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How to Create a Shot List

By Starr Kang ; Updated September 15, 2017
By creating a shot list, you'll know exactly what shots you need.

By creating a shot list, your entire production runs more efficiently because everything gets shot based on the location and setup, as opposed to the order scenes appear in the script. A shot list is similar to a storyboard because it identifies what’s being shot. A shot list can be easily distributed to cast and crew and gets the director, cinematographer and the rest of the crew on the same page, especially when shooting the scenes that haven’t been storyboarded.

Read the script and take notes on how you envision shots. Write down the shot number next to each separate shot you envision. You'll have more shots than scenes when you're finished.

Create a spreadsheet on your computer. Create separate columns for the shot number, scene number, shot type and shot description. You can add additional columns for further information that will help you, including actors involved, equipment needed, or specific camera movements.

Type the shot numbers vertically down the first column, one per row, making a separate row for each number. If you have 85 shots, you’ll have 85 numbered rows plus the heading row. Some spreadsheet programs have a feature that lets you automatically populate the numbers in order, which makes this a quicker process.

Input the correct scene number in second column beneath the heading “scene number.” You’ll need to look at your script as you do this, so you’ll know the scene number with which each shot corresponds. Once you’re finished, there should be a scene number next to every shot number.

Write the shot type in the third column beside the scene number. Shot types can be abbreviated using standard shot abbreviations, provided you and your director of photography (DP) are both familiar with conventional terminology. Identify every single shot number with a shot type because you’ll be reordering your list later.

Envision the scene being performed and write a description based on this. Be accurate and precise in describing how you visualize the action. For example, “He walks into the room” doesn’t describe whether he’s walking in from the left or right, and although you picture him moving left to right, the DP may set up the shot as if the character were moving right to left.

Arrange the shots into groups based on the order you plan to shoot. This will take some time and thought because you need to group shots based on location and the actors appearing in each shot to minimize setups and prevent people from waiting around for their scenes. You may need to refer frequently to your script and descriptions to complete this step.

Show the shot list to your director of photography and see if she has any suggestions to add. You may plan for a certain shot and then learn from the DP that there's a more efficient way to shoot it. The DP will also be able to identify any descriptions that aren’t clear, so he can plan the setup prior to the shoot.

Revise your shot list based on any input you receive. Once it’s complete, print your shot list and distribute it to cast and crew.

Tip

Strive for accuracy and clarity. Many people are going to use your shot list as a reference point, so use standard terminology and precise language to avoid confusion.

Warning

Don't plan your shot list based on the final edit. For example, if you're filming a scene between two characters, you may need to shoot the entire exchange three times: as a two-shot and as a medium shot on each character. Collaborate with the editor in post-production to determine where to cut between the different takes.