NBF 001: To Shot List or Not To Shot List

Avatar Cinema Summit | May 13, 2018

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No-Budget Filmmaking: Episode 1

Welcome to the debut episode of No-Budget Filmmaking with your hosts, Alex Darke and Trevor L. Nelson! In this episode, Alex and Trevor answer the age-old question, do you shot list or do you not shot list? Spoiler alert, it depends on the situation! They ponder if shot lists actually restrict a filmmaker and discuss how strictly we follow their own detailed, highly professional shot lists. They also talk about what they think is new and cool in the world of filmmaking.


Do We Shot List?

We like to have shot lists as a communication tool for the crew and other people on-set who might need it, even if it's just used as a tool to let you know what the trajectory of the day is.

It can speed up the production and give you a general idea of what you want to do, but you don't need to stick to it to the T.

Digital projects we have worked on tend to be pretty disorganized and lacking communication and planning time, so being able to pull a shot list out of your pocket to see what is next can help you power through the day a little bit faster.

Sometimes on shoots, you don't have the luxury of multiple planning days in pre-production. But even creating a list of shots that you've completed during the day can help you look back and say, "Did I get the shots I need for the edit?" and use it as a checklist.

When you work with the same crew over and over, you start to create communication shorthand and you may not even need a shot list, but it's especially helpful for those times when you are working with people you've never worked with before.

In standard coverage situations, you can use the shot list as a way to write down "dream shots" that you want to get if you happen to have time.

What do you use to shot list?

Google Docs is easy to share. But Trevor likes to use a little notebook in his back pocket to write down notes and create a shot list. Trevor likes writing things on paper, and then he can transcribe it into Google Docs to share or take a picture and share it with the crew.

Alex has tried using Apps for shot listing - Shotlister and Shot Designer.

Shot Designer does overhead camera and lighting diagrams along with creating a shot list, which can be even more helpful for the crew because you end up planning camera blocking and lighting at the same time.

What's Your First Step When Selecting Shots?

Trevor likes to meet with the DP to get on the same page. Also, he reads the script multiple times. The first time, he reads it for tone and content, and the second time is when he starts to select his shots.

Alex needs to be past the location scout aspect before he can shot list because on these No-Budget/Low Budget projects, you often have to work within certain restrictions set forth by the locations.

But, sometimes there is no location scout! It seems like something that would be mandatory, but on several shoots we have done, we haven't had the opportunity to see the location ahead of time. We may get some pictures, or go in without any prep when it comes to the actual location.

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