Microsoft’s Office Suite is like the Swiss Army Knife software applications for virtually every industry, including Film, Television, and Internet Video-Streaming Production.
Massive film and TV production software bundles such as Gorilla 6’s Scheduling & Budgeting Combo Pack can be prohibitively expensive for an independent movie project running on a shoestring budget.
However, MS Office is virtually ubiquitous, relatively easy to obtain, and an inexpensive production resource for independent film producers, line producers, YouTubers, and local TV/cable access network showrunners alike – especially when you know where to look for free film/TV production templates for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and in PDF formats.
Here are five free Excel templates (in no particular order of importance) to help you organize indie film, cable access TV, or webisode projects.
1. The Call Sheet
The Call Sheet is an indispensable on-set tool during any shoot. This document, handed out to virtually everyone daily, gives details such as crew call time, scenes shooting that day, principle cast, contact info, locations, break time, various production department principles (e.g. camera, art, makeup, craft services, etc.), and so much more. NoFilmSchool.com has an amazingly robust free call sheet available for download for Excel in both Mac and PC formats.
2. The Shot List
Just as indispensable as The Call Sheet, The Shot List is the roadmap for the day’s shoot. The Shot List can contain elements such as scene number, shot number, take number, shot size, movement, gear, location, and more! FilmSourcing.com has a great free Advanced Shot List template available for download. The only trick here is that it is in Google Docs format. However, you can easily export the template from Google Docs to MS Excel, and it works just fine.
3. The Production Schedule
For the big picture (e.g. a 20,000-foot view of the entire project), you need a production schedule to keep all of the balls that are in the air on track from pre-production, principle photography, post-production, editing, distribution, and more. Screen HI, a Scottish film production company, has a really great free and easy-to-use Excel template (buried deep in their blog site) that is highly customizable to suit your project’s needs.
4. The Production Budget
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but it bears repeating: no money, no film/TV/webisode project. Most indie productions are run on a very tight budget, whether the funds came from private or angel investors, relatively small or local producers/studios, Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns, or from one’s own personal bank account. Keeping track of every last cent is vitally important to successfully pulling off a production. Fortunately, HowToFilmSchool.com has a really simple one that’s free to use.
Follow the link above to the page and scroll down to the bottom for the Basic Sample Excel template. Also on the same page are a lot of other helpful templates in Word, Excel, and PDF formats for things such as Script Breakdown Sheet, Expense Reports, and Personal Release forms (to mitigate all the legalities of using non-union talent).
The final entry into this list is the Storyboard template. This is a vital creative tool by the production’s director to hand draw an illustrated version of the script and to build a shot-for-shot framework for the director of photography to follow. After a long exhaustive search, it would appear that free storyboard templates only come in either PDF, Word, or PowerPoint formats. However, you do not need an Excel template to create a storyboard sheet. All you need is some basic skill in Excel making a few large cells with borders and some lines underneath for notes. Observe an example below.
Most likely you’re going to print this sheet out anyway and start drawing your shots on it.
However, if you really want to work within the electronic document, here are a few in various formats other than Excel.
And for the really adventurous storyboarder, here’s a link to StoryBoardThat.com. This a full-featured online storyboarding program that utilizes lots of detailed illustrations and drawing tools to create elaborate storyboards for your production. You will need an account with StoryBoardThat.com, and it only offers a free trial; after that, you have to pay.
In conclusion, Microsoft Excel (along with the rest of MS Office) can be a powerful tool not just for businesses but also for creative professionals such as filmmakers and writers. The Internet is replete with amazingly simple templates for burgeoning indie film productions, local cable access network shows, and online video-streaming webisodes that do not require expensive and proprietary software to make your visual media dreams come true!