. There are also numerous payroll companies that have setup digital systems for time cards etc.
  6. Create a training video system that each Crew Member, Cast Person and Background Actor must watch prior to their first day of work. Trainual is a software tool that you could implement with relative ease.
  7. Allocate large enough holding areas for lunch, background holding etc so that people are able to have enough space when doing those activities. Some sets may even talk about doing a working lunch and observing french hours to allow for such a possibility.