I come from a school of filmmakers – literally; I went to school for filmmaking.
I started from the ground up; I hadn’t even picked up a video camera until the spring of my freshman year at college. I soaked up a lot of information, and asked other students if they could teach me their skills, such as exporting and compression, which are humorously things we were never taught in my film classes. (I say “humorously” because one of my teachers even laughed when we asked her about it.)
I expected no less than to understand every aspect of a film production by the time I graduated with my four-year degree, including pre-production skills such as creating and using shot lists, call sheets, and other templates to organize a film shoot. However, ‘film and video’ at MassArt focused on equipment use, art films, installations and gallery shows – a lot of the pre-production information about organizing a shoot came second. (How they expected you to get to the creation portion of a piece is, then, beyond me – and probably why so many seniors had incomplete thesis’.)
I may have created 40+ short films, narrative, installation and art, but, in fact, pre-production and marketing classes were new upon my graduation. So, I tried to research online.
I recently worked on a film that was very disorganized, despite the fact that I had given a folder of templates to the producer so the pre-production would be successful. Thorough pre-planning and pre-production leads to a successful production, and streamlined post-production, or editing. However, the crew did not use the templates, and it was a hectic shoot.
I’m definitely no expert, but I do know that if you just take the time, anyone can figure out how to make a logical shot list that covers the script, facilitates smooth camera work, and assists the editor.
If you’re interested in a sample, I’ve tweaked a portion of the production shot list I created for a short vampire film - a production that may have started a bit behind schedule due to weather and last-minute location change, but ended on time with the help of some great, pre-production planning!
After reviewing these production templates, take a look at this numbered ‘order of operations,’ an example of steps taken during the vampire shoot pre-production process:
1. As producer, project manager and director of the film, I first sat down with the Director of Photography (D.P.) and created an entire shot list in the proper order of the script’s story, utilizing overlapping shots for coverage. This is the first ‘shot number’ column you see, and is the ‘original order’ of the script for editing purposes.
2. We then created a second, separate document and re-arranged each scene and each shot for filming, and this is when the second ‘shot number’ column comes into play. We base this ‘shooting order’ on our shooting schedule, cast/crew and location availability, and hair/make-up/costume changes. The ‘editing order’ column will now be a jumble in this second document, because we are more concerned with getting the shot in the most efficient way for filming – accommodating the existing lighting, hair and make-up, etc.
3. And with any production, shots (and the script) will change here and there throughout the shoot. After the shoot of ‘Amor Sangre’ I took all of our production notes, and used these notes to revise the original ‘editing order’ shot list; now that the production has ended and the film has been shot, the ‘editing order shotlist’ comes into play; I need it to match our production footage so the editor understands what’s going on and allows for smoother editing.
4. I also created a ‘take #’ column with our favorite take numbers per shot.
You just have to get organized, and you can surely figure out how to make a successful template for your shoot, with a call sheet and shot list. It may take some time to sit down and work through pre-production, but it will save you time, energy and stress upon filming and editing. It also saves actors stress, and therefore they’ll be on their A-game. A call sheet also ensures you don’t accidentally gloss-over a scene or two!
Note: There are a number of shot list and call sheet templates online, and these are just my own examples.
I hope this was helpful, interesting, or something in some way!
Feel free to let me know what you think!