Shot List Templates

What Is a Shot List?

From the silent films to the start of CGI-dominated motion pictures, society anticipated the changes in the entertainment industry. Today, movies viewed in the comforts of the living quarters—via Netflix, Disney, or other streaming devices—continue to be one of the things that people look forward to when coming home from a hard day’s work.

One particular tool that aid filmmakers in their tedious but rewarding task are a shot list. In the simplest form, a shot list contains the descriptions of the specific scene in the movie. It usually includes the names of the actors and actresses involved, the movements of each person, the camera angles, and the details of the shot. The shot list looks like the direction of the film, but with specific composition and framing.

What are the Fundamentals of a Good Shot?

Over the years, the film industry evolved into an extensive network of individuals creating masterpieces to entertain the masses. In 2016, Statista estimated that by 2020 the worldwide revenue of television and video industry would reach 324.66 billion dollars. With the increasing popularity of independent films, hero-themed movies, and taboo-style flicks, the numbers are nearer than expected.

Aside from crafting creative stories with intriguing plots, you have to know how to capture the perfect shot—the etiquette and gracefulness of the characters’ movements caught in an ideal space, a vision that catches the eye of audiences. Here are the four aspects affecting the overall view of a film shot.

Composition: This component focuses on the way each scene has specific framing based on the visualized smart goal of the director. It refers to the placement of movie props and the direction of actors and actresses to make them fit in the camera frame. Most of the time, composition depends on the objective of the director and what message he or she intends to relay to the viewers. For instance, the director uses this technique to show how the characters relate to one another while handling the current predicament. Each composition helps move the plot and help the audience understand the circumstance.Motion: This element places attention on the movements of characters and progressions of the camera, which affects the look of the film. Motion covers the activities happening in the frame and how the camera effectively pans in the right angle and direction to capture the perfect shot. Sometimes, motion creates an illusion to trick the eye of viewers. Birdman, the 2015 Academy Award for Best Picture winner, has a visually pleasing design and engaging speech outline.Depth of Field: Joining together with the previous factors, depth of field comes in the picture to place emotions and intimacy in the films. In definition, it is the sharpness or concentration of the camera angle on a particular subject in the frame. It narrows down the attention of the viewers to the specific object or person on the screen. It comes in two phases: shallow depth of field and deep depth of field. While shallow involves focusing on the main subject in the frame with the background blurred, deep highlights everything in sight. Through this technique, the audience will see the perspective of the characters in the film and will experience the sentiments.Camera Angles: The camera angles play a crucial role in fulfilling the kind of narrative the director wants to achieve in his or her film. Variations in the styles of camera angles help directors pinpoint the exact viewpoint they want for the movie. For example, the zoom can represent foreshadowing or an intense reaction to the situation. On the other hand, truck—the movement of the camera from the left and right or vice versa, but not leaving the frame—establishes the scene location or the state of the characters in the film.

The Primary Film Genres

According to an article published by Time Magazine in 2014, January was the saddest month of the year for viewers and December poses a threat to the main characters in the film—they often die in the movie. Hollywood’s Secret Calendar, as Time Magazine called it, has a variety of film genres and when they become popular with the public. Talking about that, here are the eleven genres in the film industry.

Stunt-filled and Rhythmic Fights of Action Movies

The typical dynamics between handsome, energetic good-guys versus evil, conniving bad-guys battling over the fate of the world take place in this genre. Every frame includes a fast-paced race against time and the fantastical take on being a spy, an undercover or rogue cop, or assassin. Most action films have an impending crisis that could either wipe off half the population of Earth or kill a well-known political or celebrated figure. James Bond, Jason Bourne, and The Terminator are excellent samples of this genre.

Exciting and Spectacular Explorations of Adventure Films

A group of people going on a life-changing escapade that alters their view of this world. Or sometimes, their respective society. The central characters seek historical and priceless treasures and wind up in deserts, jungles, and different bodies of water. But particularly, this genre looks at the thrilling aspect of traveling to new places, meeting influential people, and experiencing other cultures. Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and Guillever’s Travel are part of this category.

Light-hearted and Amusing Plots of Comedy Movies

A goofy person meets a kind-hearted, yet aloof newcomer and that’s when the tale begins to unfold. Most comedy films have a premise revolving around exaggerated situations as the predicament for the characters, much to the amusement of viewers. These movies invoke happy feelings and cause laughter. Rushmore (1998), Dumb and Dumber (1994), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) are examples of this type of film.

Sinister and Bloody Thrills of Crime and Gangster Films

Powerful mobsters, unapologetic criminals, and ruthless gunmen are rampaging through the cities, and a macho, hard-to-die detective is finding ways to stop them—the best description for a crime or gangster movie. The thrilling aspect of this type includes a little bit of action and adventure for the benefit of the viewers. The Godfather (1972 & 1974), Scarface (1983), and Goodfellas (1990) are prime illustrations of the film category.

Plot-driven and Realistic Melancholy of Drama Movies

Often, the motion picture addresses a real-life topic mostly ignored or sugar-coated by many people. The individuals take on intense emotional and character improvement throughout the film, proving their acceptance of the circumstance. Moreover, the genre concentrates on conversations and how it changes the flow of the entire film. Examples of drama movies are Schindler’s List (1993), Still Alice (2014), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).

Valiant and Legendary Tone of Epics and Historical Films

The expansive and extravagant setting, coupled with the imaginary or factual account of the story, make up this section. It has the heroic figure off to an adventure in the dangerous plains meeting dragons, mythical creatures, and magical human beings along the way. At times, the film elaborates on the location, costumes, and storyline. Troy (2004), Gladiator (2000), and Mary Queen of Scots (2018).

Eye-catching and Frightening Style of Horror Movies

The gripping, terrifying, and heart-wrenching power of horror films haunt moviegoers even after the end-credits appear on the screen. The villains are usually unknown elements, menacing unearthly beings, and human behavior. Whether gory or not, the horror genre strikes as a favorite among peers. Some exemplary horror tributes are Psycho (1960), Get Out (2017), and The Shining (1980).

Cheerful and Exhilarating Movements of Musical and Dances Films

From artists waltzing under the moonlight to a couple serenading each other in a secluded area, musicals bring a radiant light to viewers. The combination of choreography and singing invites people to join in the fun. Furthermore, it also has a plot that keeps the movie progressing to the next chapter. La La Land (2016), Grease (1978), and West Side Story (1961) are famous movies in this genre.

Quasi-scientific and Imaginative Visions of Science Fiction Movies

Changes brought by technology fuel the concepts of science fiction films. It tackles the uncertain world of science and toys with impossible settings and spaces, which later poses a danger to the world. Or, creates a whole new world where aliens, time-benders, and futuristic chaos happens. Here are popular films under this category: Inception (2010), Ex-machina (2015), and Star Wars franchise.

Heartbreaking and Woeful Truth of War Films

The military combats represented in movies are similar to the actual situation in the field. Through this film genre, the public gets an overview of the stories and horrors whenever war happens—regardless of the timeframe, the concept remains relevant. The film location can either be in land, sea, or air, depending on the goal of the director. Saving Private Ryan (1998), Dunkirk (2017), and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) are some of the well-known and beloved war films of the century that received nominations.

Justice-driven and Nomadic Vibes of Western Movies

Mostly characterized by characters dressed in Western attire (cowboy themes) and a revolver stuck around in the waist buckle belt, this theme endures the changing preferences of the crowd. Over the years, directors reinvented and redesigned the style of western film to fit the public’s taste. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), True Grit (2010), and Django Unchained (2012) are western films welcomed by moviegoers.

How to Make an Effective Shot List

Every year, thousands of films get broadcasted all around the globe. In North America alone, the actual numbers reach almost a thousand. According to the film industry survey results disclosed by Statista in January 2020, the past decade saw the rise of movies released in cinemas. In 2019, a total of 786 films were produced by the sector. With that, directors make use of shot lists to make the task of arranging the film scenes easier. Here are four steps that help in creating an effective shot list.

Step 1: Break the Script into Favorable Sections

On most occasions, the director crafts the shot list to lay out the direction of the movie. The film director, alongside his or her cinematographer and director of photography, breakdown the script to make shot lists for the convenience of shooting the respective scenes. The script has the storyline but not the flow of the movie. So, the script needs to have a more detailed outline.

Step 2: Add the Necessary Details

A shot list typically includes the scene and shot numbers, actors and actresses in the frame, required props, location, action plan or dialogue(s), and composition. Sometimes, camera angles and footnotes are part of the shot list. These precise details come with the discussions of the film director and the other members of the team.

Step 3: Make a Storyboard Sample

Although not a requirement, storyboards can help visualize the objectives of the film director, cinematographer, and director of photography. Using this tool, the directors can see the workflow and progress of the film. Additionally, storyboards help match the desire of the scriptwriter and the film director.

Step 4: Organize the List

When complete, the writer should organize the whole list. In truth, the sequences of scenes in a movie are not necessarily filmed in order. Post-production has the responsibility of tying up loose ends when shooting scenes in the film. So, the writer’s obligation is organizing the shot list for the comfort of the people involved in making the movie.


Why do I need a shot list for my film?

Shot lists are essential tools that help directors in supervising the actions or movements of the people in the frame. Therefore, shot lists like a table of contents for the movie production.

What’s the difference between a scriptwriter and a shot list writer?

The scriptwriter is responsible for creating the dialogue and flow of the story, doing research, and building the characters and plot. The shot list writer arranges the storyline for the production of the script.

What’s the difference between a storyboard and a shot list?

A storyboard consists of the concept drawings to have a better picture of the movie frame. Shot lists do not have blueprints of the scenes, only lists of the shots.

How many shots are in a scene?

The shots in a scene entirely depend on the objective of the film director. Some scenes have more than two shots, and others only have one.

The art of filming has its share of challenges and surprises. Nevertheless, it remains to be one of the artforms that bring people closer to each other. The way Director Bong Jon-Hoo portrays the differences among social classes in his films and the appeal he elicits from the viewers is proof of his films’ effectiveness. It takes years of practice to become a skilled director in the film industry. So, if you love cinema and have an interesting story to tell, take the chance. Know the basics about filming and get a shot list to organize everything.