Creating a shot list is an invaluable tool for your production, but unexpected obstacles can arise on your film set at any time.
When is it important to rely on your plan? When is it important to be more flexible? We’re going to help you navigate through this process because knowing how to use your shot list is just as important as creating one.
SHOT LIST BENEFITS
Why make a shot list?
A shot list is one of the best tools you have available to you, and even directors who play fast and loose have spent a lifetime creating shot lists for their films and television show.
Let me ask you a few basic questions:
- Would you leave for a big road trip without a map?
- What if that road trip were a race?
- What if you were being paid to come in first place?
Your shot list sets you up for success and helps communicate your plans with the crew before you start that race.
It’s your roadmap.
“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”— D.D. Eisenhower
With the StudioBinder shot list software, you can keep everyone in the loop by sharing your list. You can collaborate from anywhere.
Your department heads know your creative and visual goals for the day.
When things don’t go according to plan, you can still use the original concepts that got you excited about your shots in the first place.
SHOT LIST GOALS
Shot lists help communicate goals
You have a specific vision for your next film.
Now you need to clearly communicate what you need with your team
Consider for a minute how the filmmaking process works. It is a collaborative effort with contributions from a number of artists, all with different points of view.
The Director and Cinematographer need to establish a visual language to communicate with one another. Both in pre-production, and on set.
A shot list can help break down any barriers. Here's what a shot list (and storyboard) in StudioBinder looks like:
By creating a shot list, the Director eliminates any confusion with respect to the vision. It’s all clearly listed in a digestible document and shared with key department heads well in advance of the shoot.
This attention to detail can clarify the feel of a scene that is required to make it effective.
Shot list: FEWER SURPRISES ON SET
Shot lists limit surprises
Efficiency in pre-production saves you a lot of time and money because your costs will balloon when you have to fix something that could have been planned ahead of time.
It also helps your production know what special equipment will be needed on set.
In StudioBinder, just go to the Special Equipment column and specify what equipment you'll need for a specific shot.
So in a nutshell, a shot list can help your production avoid complications like this.
What happens when a complication arises that isn’t so easily anticipated or avoided? Something that was unforeseeable, or dare I say, random.
For example, your lead actor, Christian Dirk Steele, is super late, and the PA who picked up the dolly was just rear-ended by an Uber.
No Christian Dirk Steele…
Fortunately, your shot list was planned out. It may have not factored in the spontaneous forces that comprise a film set, but you’ve had countless discussions with your Cinematographer (utilizing your shot list).
You also shared it with your 1st AD and UPM.
You understand the shots needed, and why they’re important.
So when the time comes, you can adapt quickly and creatively.
Who knows? Maybe the shot(s) turn out better than you expected.
Things may not have gone according to the plan…
But your planning was indispensable.
To share your shot list with specific Teammates in StudioBinder, just click Share. You can generate a "view-only" Share URL, or just invite a Teammate to make changes to your shot list.
If you invite a Teammate, they'll receive an email with a direct link to the shot list and make changes or add notes if necessary.
Shot lists inform a shooting schedule
Your 1st AD is tasked with time management and safety on set.
Their job is to keep the production moving so that you make your day.
When you create a shot list, and break down your coverage, your Assistant Director can create a shooting schedule that accurately allows enough time for each scene.
If your day begins to get off track, get together with your 1st AD and Cinematographer to see if you can adjust your shooting schedule to accommodate any shots you may need over shots you’d like.
Your Script Supervisor can use your shot list to determine how much coverage each scene needs, and can keep track of it on the day so that you don’t have gaps in your edit.
To track of shots in StudioBinder, just customize the Column on your shot list to include Status. Then you can just check off all the shots you already covered, or remove shots that you don't need.
You can give your shot list and director’s notes to your editor as well to help them survey coverage, and make determinations that more accurately reflect the intended tone, pace, and look of the film.
It also helps your location manager understand shot requirements and potentially secure any additional property for the day to help make the shot happen.
When you invite a Teammate to your account in StudioBinder, they can add Comments directly on the page.
For example, if your teammate click the bubble, they'll see a threaded conversation that they can add to.
Filmmaking is a constant race against the clock and your budget. The shooting schedule is the most useful tool for planning your production.
The better the shot list, the better the shooting schedule.
SHOT LIST AS CHECKLIST
Shot lists are your daily checklist
A film set can be a hive of activity. Distractions are everywhere, so you need something to constantly remind you of what shots you have, what shots you don’t have, and what shots you need from your day.
You can make any task significantly more organized when you have a checklist. If time doesn’t allow the completion of all the shots, having the shot list helps to boil down the essential coverage needed so you can quickly re-prioritize without sacrificing the story.
Shot lists help you question your shots
There is an old adage they teach you in film school...
Never fall in love... with a shot.
The meaning behind this is simple; don’t let the beauty of an isolated moment be the tail that wags the dog.
Though your shot may stand out as a masterpiece on its own, if it doesn’t contribute to the overall narrative, it can actually disrupt the storytelling.
It’s easy to become emotionally attached to a shot that you envisioned in the pre-production phase of the project.
This is because the time and budget aren’t really a consideration yet.
But when shot listing, logistics come into the conversation. Equipment needs. Camera movements. Lighting requirements. Lens choices.
Then you start estimating the prep and shoot time for every shot.
Which adds up.
If you’re using shot listing software like StudioBinder, you can estimate prep and shoot time of every setup, and it automatically tallies your total shoot time for that setup.
That’s when you start thinking, “Do I really need that moving car shot with the car rig?” when you can just block your characters outside the car in a parking lot.
Better to think about these things during the luxury of pre-production versus the mad-dash of production.
The same concept applies on set.
What do you do when your cinematographer observes a unique angle for coverage that isn’t on the shot list?
What if your actors re-interpret the physicality of their actions on set?
What if some window light highlights some architecture in the room that brings a certain subtle beauty to the scene that wasn’t previously known?
Each of these examples is different.
If the new idea merits throwing out a setup from your shot list to get something better…
SHOT LIST EXCEPTIONS
When are shot lists unnecessary?
Efficiency and detail in the pre-production phase can save a production a lot of time and a lot of money before the actual filming begins.
On the other hand, creating too rigid a structure prior to filming may limit the new ideas and collaboration that reveal itself on the set.
There are also times when generating a shot list can actually be a misuse of your time.
The scene may not require a lot of visual razzmatazz, especially when standard wide, medium, and closeup shots will do.
Most crew members on your team will immediately understand the cinematic visual language used for this kind of scene.
In cases like these, the shot list can be short and sweet.
CREATE BETTER SHOT LISTS
A roadmap that can adapt
Shot lists are a roadmap to your creative goals.
Bottomline: when you shot list, you are more prepared for your day, and you’ve taken the time to consider exactly what it is that you hope to capture. They are a safety net and creative tool.
It isn’t enough to just make you shot list. You need to be able to get it into the hands of the other creative members of your team. You can read comments, share ideas, and build your perfect scene together.
Other times you may even want to create an extra shot list that’s strictly for your eyes only. Do it in a heartbeat by copying your shot list, and taking off any additional viewing privileges. Print it out and bring it on set too.
The Only Shot List Template You Need
Now that you understand the nuances of your shot list, you should feel comfortable enough to begin creating your next great idea.
Check out our blog post, The Only Shot List Template You Need, which gives you a step-by-step workflow for creating a shot list in a fraction of the time. We also include a professional (and FREE!) Shot List Template to plan out your next shoot.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!