THE IMPORTANCE OF A SHOT LIST
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
With my first few days of filming scheduled for “What About Molly?”, I’ve begun to really break down the scenes, ensuring I know them inside and out. I read through each one slowly and try to visualize the shots in my head. I want to see the whole thing play out, pacing and all, then identify how I would capture each moment in camera.
Some scenes come easier than others. In a simple two person dialogue scene, I know exactly what I’m going to do. One wide shot, two close ups. That ensures I have what I need, then I can try to get a little fancy and do something different if I so choose. But, on other scenes, I see things play out really differently.
I love a good long take in a film. No cutting, just let the camera roll and your actors make magic happen. It’s impressive to me when it’s done correctly and effectively. I obviously don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it.
So, there I was working through my shot list for a specific scene, last week, when I stumbled upon the idea to do a long take. Problem is, I couldn’t fully tell how I wanted to do it. Not really an issue as I had the bare bones idea in my head, but the problem is, I didn’t want to waste valuable time on set trying to figure it out. I wanted to work through the issues now to find a solution to my problems. That’s when I called in some reinforcements to assist. A quick text was sent and the stars of our film gladly stopped by to lend a hand and I’m glad they did.
CHIARA AND CHELSEE TO THE RESCUE
Upon arrival and after exchanging some quick pleasantries, I walked the girls through the scenes I had in mind, that I couldn’t quite figure out. The first scene we tackled is actually a really simple setup with just Chiara(Molly) sitting at a table, alone. Obviously not a difficult shot to get, until I decided I wanted to add camera movement to make it more interesting.
We discussed the blocking, spoke a little on pacing and worked through the scene together. What did we learn? That I’m over complicating things, at least that’s the conclusion we came to. I was trying to move the camera just for the sake of moving the camera. I really had no reason to do so. Let the scene be what it is, play out and move on. You don’t need to get overly fancy. I’m glad we took time to discuss so we could close out this item and move to the next one, the slap in the face.
Sean - “Okay, we need to rehearse the slap in the face now so I can figure out the most effective way to shoot it on this anamorphic lens.”
Chelsee - “I’ll just hit her in the face”
Although I love the enthusiasm and willingness to do what it takes, Chelsee(Charlene) is a goddamn wildcard, to say the least. Also staying true to form, Chiara happily agrees with the extremely realistic approach.
Since I can’t have my actors on set, slapping the shit out of each other over and over again, we needed to find a realistic way of shooting with an anamorphic lens. The way I’ve shot something like this in the past was with a long lens, like a 50mm. This makes the actors look MUCH closer than they really are, adding realism to the shot. Not the case with anamorphic.
With a few tries and some creative blocking, I think we found something that may work. The test is below. I took the liberty of cutting it with some music and SFX for your enjoyment. Side note, nowhere in the script does it say to please deliver the double middle fingers upon slapping your co-star...Oh Chelsee...we’re going to have a lot of fun with this project, I can tell.
The final scene we walked through is one where Chelsee storms into someone's home(I can’t give y’all too much), bringing the fire with her as she does. I want to shoot this in ONE long continuous shot with both character and camera movements. In setting up this shot, we learned a few things.
We walked through the blocking and we could all really see this thing start to come together, the scene is going to play great. Once blocked, we walked through the movements and that's where I learned a few things. Number one, where I thought I was going to put the camera was in fact, not correct. Next, sound is going to be difficult to capture with a single boom mic. Lastly, Sean doesn’t know how to work a gimbal very well. All problems I would go on to solve...I think.
I can’t stress enough how important this process is. When you generate your shot list, you get a chance to really think about the scene from the audience's point of view. You make decisions on how things are going to play out and more importantly, you figure out if something isn’t going to work.
Once the girls left, I was able to finalize my shot list for the scenes we worked through. Now I can show up on set, have a plan and shoot with confidence. We can capture what I NEED to get(everything on the list) and then have some fun and try a few new things if we so desire.
ALWAYS CREATE A SHOT LIST!