The 12 Essentials of Film Pre-Production Paperwork

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Operating an organized film production often comes down to having the proper paperwork in order. Without the correct documents, schedules, and forms in place, your film might not even make it past production. That is why it’s essential to go into pre-production for your film with everything you will need already gathered prior to the beginning of shooting.

For the majority of films, pre-production is the longest stage in the filmmaking process. By doing this part well, you can save yourself both time and money. Below we have broken down the pre-production paperwork you need to make the most of this essential stage. And don’t miss this: all of these paperwork templates are completely FREE to download in our film pre-production paperwork bundle! Get the bundle below:

The 12 Essentials of Film Pre-Production Paperwork

Pre-Production Paperwork Bundle

Professional Free Customizable

1. Pre-Production Checklist

Pre-Production Checklist for FilmmakersList making is at the forefront of planning for a big project. Before you can start the pre-production process, you will need an organized plan. Making a film can be incredibly overwhelming when you look at the project as a whole. To make things easier to digest: break down each element, place them in order, and then set a date to complete each task.

Our film pre-production checklist will help you see what tasks need to be completed during this vital stage. After you have downloaded the form, allocate someone to do each job, and set a completion date. As mentioned, film pre-production is the longest filmmaking stage, so take your time to get this part right. It’s also normal for tasks to overlap and for your schedules to change throughout this stage. 

See also: 7 Stages of Film Production Scheduling For Producers

2. Story Treatment Template

It’s likely that you already have locked your screenplay before film pre-production begins. Even so, a film treatment can still come in handy during the funding and hiring stage. A treatment is a summary of your film, and it covers the story outline from beginning to end. There is no standard length for film treatment either. Depending on the project’s scale, it can be between 1-10 pages long. 

Screenwriters and producers find treatments helpful to organize their thoughts about a project. It’s also useful when sourcing funding, actors, and crew. As noted in Script Mag, executive producers have an enormous amount of material to plow through. Treatments can be a great way to get on a development executive’s good side. Although writing a treatment is unnecessary, they come in useful and can bring clarity to a big project. 

3. Script Breakdown Template

Before you can create a schedule, gather production resources, or create a budget, you need a script breakdown. A script breakdown is the film pre-production process of listing all of the elements you need to get your film made. Scene Elements are everything that you can visually see in each scene in your movie (e.g., actors, locations, props, costumes, and vehicles). During pre-production, you need to find all of these elements before you can begin production.

Creating a complete script breakdown will take time, but it is a relatively easy task. To break down a script, each template page will represent an individual scene. Read through each scene carefully, underlining and making notes whenever an element appears. On your template page, list all of these elements in the given box sections. Doing this will help you tremendously when it comes to sourcing everything you need to make your film. 

4. Budget Template

Now that you have a script breakdown, you can begin to complete a film budget breakdown. As a producer, you will know in general what size of budget you will have available when you choose your screenplay. However, only by looking at every element (and figuring out the individual costs) can you know the actual budget. In the early stages of pre-production, this is only an estimate, which you will use when securing funding

This will require you to know the essential steps of how to create a film budget. An initial budget breakdown will be completed by the producer. On larger film sets, they will also hire an accounting team to keep track of finances. Using your script breakdown, you can create a budget for every element in your film; from actors and crew wages to location hire and equipment. Each department will keep track of their expenditures, but you will need to hire someone to keep an eye on the budget throughout production.

See also: Streamline your next production budget with cloud-software like

5. Character Profile

Screenplay character profile template for filmmakersA character profile is a page breakdown of each lead character within your film. It can have many uses throughout film pre-production. First, the screenwriter can use the profiles to help them remember individual character personality traits throughout the writing process.  A producer might provide a casting director with character profiles to help them with auditions. A casting director will also write up profiles for every role. Alongside treatments, profiles can help convince an experienced actor to get on board with a project.

A character profile is not complicated to fill out. It is merely a breakdown of characteristics for each lead in your film. Gather your screenplay and work through the template provided. Start with basic information such as the character’s name, age, and gender; then move on to more in-depth descriptions of your character from personality traits, to their inner psyche.

The 12 Essentials of Film Pre-Production Paperwork

Pre-Production Paperwork Bundle

Professional Free Customizable

6. Talent Release Agreement

A talent release agreement gives you the right to distribute a film with an actor’s likeness. You will need to have anyone who appears in your movie to fill out a talent or background extras release form. As a rule, if you can recognize anyone’s face or voice in a shot, you should get a release form signed. By not doing this, you risk getting sued, which happens more often than you think, especially when it comes to documentaries. Having your actors sign a form is a quick way of protecting your film’s future distribution. It’s also typical for assistant directors to have a few printed release documents on hand during production.

All you need is for your actors to sign their name and date on the document. Some actors will want to have their release forms and contracts looked at by a lawyer and agent. As such, it’s a good idea to get them signed during the pre-production process.

7. Storyboard Template

Storyboarding and concept art (also known as pre-visualization) gives you the chance to share your vision with the rest of your crew. A storyboard is a series of boards with drawings depicting shots within a scene. The director, director of photography, and occasionally the production designer will work together with an artist to create the storyboards. Not all scenes need storyboarding, and some directors choose not to storyboard at all. However, complex or dangerous scenes such as stunts and digital effects need detailed planning. 

If you have the budget, you may wish to hire a storyboard artist. Although, you can get by with rough sketches. What is important is that you can communicate your vision with your crew. Each panel on the storyboard template represents a shot and the shot type (close-up, medium shot, long shot, etc.). Below each panel, there is a space to write the shot type, a short description, and any further details about the image.

See also: How to Storyboard a Film For Beginners (With Free Template!)

8. Professional Shot List

Example of this Free Ultimate Shot List Template for FilmmakersA professional shot list is a detailed list of camera shots and equipment details per scene. Created by the Director, Director of Photography, and 1st Assistant Director. Shot lists let everyone see what the Director desires to film. For the Director, a shot list acts like a storyboard, allowing them to organize and communicate their vision. For the DOP, it lets them and their team see what equipment they need. The 1st AD will use the shot list when creating the schedule. For example, if the day requires a Steadicam shot, the 1st AD can plan more time between setups for the Steadicam operator.

Your professional shot list template includes the shot number, shot type, shot details, and a short description. There is also space for the 1st AD to estimate set up and schedule time. Shot lists are useful throughout film pre-production, including when creating call sheets and stripboard schedules. 

See also: 7 Types of Camera Movement (and When To Use Them)

9. Location Release Agreement

Preview of Location Release Agreement TemplateOne essential element to plan during pre-production is the filming locations for each scene. Using your script breakdown, you can begin to scout locations. Filming locations need to fit within the film’s story world, be accessible, have power, and be safe. The head of the locations department is the location manager, who will find and secure locations within your budget. Importantly, you will need to get signed permission from the owners of all sites you choose to film within. 

The location release agreement lays out the exact terms and conditions for each site. It would be best to be honest with each location owner about how you wish to use their property. It is possible to get sued from misusing a location, and owners can also ask you to leave on the day of shooting if they change their mind. This is why having a pre-signed agreement is essential.

10. Risk Assessment Template

No film set is immune to safety issues; every scene you film could potentially lead to an accident. (And unfortunately, there have been some horrible accidents that have occured on film sets over the years). It’s not a bad idea to have a risk assessment in your list of film pre-production paperwork which you complete for every filming day and location. A risk assessment is an examination of what could potentially cause harm. By doing this, the producer can put measures in place to prevent potential hazards. The location manager or producer can complete an assessment. On larger film sets, the producer will hire a health and safety expert. 

To complete a risk assessment, you will need to fill out a template for every scene in your film script, ideally after scouting the location. Identify what hazards and risks could potentially happen in each setup. Next to each possible threat, list how this risk can be avoided or eliminated. Risk assessments are critical when filming stunts, special effects, working with animals, or hazardous locations. You can’t entirely prevent accidents, but you can avoid most workplace injuries by taking the time to consider what could happen.

11. Stripboard Schedule

Film Stripboard Schedule / One-Liner Template PreviewA stripboard schedule, or one-liner schedule, contains a list of scenes in shooting order. The 1st Assistant Director creates the stripboard to let their team know the current shooting schedule. You might start making your schedule earlier on in the pre-production process and change the order of scenes once you have more information. For example, changing the schedule to fit around a location or an actor’s availability. 

Each strip row represents a scene in shooting schedule order. Each step has information on the scene, including – scene number, scene location (INT or EXT), a one-line description, scene time (Day or Night), page length, character number, and shooting location. Pre-production for film is all about finding the best possible schedule to make your film. After you have created your stripboard schedule, you will find it easier to make your call sheets. 

12. Call Sheet Template

Simple call sheet word template - for client video shoots, short films, and photographersThe film production’s daily call sheet is the final document in the pre-production process. The 2nd Assistant Director will create an individual call sheet for every filming day. Filmmaking is unpredictable, and scheduled plans will change. Because of this, the 2nd AD will create call sheets for each day and then edit them as needed every evening.  

The call sheet has lots of useful information, including the crew call, cast calls, advanced shooting schedule, and helpful contact numbers. You can fill out the information that doesn’t change and duplicate your call sheet every day. Sending out the first call sheet can mark the end of pre-production and the start of film production. Take your time to plan and prep your film shoot in as much detail as possible. The actual shoot is where the majority of your budget will go – there is no such thing as being too prepared when it comes to filmmaking. 

See also: How to Create Professional Call Sheets in Excel
The 12 Essentials of Film Pre-Production Paperwork

Pre-Production Paperwork Bundle

Professional Free Customizable

In Conclusion

Don’t forget; you can download the pre-production paperwork bundle for free today. At SetHero, we can help you have a stress free production. Whether you are making your debut feature or are a seasoned filmmaker, our call sheets, production reports, and film crew management software are here to help.

Making a film soon?

We can help you organize your shoot. Check out our Digital Call Sheets and Cast & Crew Management software.

Amy Clarke

Amy is a film blogger based in Liverpool UK. She worked on numerous productions, working her way up from independents to major budget feature films. Amy now works as a blogger writing about the film industry. You can follow her work at

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