How to Create a Camera Shot List
The shot list is a pre-production step that falls in between the script breakdown/storyboards and the actual shoot. It is a full list of all the shots you want to include in each scene with lots of detail. It is based on locations and setups, which is to say it is not based on the story timeline.
The best way to explain the process is to take a simple introductory scene from a screenplay and follow the steps involved in getting to the shot list. Our sample screenplay describes this opening scene as follows:
INT. Malibu Restaurant – Night
RICK SAMPSON (24) sits alone at a table nervously awaiting the arrival of JUNE MERRYWEATHER (24), his Bumble date.
As you can see, the screenplay provides the information on who is in the scene (Rick Sampson), the location of the scene (the interior of Malibu Restaurant) and the time of day for the scene (night). It also provides some direction for the actor playing Rick Sampson (he’s nervous as he waits for his date to show up.)
The script breakdown provides all the details involved in shooting this scene. It includes the scene number, scene name, whether it is an interior or exterior, day or night, the script page, the location name, description, cast, extras/atmosphere, props, sound effects and music, special equipment and production notes. The script breakdown for the above scene might look something like this:
SCENE 1: INT. MALIBU RESTAURANT – NIGHT.
A trendy, but sparsely occupied restaurant with booth type seating. Rick is seated with a view of the entrance and has his smartphone out.
CAST MEMBERS (1) PROPS (1) COSTUMES (8)
RICK Smartphone Hip fashion clothing for Rick and Extras
Other diners (6)
Waitress SET DRESSING (42)
Table Cloths (7)
Place Settings (14)
The preceding script breakdown lists all the props, costumes and cast for shooting this scene. Now you are ready to prepare your shot list. The best way to start is to describe all the shots you want to cover this scene. It might look something like this:
SCENE 1 – Rick seated in restaurant booth (Script Page 1, first 1/8)
WIDE: Rick is seated at booth. The booth to his right is occupied. The booth to his left is empty. Waitress is tending to customers at booth to the left of Rick
M: Rick seated at booth.
M: Waitress approaches Rick.
M: Waitress departs Rick.
M: Rick POV looking at entrance.
CU: Rick seated at booth.
CU: Rick responds to waitress
CU: Rick wiping his face with napkin.
INSERT: Closeup of Rick’s smartphone showing Bumble.
INSERT: Rick’s fingers nervously tapping on the table top.
Now you want to arrange your shots into the order in which you plan to film them. It might look something like this.
- RESTAURANT INTERIOR WIDES
- WIDE- Rick in booth. Waitress in interacting with customers in booth to the left.
- RESTAURANT INTERIOR MEDIUMS
- M- Rick in booth.
- M- Waitress approaches Rick. They interact. Rick glances at entrance.
- M- Waitress departs from Rick’s booth.
- RESTAURANT INTERIOR CU
- Rick seated at booth. He’s excited by nervous.
- Rick responds to the waitress indicating he’s waiting for someone
- Rick looks around and wipes his face with napkin.
- RESTAURANT INTERIOR INSERTS
- Rick’s fingers nervously tap on table top
- Over the shoulder shot of Rick’s smartphone which foretells June’s imminent arrival.
- RESTAURANT LOOKING AT ENTRANCE MEDIUMS
- We are looking at empty entrance to restaurant from Rick’s point of view.
As a final step you can add scene and shot numbers to each shot, along with camera angles and movement. Now you have your shot list, broken down into the shots you need to get for each day’s filming.