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  • Writer's pictureMicheál Fitzgerald

Planning & Scheduling - Scripting a Project like a Film

Updated: Apr 26, 2018

Planning & Scheduling can sometimes at best be described as a black art or akin to decoding the Enigma machine. However the best laid plans should also be as simple as telling a story.


What do Interstellar, Argo, The Hangover & Inglorious Basterds have in common?

The film screenplays have all topped the annual Black List for the best un-produced scripts. The Black List offers aspiring and professional screenwriters the chance to have their work evaluated by professional script-readers who work within the industry. The readers are drawn from agencies and studios. When scripts are rated highly, the site promotes the screenplays to potential buyers. The Imitation Game screenplay topped the annual Black List in 2011 and the was acquired for $7 million in February 2014.

The Black List has thousands of script evaluations with grades based on plot, premise, characters, setting and dialogue — from dozens of genres. When a script is evaluated, the reader assigns any number of genres to it — from simple drama to prehistoric fantasy — and these are used to uncover different trends.

This trends showed that the best performing genres included Film Noir and Gangster genres while the worst performing genres included Alien Invasion and Spoof Parodies.

While The Black List rated screenplays against the 10-point rating system, an additional set of nine problems screenwriters encounter all the time were used by reviewers when evaluating scripts. A script can be flagged for being too long or having poor structure, an underdeveloped plot, unnatural or cliched dialogue, a derivative or unoriginal concept, or a lack of escalation.

The most common problems on screenplays ranged from poorly developed plots and characters through logic holes and being flagged as commercially nonviable. At this point it can be said that writing a screenplay is a lot like writing a plan or schedule.

Many poor plans can be determined to occur because of poorly defined scope which can correlate to a screenplays underdeveloped plot while many schedules can fall over because of undefined or unavailable resources not unlike an underdeveloped set of characters in a script.


Screenplays are often best conceptualized in art or storyboards. The storyboards physically plot the script to understand its vision and further manage the different crew resources, make production decisions and specify technical effects requirements ahead of putting the project to celluloid.

Similarly Staging Diagrams are used to logically conceptualize, review and communicate a schedule to the management audience or the crew foreman. Often if it can't be drawn, it can't be practically completed.


Sydney Highway Patrol was put together in Adobe Premier Pro. Much of Adobe Premiere Pro and other film editing software utilitize a timeline with clips organized in a logic in this timeline with the sequence being driven by the cursor line.

Oracle Primavera P6 is the marquee Planning & Scheduling software and it also utilizes a timeline to organize activities into a logic with its sequence driven by the data date or progress line.

Hence a film much like a plan or schedule shares a DNA to build and tell a story.


Many schedules use Level Of Effort activities to spread the representation of a management resource or similar across a time-frame when it can't be broken down into further detailed activities.

In Sydney Highway Patrol, the Level of Effort can be thought of as the backing track or soundtrack. Further, soundtracks like management styles can have very different tempos and nuances and both can subsequently have very different effects on the end film or project completion.

The Sydney Highway Patrol was reworked to a different backing track. Just like using a different management resource, the clip logic sequence has changed and the overall duration is revised but the plot of the film remains the same.

The lesson here is that both clips are completed in largely similar but also very different ways just like a project can be completed in different ways with different management styles.

There are a plethora of further details to analogies between Planning & Scheduling and Film Making.

However, any plan or schedule, whether containing 100-10,000 activities that can manage a budget from $1m to $500m, like the best film must be able to tell a simple story.


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