So you want to get into the filmmaking or photography biz. You're looking to see yourself together with the likes of Annie Leibovitz or David Lynch. Or maybe you're seeking to create masterpieces that genuinely moves people.
I can understand that! I can relate to that! The question is, how are you planning to do that?
That's where a shot list comes in handy. While there are many steps to be taken when creating a film, one of the crucial steps – is making a shot list.
So, what is a shot list? Why are they so crucial to make? And how do you even create a shot list? That's precisely the type of questions that we'll be answering now.
What's a shot list?
Let's start clarifying: What is a shot list?
A shot list is an organized list of shots that sequence together and becomes a scene. Think of it as a detailed checklist that gives your film a sense of direction and preparedness for the film crew.
It's usually the director and cinematographer who fills out the shot list in collaboration with the first assistant director. The cinematographer will walk through the specific shots and what there's needed to capture them. Simultaneously, the first assistant director will advise on what's feasible given the schedule, crew, location and budget.
Shot lists are especially essential in managing and preparing for film scenes. Making a movie demands knowledge of shot type, camera movement, lighting, actor staging, and much more. Putting all this information down in a shot list helps you remember what you want and how everyone involved in the filmmaking process should execute it.
Why do I need a shot list?
Creating a shot list is a vital ingredient, no matter how small or large your production is. A shot list helps everyone stay on the same page and helps to keep the project on track.
A shot list helps you gain a better overview of the overall budget and schedule. And so, having a thoroughly prepared shot list can prevent costly reshoots and save you a lot of trouble.
Taking the time to plan your shot list will save you a lot of time during the production phase. And different departments can work independently from each other.
What should a shot list include?
Every director manages their shot lists differently; however, they should all typically include:
- Brief description of shot- action, characters: Tells everything that's happening in the shot, so that everyone's on the same page
- Scene number and shot number: Depending on your preference, you might want to reset the shot number for every new setup
- Shot size: Close-up, master shot, etc.
- Camera angle: Eye-level, high-angel, low angel, etc.
- Camera movement: Static, tilting, panning or tracking, etc.
- Camera equipment: Steadicams, dollies, gimbals, etc.
- Lens choice: The camera lens used to capture the shot
- Framing: Aspect ratio
- Location: Where the shot is captured
- Setup times: For example, changing a lengthy crane shot for one on a raised tripod
- Audio notes or prop mentions: Boom, lavs, voiceover, etc.
- Extra notes: Remaining notes on what the director wants to convey to the crew about the specific shot
How to make a shot List?
Let's talk about all the nitty-gritty details of what considerations you need to make when creating a shot list.
Create your shot list in a spreadsheet, as it helps you organize and rearrange the details of what's required for every shot. When anyone from the film crew looks at the shot list, they should see exactly what each scene needs, understand the director's vision and plan on how they can achieve it.
Remember, the more specific you can be, the better.
5 easy steps to create a shot list
1. Organize your shots based on location.
Grouping similar shots make it easier to shoot because you can film everything you need at one given time. Even though that means you might not be shooting in order of your storyboard, it makes filming much more convenient and even faster.
2. Decide what each shot should include
Break down how you want to capture every individual shot in the scene one by one. Use your knowledge on what different shot sizes, camera angles, camera movements, framing, etc., will do for your shot. Let that decide how you want to capture each shot to bring the story to life. Fill in the columns on the spreadsheet accordingly.
3. Assign each shot a unique number
Give each of the shots a unique number, starting with 1. Every time you start a new shot, create a new row in the spreadsheet. It's important to note that the shot list doesn't have to follow a sequential order. If you want to use a crane at the start of the film and the end, consider filming those two scenes right after each other. In that way, you save some precious setup time.
4. Let each scene have it own shot list
Make sure you assign every part of a scene its own shot.
5. Use images to visualize the scene
Draw rough sketches or a storyboard of your shot list to better visualize how it will come to life and tweak later as needed.
Going beyond the shot list
While your shot list serves as your detailed guide, every film needs some breathing space. When it comes to the editing part of the production, you may also discover that the scene needs to show the passage of time, evoke a space, or simply transition between locations. To make that happen, plan to collect a bank of images that don't necessarily fall under your shot list but could potentially come in handy and provide more options during editing.