Shot lists are a very helpful tool to help you organize your production, clarify what needs to be done and keep track of the shooting on location.
Unfortunately we often wind up with really bad paper napkin scribble shot lists, as we have again not found the time to meet and set this up properly, so we do it in the car during travel to location…
Still, a badly scribbled shot list is better than none. But don’t get stuck with what is on paper – we often need to let go of our planning and just be flexible when it comes to shooting. It is the same as with most skills – learn it, prepare and then let go of it.
Here is a basic set up – just make a tab with 3 or more columns, depending on your needs:
1. Shot number
2. Location [Lake Albert, waters edge]
3. Scene description [experts enters water, close up, focus pull]
4. Crew / camera operator [great for bigger project to track who did what and when]
5. Take number / notes [annotate good or bad takes, brilliant resource when it comes to review and edit]
Make sure to include a few essential items as standards: athmo per location [as environmental sounds are different in each location], identifiers [wide shots of landmarks etc that can help set a scene], cut away and reaction shots [you never can have enough of those, we need to see emotions on [peoples faces and important details of activities] and travel shots [yes this sounds boring, but they are essential to give breath to your story, allow for time passing and literally travelling through your narrative].
Ideally you set your list up in a spreadsheet or word document to print or use on a tablet / smart phone, but even a hand-written list would do.
The biggest benefit we found is that when we get tired during a long production out on country, you have a fall back: Have we covered everything? Do we have a cut away of his hands opening the fish trap?
Carry a clipboard or tablet computer, so you can take notes and tick shots off as you go.
Download spreadsheet template here
‘Pre-Production’ is where you start to devise some more of the specifics about your project. No longer in the world of amorphous maybes, or will we/won’t we type discussions, pre-production is your chance to start planning and getting your ideas down on paper.