Screenplays, as well as script treatments, are well known as the foundation for any movie. People in the industry also know that there are so many screenplays out in the wild that have not been produced. But what about those that are chosen for production? Well, they evolve to become shooting scripts. What is a shooting script, you ask? If you’ve been on the internet researching scripts for famous movies, it’s possible you have already seen one.

There is a fine line that exists between what is a regular screenplay and what is a shooting script. We’re going to make sure you have a strong understanding of what a shooting script is, including the main characteristics of one, by providing a definition, plus plenty of examples.

What is a Shooting Script in Film?

First, let’s define shooting script

A shooting script transforms a screenplay from a story into the blueprint for a film production. How is it done? Well, directors and cinematographers usually get together, sometimes with the screenwriter, and mark up the script with tons of notes. They add camera directions, fades, and other technical details that eventually add up to something between the original screenplay and a shot list. For more on how this is done, check out our video below:

How to do a Shooting Script  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Although we focused on using StudioBinder’s shot list software for this example, know that there are other tools available for creating a full-fledged shooting script. When planning your shooting script, consider starting with a script breakdown to tag props, wardrobe, and characters. For shooting scripts, and most all things film production, the more organized you are, the better off you’ll end up being. 

SHOOTING SCRIPT DEFINITION

What is a Shooting Script?

A Shooting Script is the version of a screenplay that is used during the making of the movie the script is based on. The original screenwriter often has no involvement with a shooting script, as the director and others create it to suit their filming needs. An easy way to look at a shooting script is that it’s a heavily annotated version of the screenplay made to better assist the filmmakers during production.

Shooting Script characteristics:

  • Including scene numbers, along with page numbers.
  • Listing the amount of revisions the script has, and which version of the script is being used.
  • Providing necessary information for the filmmakers, such as props (often capitalized), camera directions (such as “CU on Character”), and actions (“Character tenderly consoles puppy”).

Shooting Script Examples

How to write a shooting script

Shooting scripts are revised constantly throughout stages of production. Here is the official guide to revision colors, via the Writers Guild:

Writers Guild Revision Colors, Ordered
  1. White

  2. Blue

  3. Pink

  4. Yellow

  5. Green

  6. Goldenrod

  7. Buff

  8. Salmon

  9. Cherry

  10.  Second Blue Revision

  11. Second Pink Revision, etc.

There are many software services for creating your own shooting script template, and StudioBinder is among them. We’ll be mentioning our software here and there throughout this article, but before that, check out the quick video below for a demonstration.

What is a Shooting Script in Film?  •  Subscribe on YouTube

One notable thing about shooting scripts are the revisions that might inevitably happen. Screenplays can come with multiple revisions, and those revisions will have a color associated. Call it a standardization of the process, but there are specific colors often brought up, some of which we will come across in our examples.

Shooting Script Example

Shooting script vs. screenplay

There are a myriad of technical differences between shooting scripts and screenplays, but ultimately, the most important difference is a philosophical one -- ask yourself: what am I going to do with this script? If your answer is: I’m going to try to sell this script, then you’re going to want to check out the video below:

How to Mark a Script for Shooting  •  Shooting Script vs. Spec Script by Word Dancer - How to Write a Screenplay

It’s important to know what you plan on doing with your script before you start writing it, because going back and editing in or editing out can cause a major headache. If you plan on directing the film too, then feel free to write in the shot order, camera zooms, etc. A lot of the most famous contemporary directors, like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Christopher Nolan, write scripts too. But it’s important to remember that many writers/directors are auteurs, and it’s not a good idea to try and replicate the attitude of somebody like Stanley Kubrick when looking for work. By sticking to screenplay format, and letting the production team create shot lists and a shooting script, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time and energy.

Up Next

Understanding Script Coverage

Now that you have an idea of what a shooting script is and how to put one together, make sure you also know what script coverage is. This article will cover what to expect when dealing with script coverage, along with a template you can use for your scripts. It’s just one of many processes that goes into presenting your screenplay to potential buyers.

Up Next: Understanding Script Coverage →
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  • Rafael Abreu received his B.A. in English from Florida International University, along with certificates in Film Studies and Asian Studies. He’s written reviews, scripts, and analytical essays focusing on all aspects of cinema. He can’t stop talking about aspect ratios.

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