How to Download and Use a Shot List Template
May 4, 2020
Some parts of the creative process just aren’t fun.
Every filmmaker is different — you have your own habits, quirks, and preferences. But one thing everyone struggles with is the process of production scheduling, organizing each shoot, and then making sure the cast and crew are fully prepared each step of the way.
Of course, big-budget Hollywood films have the benefit of an entire sub-industry of support personnel. Even indie films or ad agencies designate people as production assistants to help things go smoothly.
Unfortunately, if you’re on a small team (or a team of one), that might not be an option. Sometimes the only person scheduling and organizing a shoot is you. And in that case, a little bit of help can go a long way in making your job easier.
A detailed shot list can be a lifesaver. On one hand, it’s an excuse to visualize each shot. On the other hand, it makes you think through what gear you need with you if you want to get the footage you need.
But actually building a shot list can be a pain. Without the right direction, your “list” can quickly become a spider web of post-it notes and ideas.
So let’s make it easier for you: Here is a shot list template that will save you time and brainpower. And if you stick around, I’ll also walk you through the details of the template and how to use it in every project.
Tips For Using Our Shot List Template
People think of filmmakers as scatterbrained visionaries or narrow minded auteurs — either too creative to focus on an idea for more than five minutes, or too obsessed with an idea to see a broader picture.
That might work for teams that have a budget, but independent filmmakers can’t afford to waste time or money. My guess is you’re just as comfortable visualizing a shoot as you are editing it, and that’s why a shot list template is perfect for your production needs.
If you’re unfamiliar with shot lists, it’s pretty much what the name implies. This tool is a detailed chart that breaks down the specifics of what goes into filming each location, scene, and shot. (It can also serve as a schedule, with dedicated time slots to make the most of natural light.)
And when it comes to studying the key parts of our shot list template, there are a couple items that standout. Let’s break them into three categories: shot, gear, and direction.
Plan The Perfect Shot
Is there a “perfect shot”? Probably not. But when you think about your next project and how you are going to plan for each day of filming, it helps to visualize the shot you want. That way, you can break down the components of that shot and try to capture it perfectly.
Things like distance, subject, and angle all play a part in how you tell your story. They influence every other part of the shot, like movement and lighting.
You’ll also want to include basic things like the key, shot number, and the time of day/location — these details help with organization as well as determining what else you need to get the shot you want.
Bring The Proper Gear
Yes, I’m combining the “Equipment” and “Lens” columns because you would normally consider both topics at the same time. (And one technically falls into the other category, even if you should list both separately on your shot list.)
The gear you have on set will obviously determine what kind of movement you can do, how you handle lighting, and what kind of sound you’ll capture.
Similarly, your lens choice caters to the distance and angle you want, and you can be as specific as you want. In some cases, you could choose to specify a focal length.
But if you want to give yourself a little bit of flexibility on set, feel free to list a lens range and grab a couple. The same goes for your gear choices. The whole point of this template is to help you simplify things — if locking yourself into something feels like a pain, don’t do it!
Give The Right Direction
Production notes are different from the “Coverage” column, which works almost like a written storyboard for the shot. Instead, think of this slot as the place to put in any direction or ideas in your head that don’t fit anywhere else on the chart.
It can literally be a “note to self” so you can make sure that what you film matches your original vision for each shot. You might specify visual effects, lighting ideas, or sound effects.
Maybe it becomes a spot to give some talent direction or specify a mood you want to create with the shot. It could even be a place where you leave specific notes for someone else helping you on set.
Treat the production notes as an opportunity to give extra context. There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer here.
Tools That Keep You Creating
Now this list might seem a little minimalistic. After all, I’m trying to compress an entire spreadsheet into three categories. There are more details and guidelines included in the downloadable PDF we’ve made available, but the above list is a starting point.
Part of pre-production is making a plan, and that’s where resources like a shot list template make your life easier. It’s a tool that you can use on every project (whether personal or commercial), and it’s straightforward enough that you can share it with collaborators who might not know the ins and outs of filmmaking.
You have stories to tell and visions to bring to life. We don’t all get the budget, time, and resources to make our dream projects, but that doesn’t mean that every filmmaker shouldn’t have the resources to make whatever they are passionate about in that moment.
Download this template, brainstorm your next project, and see just how much easier the filming process can be.