Creating an Effective Shot List for Your Film

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Creating an effective Shot List for Your Film

One of the most important directorial skills is Shot Listing / Storyboarding.
The main purpose of shots, are to cover the scene, so as the editor and the director can create a complete edited scene in postproduction.  When starting out or when you are inexperienced at shot-listing, it can be a daunting task.

Here are some tips for Shot listing.

First Choice: If the set is available, always go on set when creating your shot list.

Second Choice: If this is not an option, make sure you have some photos of the set and use them.

Third Choice: Arrive two hours before shooting to the set and make your shot list and plans then. Preparing your Shot list and Plan in advance of the shoot on set is by far the best option.

You will have time to prepare two very important tasks.

  1. Blocking, this is the movement of the actors on set.
  2. Shot Coverage -The List of shots that are needed to cover the scene.

You have to plan both.

Please see Video Below. When I shot this scene, it was in Week Six of the shoot. I did not have a chance to do a location reconnaissance in advance of the shoot. As this scene was a night shoot, I arrived two hours before our call time and made my plan.

As you can see in the video, the actors had considerable movement in the sequence with some stunts and multiple shots. I planned all of it in about one hour. When one practices their directorial craft, the planning comes easy, just like driving a car. Every scene requires different planning different blocking and different shot coverage. As a Director you need to have studied the script and know the content of the scene to be shot, intimately.

When you arrive at the set study the lay of the land and then start to plan the actor movement (blocking) and Shot listing. I start with the actor movement (blocking) first. Once I have planned the movement and recorded it on paper vis sketch figures, I then write down the shot-list.

This is a regular coverage for a scene. I call it the Golden Four. if you have this coverage, you will have great shots to edit with in postproduction. 

  • Start with the Wide Shots First. Wide Shots are your chance to created beautiful composed shots. A wide shot should show the whole scene and have great composition. These days I generally like to get the reverse Wide Shot as well which is shot from the reverse side.
    This is the single biggest mistake I see with beginners and inexperienced filmmakers. They fail to get wide shots or effective wide shots.
  • Move the Medium Shots Second. This can be your basic Two Shot. Often the two shot is the so called wide shot that filmmakers get and often the only shot a soap drama show or sitcom might get.
  • Move to your Close Ups. These are your over the Shoulders or Medium Close ups or Big Close Ups.
  • Cutaways or inserts. These are close up shots of something happening away from the actors talking. Maybe the actor is pulling a file from the filing cabinet as in the video attached. Or they could be placing their cup of coffee on the table. Your scene will tell you what cutaways are needed.

This is  a major part of Film Directing and you can see some of this in the second video attached from my most recent film Tabernacle 101. The best way to learn all of the above is on a really good film course such as the one we have in Sydney and Melbourne.  After that it is practice and more practice on your film shoots.

I have seen cases of inexperienced film directors struggling on Day One of their shoot with blocking and shot-listing. Then on Week 4 of their shoot, it comes so easy as they have practiced every day and are now finding it second nature.You can learn a lot from editing, and we have the Online Editing Course

You will have original footage where you can learn to edit a film and learn the process in less than 10 days doing about one hour per day. Shot listing is a great skill to learn but in the end the only way to get good at is is practice and more practice on your short of feature films.

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Colm O'Murchu - Host

Colm O’Murchu is a passionate Indie Filmmaker and owner of the production company, International Film Base. He has directed and produced three successfully released feature films worldwide and one documentary.  

His most recent film Tabernacle 101 has been released in 2019 in the US and will be released in Australia in late 2020 premiering at the Sci Fi Film Festival. He is currently in development on his next feature film Absolute Freedom, an action adventure film set in the outback.

He has spoken at Indie Film Seminars all over the world and created online and offline film courses 

 He lives in the Blue Mountains NSW Australia and loves the outdoors and the mountains.

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