THE QUESTION IS:
I just finished a 6-month course on filmmaking, and I have to shoot a short film. I have quiet a hard time coming up with a shot list, please help me on this. How can I come up with a shot? I really want to do it myself and be bold to say I did this… – Peter
Hi Peter, thanks for your question. I hope the following article will help out you, as well as anyone else interested in learning more about the shot list. Since not everyone may understand what you are asking, let’s take a few steps back and tackle this from the beginning.
If you haven’t done so already, go a head and read the following material:
Now without further ado:
What is a shot list: Definition & Purpose
A shot list is a document that lists and describes the shots to be filmed during principal photography. There isn’t a set format for the shot list, but here’s one way you can do it:
As you can see above, each shot receives a unique number, starting with #1. Two shots cannot have the same number, or else that would be confusing.
Also note that the shots are not in order of filming. This comes later on in the process and becomes a document known as the shooting schedule.
When filling in each row in the shot list, it’s important to take into consideration the following elements:
- Characters in the shot
- Type of shot
- Camera movement
- Major actions
- Important objects
You can download a template here.
How to create a shot list
The shot list is primarily a collaboration between director and cinematographer, as they brainstorm and decide the best way to tell the story visually.
One thing that makes creating the shot list easier is a story board. In case you don’t know, the story board is a collection of images that showcases the angle and type of every shot, as well as which characters and objects are in the frame. Here’s one that I hope you will recognize:
The storyboard is important because it allows the director and cinematographer to visualize the shot and agree on where the camera goes. Once you have that agreement, you can look at the storyboard in front of you and easily create the shot list from it. In this sense, the storyboard is way more complicated and time-consuming than the shot list.
Here’s another kind of storyboard. This one has less emphasis in the illustration but more text. You can see the scene number, background information, as well as a bit of description regarding the action and dialogue:
(Download story board template here.)
During this stage of pre-production, it is also a good idea to create a lined script, which I’m gonna include here because it too helps with the shot list. Much like the shooting schedule ensures that every shot is captured on the set, the lined script ensures that every action and dialogue of the scene is covered somewhere in the shot list.
This is what the lined script looks like:
Each line represents an individual shot. So you see, as long every dialogue or action of the script has at least one line across it, that means nothing will be neglected. And because you used the storyboard to make sure that the shots are visually coherent, then you are in good shape, and you should start to feel that the movie is finally coming together.
Once the shot list is completed, the next step would be the shooting schedule, which must be completed before principal photography starts. The Assistant Director and Line Producer are in charge of the shooting schedule. It is at this point that they will take into consideration the location agreement, budget, time restrictions, weather, complexity of shots, actors availability, etc. to create an organized and efficient shooting schedule. But this is topic for another day.
Thank you again for the question, Peter. A few final suggestions and reminders:
- Don’t do it alone. Make sure your cinematographer is part of the process. A shot list is a very important document that you both have to agree before filming. If disagreements happen on set, there’s a very realistic chance that your whole production will fall apart.
- Definitely take advantage of a storyboard and lined script. You wanna make sure that your film is visually coherent and that every action or dialogue is included in at least one shot.
- Do not wait till the last moment. A shot list is one of the key parts of pre-production. It is important that you allow time for the shots to ferment in your brain so that you can modify them if necessary, as well as inspire you before filming commences.
For questions or discussions, feel free to use the comment section below this post.