So you’ve finished the script, you found you cast your actors and crew, and you are good to start shooting, right? No! There is one more important stage to take before you go out to shoot, and that is creating a shooting script.
The shooting script is the filmmaker’s way to communicate well with the other departments of his production about how the film will look. It helps the director to break down the screenplay into shots, so one can say it is another draft of the script written by the director or the film on paper. Using a shooting script before shooting will save time and money, and if your shooting script is detailed enough, there will be fewer chances to make mistakes that may crash your film. Usually, it is the director and the cinematographer that write the shooting script.
The screenplay’s purpose is to tell the story. The shooting script is about how to tell the story while taking the production needs into consideration. This is why the order of the scenes in the shooting script won’t follow the order of the chronological order of the story. In most cases, the order of the scenes will follow the locations. If we have to shoot a few scenes in the same park, we will shoot them all on the same day, even if it’s snot the chronologic order of the story.
There are many shooting scripts templates and shooting script examples on the internet. but basically, the shooting script is a table with details about the shots. It should contain these details:
If there are camera movements, write them down too. It would help if you also wrote the dialogues in each shot and special sound effects that are important for the scene. If the rhythm of the scene is essential (like in most action scenes, for example), then write down each shot’s timing. The shooting script and the movie script needs to be aligned all the time – especially the scene numbers.
When you start working on your shooting script, I recommend using the storyboard (more on that later in this article) and floor plan. So what does a shooting script look like? Here is an example. Before working on the shooting script, make sure the movie script is in the correct format. It is crucial! If the script is not formatted the right way, you are working with a broken tool. You can read my post on the film script format to learn more about the subject, but for now, the most crucial element is to give a number to each scene.
It is a vital tool to deliver your director’s vision to the crew as good as you can. Therefore the shots you write in the shooting script will define the scene. Reread the script, and this time, think about the general atmosphere of the script. Don’t go into too many details at this point; think about the general atmosphere. Your next step will be to decide how to get that atmosphere from your shots. I recommend reading my post on the director’s vision to understand how to do this.
When writing the shooting script, you should think about three main aspects:
The plot thickens when we talk about a documentary film. I advise you to always come prepper for shooting even in documentary films. On a shooting day, you know what are you going to shoot and where it’s going to happen. You probably also know some of the characters you’ll shoot, so prepare what you know. In your documentary shooting script, you can write the coverage you will take, how are you going to shoot the interviews, In a documentary, the shooting script table can be simpler. All you need are two-column:
If you want, you can add a column with a storyboard of the shot.
I feel that talking about shooting script without mentioning the storyboard will be wrong, so I want to dedicate a few words.
So what is a storyboard?
A film storyboard is a pre-production tool that is a must tool for every film director. As the director of the film, you are in charge of everything that gets in the frame, and a storyboard is a tool that helps you deliver your director’s vision to the rest of the crew members. You can see the film storyboard as a transition tool between your script to the film. It is also a tool that helps the production of actor blocking and camera setups.
The great advantage of the storyboard is that it makes you think visually, which is what filmmaking is all about. The storyboard is a series of pictures representing a shot in the film. It looks kind of like a comic book. It describes the shots that are going to be shot by illustrations of how the movie frame will look like.
Some beginner directors fear the storyboard stage, but you’ll learn to develop your visual thinking very quickly with time and practice.
The storyboard drawing is also an excellent chance to try things. If you can draw well or are using a storyboard artist and are unsure about a few shots, you can ask the storyboard artist to try different shots until you find the one you’ll like.
The most important tip I can give you about drawing a storyboard is to plan it carefully in your mind before you start the drawing. Know what you want to see before taking it out to the storyboard.
Your next step will be to write a shooting script. The shooting script is a list of all the shots in every scene. You can start the work on the storyboard only after deciding which shots and camera angles are required to express your interpretation of the movie script.
Well, you don’t have to, but it will help. You don’t have to be a sketch artist, but if you learn the basic rules of drawing, like thirds, drawing basic figures, and basic rules of perspective, you’ll be okay.
You can use some excellent storyboard software, so I recommend checking it up.
Most of the time, the details you’ll need will write are:
It depends on the kind of film and scenes you are drawing. In dialogue scenes, you usually won’t need to go into in-depth details, but in action scenes, more information will be required, like the length of every shot and sometimes even how fast the object in the shot will move around the frame.
There are three details you need to have with each picture:
It is a good idea to take pictures of your locations before you start drawing, and if you are using a storyboard artist, you can even take him to the location site.