If you’ve ever found yourself on set loosing track of progress, wondering if you shot everything you came to shoot, or just altogether forgetting where you are, you need a shot list. Even with a shot list on hand, I can get lost.
A shot list is the organizational counterpart to the storyboard; this list contains everything to be shot that day, with details like type of shot, what’s in the shot, and of course a little box to place your check-mark when you’ve knocked it out. Your shot number will probably correspond with a marked script or storyboard panel, but it could also just indicate a letter or number for that specific day. When you review your footage later and someone calls out “Shot 81-b… Action!” at the beginning of the clip, you’ll know which shot it is. My friend Zach drew a new check mark for every take, so later I was able to see that a shot had one, two, or eight takes before we moved on. This helps a lot in the editing room when you need to label your footage (i.e. 81b (1).mov, 81b (2).mov, etc.). That’s why Zach is the man.
To really speed up your production, list all of your shots then rearrange them in order of convenience. Certain shots have to be taken first, some right at sunset; sometimes an actor’s availability or costume requirements means clumping their shots together. I always move my cutaways and prop shots to the end, so if there’s a delay at any point on set I know to skim to the bottom of the page and shoot some stuff that doesn’t require actors.
A shot list goes great with a storyboard, but either can be used by itself if your time is limited. My advice is to have both with a pen and clipboard on set at all times. But be warned: shot lists tend to sneak off and find their way onto a surface in your shot. My student film production probably had a shot list, script page, or storyboard in every other scene, sitting suspiciously close to a slice of pizza and can of beer in the background.
I’ve added this template to the Templates and Freebies page, where I also have storyboard templates and other production essentials.