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.

Episode 7 – Seth Edelstein – A UPM’s process for building an all-star team

Listen on iTunes or Spotify

In this episode we talk with Unit Production Manager Seth Edelstein about the process he uses when building an all-star team.

Seth started out in the film industry as a Production Assistant and then got into the DGA Trainee program in the 90s and went on to work as an 2nd 2nd AD, 2nd AD, 1st AD and now Unit Production Manager. Some of Seth’s credits include Nightcrawler, Liar Liar, Dodgeball, Speed, Beethoven 2nd, Better Caul Saul, American Crime Story, The Mentalist, Without a Trace to name a few.

Books Mentioned in the episode: Crucial Conversations

Apps Mentioned in the episode: Wunderlist & Dark Sky

What does a 2nd AD do besides make a call sheet?

Crew members who work as 2nd Assistant Directors fill one of the most critical roles on any film set. The 2nd AD acts as a bridge between the “set” and the “basecamp” and while they are known for creating the call sheet, their duties extend into other areas of production that are vital for a set to operate efficiently.

The below information was complied by the Directors Guild of America:

2nd AD Duties

  1. Prepare the call sheets, handle extras, requisitions, and other required documents for approval by the 1st AD, the UPM and/or the production office.
  2. Prepare the daily production report and end of day paper work.
  3. Distribute scripts and script changes (after shooting has started) to cast and crew.
  4. Distribute call sheets to cast and crew.
  5. Distribute, collect, and approve extra vouchers, placing adjustments as directed by the 1st AD on the vouchers.
  6. Communicate advance scheduling to cast and crew.
  7. Aid in the scouting, surveying and managing of locations (mandatory in New York and Chicago)
  8. Facilitate transportation of equipment and personnel.
  9. May be required to secure execution of minor cast contracts, extra releases, and on occasion to secure execution of contracts by talent. (May also be delegated to 1st AD and UPM.)
  10. Coordinate with production staff so that all elements, including cast, crew and extras, are ready at the beginning of the day, and supervise the wrap in the studio and on location (local and distant).
  11. Schedule food, lodging and other facilities.
  12. Sign cast members in and out.
  13. Maintain liaison between UPM and/or the production office and the 1st AD on the set.
  14. Assist the 1st AD in the direction and placement of background action and in the supervision of crowd control.
  15. Perform crowd control in New York and Los Angeles except where the work is customarily performed by police officers or is performed by security personnel or a facility at which the photography takes place and which requires or customarily provides this service; provided, however, persons not covered by the Basic Agreement may perform such work if at least two additional 2nd ADs are employed in addition to a Key 2nd AD and 2nd 2nd AD or two Key 2nd ADs
  16. Supervise and direct the work of any Trainee or Intern assigned to the picture.
  17. May assist in the proper distribution and documentation of milage money by the Producer’s appointed representative.

An employer may not unreasonably deny a request from a UPM or 1st AD for another 2nd Assistant Director. BA 13-202 (b).

Episode 3 – Jason Roberts – An Assistant Directors insight into working with Tom Cruise, utilizing VFX and managing thousands of extras

Listen on iTunes or Spotify

In this episode we talk with Jason Roberts about his experience working with Tom Cruise, implementing VFX sequences and demystifying the process of managing large amounts of background actors.

Jason Roberts is a member of the DGA and works as a UPM, 1st AD, 2nd AD and is known for some very well known Tv Shows and Movies….. The Orville, Downsizing, American Made, Transformers: The Last Knight, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Jurassic World, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Collateral etc… Jason started out in the film industry working as a Production Assistant before landing a job as a DGA Trainee.

How to create a clean, concise and readable call sheet email.

Creating a readable call sheet email is vital for any production to run smoothly and can sometimes be an art form in putting it together. Depending on the size/budget of your production will often dictate who sends out the call sheet email. For larger productions you may have a Coordinator or Production Secretary clicking “send” and on smaller projects the 2nd AD will be the one most likely getting out these essential “next day emails.” 

10 tips to remember when sending out call sheet emails:

1. Use a standardized subject heading

MOVIE NAME – CALL SHEET – DAY # – DATE

2. BCC the recipients

If you “show” email addresses in the TO FIELD or CC FIELD you are risking one person replying all to the GROUP and asking a dumb question that should be for the sender only. It is a good idea to build this list later in the day because it may change as you have to add or drop crew/cast members.

3. Send a separate email to CREW and CAST 

The CAST email can be simplified and have only pertinent information ie…they don’t need to know the location addresses if they are shuttled to set etc…

4. Avoid sending Call Sheet Emails to Background or certain Vendors where a separate detailed email will work in its place

Below is one example in which I would email a caterer by noon each day (separate from the call sheet email) in order to give them a heads up with the count for the next day. If I waited to email the caterer the call sheet there is a chance they may not have enough time to prepare enough food etc.

5. Consider having your crew members confirm the very first email on DAY 1

Its a good idea to do this just in case you have a wrong email address or the email goes to spam for some weird reason.

6. Consider writing a nice sentence thanking or encouraging the crew at the very top of the email.

7. List important information at the top that shows the very basics

 Consider bolding or highlighting certain text in colors to make the email readable.

Date:
Thursday Dec 6th, 2018

Call Time: 7AM
Courtesy Breakfast: 6:30AM
***please check the back of the call sheet for your individual call times***

8. List the locations in order of where people will park etc. 

Don’t list the first location first if people are showing up to crew parking. The chances that they will go to the wrong address is greater if you list it in the order of where the majority of people should park.

9. Make sure to leave a clean email signature and closing remarks

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions/concerns.

thanks,

John Smith
2nd Assistant Director, Batman Begins
(123) 222-3333

10. Attach any important documents 

Don’t forget to attach call sheet, sides, map, overheads and safety bulletins (when doing stunts or shooting in potential dangerous conditions)!

How to make revisions to a script during pre-production

In this tutorial video I walk you through the simple steps to make changes to a script during pre-production.  This video can be used to guide a Director, Writer, Script Coordinator, UPM, LP, 1st AD, Producer or whoever may be making updates to a script using Final Draft and unfamiliar with the process or the latest program.

The main thing to remember is that you always want to keep your scene numbers locked to prevent confusion among Dept Heads!

PART 1

The following items are covered in this tutorial:

  1. Adding scene numbers
  2. Setting up revisions mode
  3. Omitting a scene
  4. Adding a scene
  5. Moving a scene

PART 2

The following items are covered in this tutorial:

  1. Using a folder structure and staying organized
  2. Updating the title page properly
  3. Using Revisions mode Page Colors
  4. Saving multiple versions (colored, bw, and clean version)

Tools to go digital with paperwork

Whenever I work as a Line Producer or UPM one of the things I try and avoid is dealing with actual physical paperwork. In general I have found that while I know how to sign a .pdf…. 90% of people don’t. Yes I can teach people how to sign a pdf, however when you are having to deal with hundreds of signatures who really has the time to educate people or wait for them to sign that document you sent two weeks ago.  Hellosign and Hellotim are two amazing services that can help bring your production into the digital age.

 

Tool #1: Hellosign

Hellosign promises to be an easy-to-use cloud based software that allows you to sign documents with ease.


I use this software to do the following:

  1. Collect info and signatures for Cast (deals, w9s and misc documents)
  2. Collect info and signatures for Crew
  3. Get location contracts signed
  4. Give access to multiple team members to control who receives paperwork
  5. Create templates that speed up the process and can be used over and over again
  6. Fill out and sign applications or signatory information

 

Tool #2: Hellotim

 

While I haven’t personally used TIM I honestly love the concept and plan to dive into the software at some point.

TiM makes digital onboarding easy, intuitive and secure by streamlining and centralizing all required tasks. Let TiM handle digital onboarding while the Studio/Production Company continues to focus on bringing creative content to an ever-expanding market.

For UPMs and accountants, TiM makes the process of tracking and approving startwork effortless and efficient by decreasing human error and enabling electronic approval from any device. TiM saves time, paper, and the production money.

***One thing to note is that TIM is designed specifically for Film/TV and even integrates with payroll companies***

Software to manage extras from skin to wrap

Managing extras can be one of the most challenging things for any production. Its one thing to deal with a few extras on an occasional basis, however when you are on a show that is having to manage hundreds or in some cases thousands of extras…you want a system that can run smoothly and effectively. For decades productions have relied on antiquated technology using carbon copy skins that really make the process all the more challenging. Having to track paperwork, props and dealing with out times has been a source of pain and frustration for both extras and production.

Current problems of the typical paper system:
*Extends Late Nights
*Slows Call Times
*Long Check-Out Lines
*Missing, Incomplete, Sloppy Documents
*Invalid Tax Incentive Info
*Causes Grievances
*Messy for Payroll and Accounting
*Extra’s Complaints
*P.A. and A.D. Time, Effort Wasted
*Poor Communication
*No Oversight
*Morale Killing
*Limiting Legal & Payroll Compliance

RABS is the only app to manage extras from Skin to Wrap. 
*You can onboard extras in seconds.
*You can wrap instantly, all documents completed, costumes and props returned with an automatic breakdown
*Hot-cost savings, vouchers, docs, tax incentives, digitally delivered to accounting.
*Cost $600 per week and $3 per extra.

Schedule a Demo: runabetterset.com/demo

7 reasons why your Low Budget film should go DGA Signatory

I often get asked to create schedules and budgets for films in development and one of the questions I will often ask the producer(s) is what unions they want to budget for. Many times SAG is a no brainer no matter the budget but often times convincing producers to budget for IATSE, DGA, TEAMSTERS and WGA can be a challenge. Many times the reasons producers don’t want to join these unions is because of paperwork, limited finances and having to be under the scrutiny of a union. I put together a list of reasons why producers might want to reconsider….

7 reasons why your Low Budget Film show should go DGA Signatory:

1. Choosing to make your project DGA signatory will allow your Director the ability to Join the DGA if they are not currently a member.

2. Your film will be eligible to be entered into the DGA Awards.

3. You will be required to hire DGA UPMs and ADs (1st, 2nd and 2nd 2nd) thus ensuring an experienced AD staff. Now yes you can (might be able to) find experienced Non-Union ADs and UPMs however it is possible that they may or may not be as experienced as someone in the union and this could potentially lead to problems.

Example: You hire a Non-Union 1st AD who has only done one or two features and they may or may not not know how to keep your set safe or on schedule and you end up needing to shoot more days thus causing you to spend thousands of dollars.

4. If a movie is over a million dollars, some financiers will prefer that your movie is bonded. Some bond companies will require that your film join certain unions such as IATSE and DGA to limit the risk involved in making the picture.

5. You have access to a vast network of possible DGA Directors, ADs and UPMS around the United States to employ. Check out the list(s) HERE.

6. It may not be as expensive as you thought. For films under $500K the rates are negotiable. Essentially you would be paying the fringes (pension and health etc) on 3-4 crew members in addition to your cast. Check out the rates HERE.

7. It may not be as difficult as you thought. Yes you have to fill out an application and submit information about the film…but you are most likely doing this for SAG etc. What’s one more application?

Curious about making your project DGA Signatory? Follow these simple steps…

Step 1.
Visit the Employers section of the DGA website.


Step 3.
Download the appropriate signatory package on the right hand side.
You may need the following documents
  • Name of Producer Company (company info, llc etc)
  • Project Title
  • Type of project (Theatrical Feature, Movie for Television, Television Series, etc.)
  • Name of Director
  • Principal Photography Start Date
  • Project location
  • Budget
  • Intended Initial Release
  • Company contact information: Name, Title, telephone, email, website

Note:
There is a section on the DGA Application where you will list the Director, UPM and ADs. Its important to note that for most applications you will need to hire members in good standing who are listed on the perspective Qualification List. There are some project types where you may be eligible to hire someone who is not listed in a certain category etc. You can always fill out the crew you know for now ie… (Director and UPM) and then submit the AD names at a later time once it gets closer to filming. If you have any questions about the application don’t be afraid to call the DGA and ask.

Step 4.
Email the packet to signatories@dga.org.

Once your signatory application has been received, a signatory rep will be able to review and let you know what additional items are needed for the signatory process. Should you have questions about the signatory application’s status once sent, contact a Signatories Assistant, at (310) 289-2094.

Step 5.
Upon return of the completed and signed signatory application and forms, the Guild will determine if the producer company presented is the appropriate signatory entity, based on the information provided. Further information may be required.

Step 6.
Signatory status will be given to the Producer at the time the Guild is confident that the necessary signatory and financial assurances’ documents have been provided. The signatory and financial assurances documents will be circulated to the appropriate parties, signed by the authorized representative of the signatory Producer, and delivered to the Guild prior to the commencement of Principal Photography. A payroll deposit is required. It is important to discuss the delivery of the payroll deposit with the Signatory Representative early in the signatory process.