3 Steps for Creating a Great Shooting Plan

– Posted in: Directing Films and Videos Shot Lists & Planning Camera Coverage

In this post, I’m going to share a process that will help you pre-visualize camera coverage and create a great shooting plan.

For years, I struggled and was stressed on every film and video shoot.

I loved creating, but the process was exhausting and my work wasn’t great. Don’t get me wrong, my clients were happy and the short films were getting me pats on the back, but I knew I wasn’t ready for prime time.

I think we can all relate, right?

We’ve been watching big-budget films and TV shows for years and we all want our work to look like that!

I certainly did.

At first, I thought, “I just needed bigger budgets.” That was until I got bigger budgets. Sure, some things got better, but the root of the problem was still there. My eyes were always bigger than my stomach, so to speak. The only difference was now I could pay for the time I was wasting.

I was putting too much time and money into shooting coverage that didn’t add value to my movie. 

I needed to figure out how to make every camera setup worth the time and money I was investing.

Figuring it out on-set is almost impossible and incredibly stressful. It’s not about getting more coverage, it’s about getting enough of the right coverage.

And for those of you thinking what’s the big deal – “I’ll just shoot a master shot and cover the action” –  you’re doing it wrong. That’s formulaic directing and it lacks the artistic interpretation needed to take your film to the next level.

If it was easy, everyone could be a great director.

I was getting desperate. I didn’t go to film school, and most of the workshops I had taken focused on camera work, lighting and acting. I knew I was missing something.

The change came when I opened my old film books.
I devoured them. I did the exercises like I was in film school. What jumped out at me was that I wasn’t pre-visualizing and planning the way the big dogs do!

I would always have a shot-list but what they were doing was much more detailed. I resisted at first, but once I tried it, the transformation from technician to auteur began.

The process I learned, and now use on every job, consists of creating:

1. A Lined Script

Lined script showing a scene's camera coverage

2. Over-Head Shot Diagram

Overhead diagram showing camera coverage of a scene

3. Daily Shot List

Camera coverage shot list grouped by camera setup

When done right, these documents allow you time to pre-visualize and pre-direct. Yes, this is work, but it pays off big time. The plan has gone from your head to paper, and in turn, to your production team.

 

Don’t worry about being locked in, it’s only paper. You can always change your mind if you find new inspiration on-set. Add a shot, drop a shot. With this process, you’ll know the ramifications of the change.

  • Your director of photography will be in a much better position to help you manage your shots.
  • You won’t need to bounce between the creative and logic sides of your brain as often. This is where the stress lies – I know it well!!

You’ll be in the moment and that’s where art thrives!