The first time I heard this term I felt like an infant learning language for the first time. I was clueless trying to keep up with this new concept being thrown at me. Needless to say, I didn’t get it. What I did get was that I wanted to make a film, I wanted it to stand out and I wanted people to enjoy it. After doing a bit of homework of my own I came up with my own idea of what meta-data really is.
It’s organization, planning, categorizing… really boring but necessary stuff when making a film. For me, it’s the first step of pre-production. But how does one enter and extract meta-data from a script in order to facilitate the production of a film? The answer is: quite easily, to my surprise.
Your first step is to complete your script, of course. And by this, I don’t mean your first, second or even third draft. You really should be well passed the rewrite stage in development before you get to work entering meta-data to your script. The reason for this is because if you are still changing and tweaking your story it will make things difficult for you to keep up with your meta-data and you could miss something important. It’s about as difficult as shooting a dart at a moving target, so just save yourself the headache and get that script locked down first.
Once you are sure you’ve got your script ready, take a look at some of the data that’s already there. I use Celtx because… well… it’s free. If you’re just starting out as a screenwriter I highly recommend it. You can dish out the cash for professional screenwriting software once you start getting paid for your scripts, in my opinion.
Step 1. Characters
This one is easy because the software pretty much organizes this for you. Since Celtx automates this by which characters have spoken lines in each scene, I would advise that you review the data and make sure your characters are also accounted for in each scene where they do not have lines. You do this in Celtx by highlighting the character’s name in the action line. Then go to the breakdown menu in the right column and select the category you’d like to place it under. Click “Add” and your character is now in the scene even though she does not have any lines.
Step 2. Enter all pertinent data
This includes Locations, Props, Extras, anything from Wardrobe to CGI can be entered following the steps above. My advice is to enter as much meta-data as you can and get creative with it. There really is no limit to how detailed you make your breakdown.
Step 3. Review
In the left column under the Project Library section is the Master Catalog. Double-click and that tab will appear in the center column. From this menu you can review all the data you have entered into your script, enter further notes and details as needed. The best part about this feature is that you can easily see how and your data has been organized. At the bottom of each item you will see which scene that item is used.
Step 4. Extract data
After you’ve done all that work, now comes the fun part. Extracting your data is extremely easy on Celtx. Start by selecting your screenplay tab. Then, at the bottom row of tabs select “Reports”. In the right column under the Reports section, you now have a few options to play with, but for our purposes we’re going to select Scene Breakdown. Now all you do is Print from the File menu at the top right corner of the screen and you’re done.
You’ve now extracted all your meta-data and taken your first step into pre-production. As an independent filmmaker/producer this can seem like quite the accomplishment; and it is.
Do you have a script you’d like to produce but don’t know where to start? Have you used this method to get your film made? If so, share your projects, thoughts and experiences with our readers in the comments below.