How to Write a Shooting Script?

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.

What is 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 is going to look. It saves time and money, and if your shooting script is detailed enough, there will be fewer chances to make mistakes that may crash your film. The shooting script is the film on paper, so it is a vital tool to deliver your director’s vision to the crew as good as you can. It is also recommended to use the storyboard and floor plan. Shooting script helps the director break down the screenplay into shots, so it is another draft of the script written by the director. Therefore the shots you write in the shooting script will define the scene. 

The preparation for the shooting script

Before you start working on the shooting script, make sure the movie script is written in the right 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. Now,  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.

Writing the shooting script

When writing the shooting script, you should think about three main aspects:
  1. The camera – What is the camera distance from your subject? What is the camera position in relation to your subject? (read the Camera angels article to learn how to explain that). 
  2. The lightning – How will you use the lightning to enhance your vision
  3. Blocking of the characters – You also need to think about the frame you want to create with the camera – how much from the object and it’s actions you want to show? What do you want the audience to focus on?
When we say “the camera,” we mean camera angle shots and the type of lens you plan to use. Think about the type of shot you want for each action. I like to write it down first in the script itself since it helps me to visualize the film better. Reread the shooting script to see if something pops up to you in a weird way and if the staging in each scene is precise. Now, go through the shots again and think about what type of lens will bring you the best results.

Lighting and colors

Now it is time to think about more image techniques to create your atmosphere, so this is an excellent time to talk with your photographed director (if you haven’t done so until now) and see if he has any ideas. Your object now is to make sure that the film’s theme or premise is expressed by these shots.

Blocking of the characters

The third step is to think about the blocking of the characters. How do you want them to move within the frame? Every move they make will have a meaning, so bring some good thoughts into this.

The shooting script format

Click to see shooting scripts templates and shooting script examples to see what does a shooting script looks like. The shooting script is a table with details about the shots. It should contain these details: 
  • number of the scene, 
  • number of the shot,
  • the explanation as to who is in the shot,
  • what is happening in it,
  • time of day,
  • the particular camera needed (like Steadicam), 
  • and the location of the scene. 
  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.

Homework- write your shooting script.

Your homework is to find a screenplay (you can find many on google), choose a scene you like. It is better to find a movie scene you don’t know well and to start from it. If it is possible, find the real scene and compare the director’s choices for shots with yours.

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