Checklists are a great way to make sure the creative flow doesn’t hinder what needs to get done on a film set. A Shot List is one such list you can use. The Shot List incorporates some of the same characteristics of some of the other items in this series.

What is a Shot List?

A Shot List details what shots are needed for the film. Combined with the storyboards and technical storyboards, a Shot List helps to ensure you have complete coverage for each scene.

In the storyboard, it’s hard to convey movement, and the technical storyboard doesn’t tell you the type of shot you’ll be filming. The Shot List is easier to carry around set with you if you choose to only use one of the three on set. I recommend having at least one with you.

Why is a Shot List important?

A Shot List has a description of all the shots you planned to get for the film. In the moment, shots can get forgotten, and when you get to the editing process, you realize you forgot to show your lead actor’s face at all. Not good. A Shot List helps.

Who is involved with a Shot List?

The director and the head of camera department (cinematographer, director of photography, etc.) will probably be the only ones who see the Shot List. There may be others, like the first assistant director or the second unit director, but beyond that, there won’t be many others.

What is included in a Shot List?

For the Shot List, each shot should be listed. Use the same numbering system as the storyboards and technical storyboards. Each shot should have a description of what is being shot. Here are a few abbreviations for a shot type that can be used.

  • EWS – Extreme Wide Shot – lots of background, usually a landscape shot
  • WS – Wide shot – all of the character can be seen, with a good amount of background
  • MWS – medium wide shot – most of the character can be seen
  • MCU – medium close-up – for a person, the subject is the shoulders up, for something else, the subject takes up roughly half the screen
  • CU – close-up – for a person, you’re looking at just their face. for something else, it’s taking up most of the screen
  • ECU – extreme close-up – very close to the subject, like a character’s eyes.
  • OTS – over the shoulder – the shot looks over a character’s shoulder, and they can be seen in the shot
  • 2 shot – 2 characters, roughly in a medium shot

After the shot type, explain what is happening in the shot. Using the same sequence of shots from the technical storyboard, I’ll give you an example of a Shot List, and explain the shots.

16.2 – WS of J, S, and F

The camera is on a tripod and is set in a wide shot so Jesse, Sam, and Fred can all be seen.

16.3 – Dolly MS of J to S

The camera is set on a dolly, which is framed in a medium shot that shifts from Jesse to Sam.

16.4 – CU of S

The camera is on a tripod set up in a close-up of Sam.

16.5 – ECU of J hands

The camera is on a tripod set up in an extreme close-up of Jesse’s hands.

16.6 – MWS of F

The camera is on a tripod set up in a medium-wide shot of Fred.

16.7 – OTS-F of J in MWS

The camera is on a tripod set up in a shot over Fred’s the shoulder looking at Jesse in a medium-wide shot.

16.1 – Tracking shot OTS-F enters to MS as F sits to MWS as F leaves

The camera is following Fred as he enters the scene. When he sits, he’s framed in a medium shot. Then, he leaves, and the camera follows again, keeping him framed in a medium wide shot.

Use as much information as needed to remember what the shots are. The worst thing is to get to set and have no idea what the shot is supposed to be recording, coming from experience. Learn from my mistakes, please. You don’t need to make them as well.

Even on the day, find inspiration, and don’t be afraid to add to your Shot List.

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  • Connor Sassmannshausen is a screenwriter, video producer, and social media organizer with the Initiative Production Company. She loves watching movies, nerdy t-shirts, travelling and taking broken things apart (but not necessarily putting them back together).

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