Shot list… how to direct on your own (movie) v0.2

7 02 2012

The secret of making your own movie, when you don’t have experience, or big budget, expensive equipment is… to plan ahead. Simple as it seams it’s a thing that you can do!!!

You wont have to wing it on the set, looking like a total goof. Professionals know what and how to film because they learned from some fancy school or on the set … but if you couldn’t afford those “schools”, you where out of luck, in the old days. Not today, not to me!
The secret of directing is organization and preparation beforehand because from the guy with the coffee and donuts to the main lead actor, all will look up to you to know his place, when to speak(witch is a issue on a filming set), how to move, etc.

The first thing you should have is the script. Have one from the net, for learning purpose, or make one yourself. You look one that has not that long scenes, because you will work with about 5 head-scenes(at least two different locations).

  1.  Using the free scripting program Celtx, transcript the script from the pdf or whatever format you have it from the net, into Celtx, this program has feature we’ll use next.
  2.  Now for each character put an actor, probably a friend, who will play it (it also can be made with desired actors), now establish a location for the scene as suggested by the script, location you have access to or you can rent (afford) for a day or two as needed. For each scene make the breakdown using the right side panel of celtx. Write down each prop, asset, wardrobe if needed, who has to be present at each filming set, actors, camera man(probably yourself) and… the coffee guy :). Establish how much time does the scene needs (there are scene that can’t be shot in one take)
  3.  Establish how much it cost each scene. Rent, actors, props, camera(if rented), donuts and coffee
  4. Establish, in Celtx, a filming schedule, based on your own estimation of how much a scene should last. Compact scene! When filming it doesn’t need to be linear time. Example: you are at location one where scene 1 and 5 happens, if both are short you can film them on the same day, (hint: you need to have all the props needed for both scenes on the set)
  5. Using paper and pen make up a storyboard
  6. In Celtx you will have to translate the script into an A/V script(audio-video) witch is my favorite because it is a real imagination stretch. You must see each scene in your head. For camera tips reads exercise nr 2 down below, eventually look at what I have done here Shot list 1 and Two columns shot list, or google for a professional made shot-list in a big budget movie. This imagination exercises will help you with things/props should be in the scene but the writer didn’t write it down in the script.
  7. Export the shot-list made and using a free program like Blender you can “film” each scenes using free rigs, don’t animate characters though, only main controler . This is just so that you can establish for each scene camera angle, what each camera “sees”, don’t make anything realistic, use cubes and spheres, this step is for yourself as to know beforehand what to film what lenses, what distance… we can’t came up on the set with such thing do we (while the coffee guy looks at us with that “so unprofessional” look, right)?

You can manipulate how much the film cost by manipulating the location and different aspects(assets, actors pay etc) in your personal film.


Now that you know how to schedule I will propose to you another exercise where you can learn what camera(close-up, medium, wide), angle to use.

For that I myself used “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but you can use what ever movie you like, movie that has this kind of camera changes. I advise against using a jakie chan movie cause there are to many cuts and this is what you’ll have to re-create. So, take the first 15-20 minutes of the movie put it on your hard, cause this is the part we’ll work with. For each cut, transition from one angle to another, from a distance to another basically where it is a cut you cut it yourself but try and don’t loose the sense of the whole, always ask yourself why “they” made this cut here, how did they tricked me into not see the cut from wide to close up or whatever cut do you have…

At the end you’ll get the sense of what camera, lens, distance to use yourself, witch was the purpose of this exercise!!!


I hope this exercises will be helpful for your coming big career.

Explanations for camera shorty names (i get it from internet):




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