The Film Shooting Schedule (with FREE template)
Let’s assume your pre-production paperwork is going really well – partly due to the awesome templates you now have to use. At this stage, you’ve broken down your script, scheduled and budgeted your shoot. Day 1 is fast approaching.
A shooting schedule is a breakdown of everything you plan to shoot for each day of your shoot – organised into the most logical and efficient order to shoot. As opposed to a schedule for the entire shoot, focusing on scenes and days, this schedule focus of shots and hours. And like the rest of this paperwork, you know that this schedule is flexible and always up for review. There’s a few resources you need first to create an effective shooting schedule.
If you prefer causing yourself more hassle and headaches, feel free to skip this step. But if you prefer your shoot to run smoothly without most surprises, please carry out a detailed location recce (short for reconnaissance) before your shoot. There are no real excuses for your lead crew to not visit the location prior to the shoot day. Yes, most locations are fairly typical and problem-free, but when that problem arises, it’s best to have the heads up from a recce.
Take a notebook, camera and map (or none of those, just bring your phone). If you haven’t already, establish who owns the location, exchange details a have them sign a Location Agreement. Each Head of Department has their own priorities for the location and a balancing act is necessary. The following is a good starting checklist of what to look for:
- Transport/access: Is the location far away? Are your crew able to drive there or should you organise transport or carpooling? How do you get into the location (including unlocking gates and doors)?
- Nearby: Neighbours and noise. Are you going to disturb anyone with your shoot? If so, you need to get in touch to let them know what you’re doing and how to contact you. Is anything going to disturb you (eg loud noise – roads, aircraft, machinery, air conditioning, fridges, music)?
- Logistics: Is there power available? If not, can you hire a generator? Are there toilets available or nearby? How much parking is available? Is it free or do you need to drop off equipment and park somewhere else?
- Aesthetics: Is this location suitable for your scene? Does it look good? Where will the sun be on the day and time you are shooting (exterior or through windows)?
- Hazards: Fire hazards, fire alarms, smoke alarms and exit routes. Electricity (wattage maximums) and cable management. Road hazards or traffic management. Water and boat safety.
- Weather: What does the weather report look like for your shoot day? Do you need extra rain protection or can you reschedule? If you’re inside, remember that rain might ruin your sound recording.
During the location recce, the Director and DOP should block out the scene/s. This means having a general plan for where the actors stand, walking, sit etc and where the camera will be positioned for optimal coverage. This will inform lighting and sound departments on their setups too, as well as the shot list for the scene. Here, you can start drafting the shooting schedule by discussing the most effective order to get the coverage of each scene.
Click HERE and we’ll send you our shooting schedule template – for free of course. You will be using a lot of information from your schedule, so make sure you’ve complete that first. And you will need a shot list, so try to squeeze it out of your Director or DOP. The header of the template just contains information you already know: Production Title, Director, Producer, date, address and sunrise/sunset.
The first column contains a time, so start with your call time. The next column is the duration – the amount of time you think it will take to complete that task or shot. From your call time, I would add a duration of 90 mins – 2 hrs for bump-in and setting up. The row below will update with a simple formula. This is the time that you would ideally start working on this shot – not the time that you shoot it (that comes towards the end). It takes some experience to accurately guess how long a shot will take to setup and shoot. Some shots can take 15-20 mins, some shots can take one or two hours. Talk to your crew to see how much time they think they will need and always overestimate, not underestimate.
The order of shots will largely depend on how involved each setup will be. Once the camera is moved, the lights need to move – maybe all your gear is in shot now – now the other half of the room needs to be set dressed. Group similar setups together and work closely with your Director of Photography to discuss their preferred order. Work smarter, not harder.
Next is the scene number (simple enough) and the shot number. You can number the shots how you like – the order of your storyboards, the order you shoot, or numbered per scene. Just keep this system consistent and communicate it with your crew (especially clapper loader and script supervisor).
Camera describes what TYPE of shot it is – Mid-Shot, Wide, Close-Up etc. Next, describe the action for each shot – this isn’t Shakespeare, but detailed enough to distinguish from similar shots. Your Set column describes where in the set the action takes place. You may be in a kitchen for the whole scene, but a shot may be at the sink, one at the fridge etc. Next is Day/Night, Interior/Exterior as per your film schedule – simple stuff.
Your numbered cast (remember, numbered consistently to avoid confusion) per shot. Next are any additional details for Art Department or Props for specific shots. This could be a prop featured in the shot, or make up effects (eg blood) – be detailed to make sure you don’t forget that really really important prop. Finally, any extra notes – add extra equipment eg Dolly, Steadicam, extra lighting.
Once you’ve entered all your info and added the time it takes to shoot each shot, you’ll have your wrap time. A typical professional shoot will be a total of 10 hours plus 45 mins lunch (total 10hr 45min from your call time). We’ll get into how to run your set (including call times, wrap times, turnaround times etc) in the next lesson.
We hope you’re getting some value from our blogs. We’d still love to hear from you below, or send us an email to get your free template. Or send this blog to anyone who you might find interested in filmmaking.
We also apologise for the delay in getting this lesson out to you – we’ve been working hard on a new business training program. The final lesson in this series (all about the call sheet) will be out before Christmas – promise!
Thanks again for reading.