Walk on to any film set, and you will find that most of the cast and crew have with them printed “mini scripts”. You will typically find these folded up in pockets, left on tables, and sometimes scribbled with notes. These are called sides, a film and theater jargon term referring to printed out copies of daily script pages.
Script sides act as a reference for both cast and crew, letting everyone know what is being shot that day. Typically sides are printed out in half-letter size and stapled together in order of shooting schedule. They are also used in auditions to reduce print costs and prevent complete scripts from getting leaked to the public.
Below we have broken down everything you need to know about script sides; this article also comes with a FREE example PDF download.
Script Sides Example
Free PDF Download!
What are Script Sides?
The term ‘sides’ was originally used in theater, way back in Shakespeare’s time. Because there was no printer, actors were only given written-out lines for their own specific roles. This also came in handy since a limited number of complete scripts prevented them from being stolen. These days, many producers are worried that screenplays will be leaked on the internet, so actors during rehearsals are only given script sides.
In production, sides are printed out and handed to all actors and crew each day. These sides, along with the daily call sheet, help everyone understand what to expect from the next day’s schedule. Oftentimes, the first page of the printed sides will actually be the call sheet, so people can see the schedule for the day and reference it if needed. Some crew will use script sides more than others throughout their workday. This next section will examine how individuals on set use sides and how they are a helpful resource.
How to use Script Sides?
Traditionally everyone on set will be given a copy of sides each night before shooting. However, on some productions, only key crew and cast will be given a copy to save on expenses and unnecessary printing. How you use sides will depend on your job role. For most people, it is just a reference for the shooting schedule. Typically, everyone will have a quick read over the sides at the start of every shooting day to make sure they understand what to plan on for that day.
Here is a breakdown of how different positions might use script sides for their unique role:
- Actors – The cast will find sides particularly useful as they will need to learn the next day’s performance. If their character has many lines, this will be used as a reference throughout the day. Films are shot out of sequence, and schedules can change daily. As such, sides help the cast know what to expect in advance and mentally prepare them for their next workday.
- Director – The director will read through the sides to help them prepare for the next shooting day. There is so much to think about when making a film it can help to just focus on one day at a time. During filming, many directors choose to make notes on their sides, to help with blocking and keeping track of coverage.
- Script Supervisor – The person in charge of making sure every scene has coverage is the script supervisor. They need to know what scenes are being shot in advance so they can check continuity. Additionally, some script supervisors use sides to line the script. This is a process of literally drawing lines on the script to represent shot coverage. Note that many script supervisors are now turning digital using software such as ScriptE.
- HODs – All heads of department (HODs) will carefully read through the script sides. They must be familiar with each scene, and many people will use them for writing notes. For example, the costume designer will use the sides to double-check continuity. The key grip might use the sides for writing notes on camera shots and setups.
How to Make Script Sides?
You understand the importance of sides on set, but how do you make them? When the scenes you are filming tomorrow are locked, you can print off the sides. This is done in the production office, either by the 2nd AD, production coordinator, or production assistant. Some production management software allows you to create sides directly from your schedule. However, most people still use Preview on Mac or PDF on Windows.
Seeing as you won’t be filming every scene on a page, you will need to cross out any unwanted scenes. This can be done digitally or by using a pen and ruler to run a line through the unwanted scene. An arrow is also drawn in the side margin to highlight the scene number to be filmed. If the scene extends onto the next page, ‘continues’ is written on the bottom to show this.
Here is the general process to follow when creating script sides digitally:
- Create a copy of the entire script PDF and rename the file to “Sides Day X.pdf”
- In a PDF editor, delete all the pages of the script that don’t contain scenes from the day’s schedule
- Drag the scene pages around until they are in shooting order.
- Now, on each page draw a box around all areas of the script that are NOT today’s scenes. Then draw a diagonal line through the box, effectively “crossing out” the unneeded scenes.
- For each scene that continues onto the following page, add the text “Continues” at the bottom of the page. You might also want to add “Scene X continued…” at the top of the next page for additional clarity.
Film side scripts are printed in half letter size (A5, 8.5×5.5), and sometimes a call sheet is used as a cover page. The pages are usually stapled together with a single staple in the top left of the page. Most people prefer that script sides be printed single-sided, but sometimes they are printed double-sided to save on the amount of printing needed. Depending on your production size, hundreds of sides might be needed, so most production offices have corporate-sized printers.
Script Sides Example
Free PDF Download!
At the end of each shooting day, the sides and call sheets are distributed. This is typically done by the 2nd AD and/or production assistants. These days the use of digital technology is becoming more common to both make and distribute paperwork. In the future, most production documents will likely be created and shared in the cloud using film set management software and other internet-enabled tools.
Script sides are another tool of communication on a film set. They let everyone know what scenes are being shot each day (this is particularly important as film schedules regularly change). Additionally, they are easy and inexpensive to make. You can download a free example copy of script sides below; you might also be interested in our free pre-production paperwork bundle.
Will you be creating script sides on your next project? Do you have any time-saving tips to share about creating sides? Let us know in the comments below.