HOW TO PREPARE FOR A FILM SHOOT Shooting a film, whether a student film or a professional film, is full of many creative pro- cesses. -Script Writing -Storyboarding -Test Shots -Final Shooting -Editing+many more. With all these different processes, you need to be able to utilize all of your talents. The key is to be organised and prepared. The following guide has the key foundations in order to be prepared for your final shoot. If you miss out on any of these processes, your final product will suffer. Think of your film as a combination of different layers. Your first layers are built a long time before you begin filming. If you miss out on a layer, then you are missing out on using your own talent. STEP 1 - THE SCRIPT Your ideas should be written down. It is the only way to remember exactly what your ideas were. Without anything to refer to, you are losing an aspect of filmmaking. The simplest or most elaborate films all start on paper. The script does not have to be overly complicated. It should be a descriptive outline of your story, including actions and emotions. The script should not contain any camera directions e.g ‘camera zooms into the sky’. This is a creative process that you will do when storyboarding your script. Here is a short script extract I made up: A male student is at college. The student is listening to music on his headphones as he walks across the car park with his bike. He chains up his bike and fixes his bag over his shoulder, holding it carefully. The bell rings in college and students start to disperse to their lessons. The bell doesnt appear to distract this student. Instead, with his eyes fixed and headphones still on, he heads towards the quadrangle, walking in the opposite direction to other students. Other students glance over their shoulder with a confused look, wondering where he is going. He continues to walk across the quadrangle - staring ahead of himself. Suddenly he stops dead in his tracks, almost freezing. There appears to be nobody visible around him. He pulls down his headphones slowly and brings his bag around to his front, while continuing to stare forward. He calmly reaches into his bag. We see one final look of his stare, before he closes his eyes tightly shut. END OF SCENE. If you want to be more professional in your approach to scriptwriting, you can head each scene with the following:-INTERIOR / EXTERIOR (INT./EXT.)
-THE LOCATION (COLLEGE CAR PARK)-DAY OR NIGHT. Your script will then look like this: EXT. - COLLEGE CAR PARK - DAY A male student is at college.... INT. - BEDROOM - NIGHT The student is in his bedroom.... etc. This process does not take long and it will help you when creating your shooting schedule as you can quickly see how many day/night shots or interior/exterior shots you have to film. STEP 2 - SET YOUR SCENE At some point, you should attempt to walk-through your scene, step by step. If possible, you should attempt to do this at the location you intend on filming. If you can’t, then try to recreate it as best as possible. Walking through your script will benefit you in many ways.-it may help you identify problems with your script - some aspects of it may be too difficult toachieve.-if you are on location, you may identify restrictions within your shooting (that we will discusslater in location recce)-the director (or all of you) will learn more about the potential success’s and failures of yourscript and ideas. STEP 3 - LOCATION RECCE You may already have covered some of this in STEP 2 if you visited your location. The idea is to diagnose any problems with your location. You should ALWAYS do a location recce in order to see if your location is suitable for filming. Even if you have been to a loca- tion in the past, it is still advisable to re-visit the location before filming - as memory does not serve as the best reminder of what the place looks like. When you visit a location, you should try to educate yourself on different factors which would/could affect your filming on the day. For example, on a Monday you may visit a local park as a potential location, and decide that it is perfect. It may be quiet and peaceful. However, if you were to turn up for filming on a Sunday, you may discover that there will be football teams playing there all day - making the location unusable. Do you have a PLAN B? Also, if you are looking at outdoor areas, special attention should be paid to weather and lighting (shade/shadows of buildings etc can all effect the visuals of your film). Visiting a location at the exact time & day that you intend on filming would be a good idea. Seeing where the sun rises and sets in an open space may help you be more creative in the lighting of your scene - especially if it is going to be used for visual or dramatic effect.
On a location recce, you should be making notes on what you see and hear. Is it noisy be-cause of traffic? Will you be able to hear dialogue scenes here? What can you see in thebackground? Is it too busy/too quiet?Any notes that you take will help you remember the location and help you to compare it toother potential locations you could use.In addition, it is advised to take plenty of photograph’s of your location. Photographsshould be from various angles and positions, so that someone who has not visited the lo-cation themselves will be able to understand exactly what it looks like and the surroundingspace.For more advanced shooting, there are plenty of other elements that you may want to dis-cover about your location. Perhaps you will be shooting in an open field for a whole day.You would need to know in advance where people can park their cars, where the nearesttoilets are, where you can go for lunch, where the nearest source of electricity is (to chargecameras etc).The thoroughness of a location recce could make or break your shoot. STEP 4: - DIGITAL STORYBOARDYou may be able to combine your location recce with the chance to take some digital sto-ryboards. Even if your characters/actors are unavailable, you can have somebody standin. Take pictures of the different frames and shot types that you may envision your shotlistto contain. It is good practice to storyboard different angles that you may not originallyhave considered for your shoot - but this will help as it gives you an extra option. Youcould even print these out, or put them on your phone, so that when you are filming, youhave these to hand to make reference too.If you are working on a rather large location and will be moving around a lot, it is a goodidea to have a birds-eye view of your location - so that you can easily communicate whereyou are supposed to be and where different action is going to take place.Find your location on Google Earth, either as a satellite image or a map - and use a high-lighter or marker to create numbered dots for different shots. Create a map for every loca-tion - it will prove to be a useful tool.Preparation for your shoot is key. STEP 5: SHOT LISTYou should always prepare for your shoots by having a shot list.When you are on your set, it is fine to film more ideas than those listed on your shot list.But it is fundamental to have a shot list in place - so that you don’t forget certain shots andcan help organise the shoot and time you have.At this stage of pre-production, you should have a vision of what your film is going to looklike because you have found your locations and done a storyboard/digital storyboard.I would suggest creating a shot list as follows:Go through your script line by line. Select each part of your script and identify what type ofshots would cover that moment. For example:A male student is at college.Their are two main parts to this line. A male student and college.
How will we know the student is male? How do we know he is at college? These may seem like very silly questions - but when your audience is watching the film, they need to be able to understand everything through the use of visuals. So how would we know the student is male? Obvious answer: his face. If you film a stu- dent from a distance wearing a wooly hat and scarf covering their face, you have failed to educate your audience on your character. Instead, how about a close-up of their visible face. Easy. Start with the basics and then become more creative as you build up your shot list. Make a note of this in your script. How do we know the student is at college? How about a wide shot of the college? Work this into your script shot list: A male student is at college. (1.C/U face) (2. Wide-shot college) The student is listening to music on his headphones (3. C/U face & headphones) as he walks across the car park with his bike. He chains up his bike.... (3. Wide - carpark) (4. Long shot) (5. C/U Chain & hand) You can do this either on a computer or by printing off your script but leaving a space after each line. You can then write in different shot types and use a highlighter. Remember to number your shots in order. When you are finished, take all your numbered shots and compile a list, separated by each location: Front of college:2.Wide shot of college Car park:1.CU of face3.CU face and headphones4.Long shot bike5.C/U Chain and hand etc.... Once you have completed this process - voila! You have developed a shot list for each lo- cation! You can now take this list to your shoot and know what shots you need in able to tell your story. Remember, you don’t have to film ONLY your shot list - you can be creative and shoot extra variety shots - but you must have a foundation for your story. STEP 6: - TEST SHOTS At some stage, it would be a good idea to take some test footage. Time restrictions may mean that you are not able to do this. Test shots will serve different purposes: -It will give you practice of shooting on location
-Using the equipment-Polishing off your script-Identifying outfits and props needed-Helping with the edit process: you may have time to cut together a short sequence of testshots. You may discover that you need to go back and add different angles to your story-board & shot list. Test shots are normally done quickly and you should not spend the same amount of time as you would on the actual shoot. However if you are not restricted by time - then you should aim to film your shots as best as possible. You never know - you may end up using some it in your final film! STEP 7: - SHOOTING SCHEDULE By now you should have everything ready for your shoot. Storyboards, shot lists etc. Time to organise your shooting day. Start by printing out an hour-by-hour break down of your day. Then start to block out differ- ent times for different location, based on your restrictions and what you need to film. What sort of restrictions would you have?-daylight-weather-equipment hire-personal availability-use of location-transport-interior/exterior shots Even if your shoot is only 2 hours long, you would still benefit from a shooting schedule. Tailor make your schedule to suit your shoot. Every schedule is different. Here is an exam- ple: 10.00 - Pick up equipment. Everyone meet at John’s house. 10.30 - Leave Johns house and go to LOCATION 1: The park. 10.45-11.30 Shooting ‘playground’ location Shots 3,4,7,12,14. 11.30-13.00 Shooting ‘forest’ location Shots 1,2,5,22 13.00 Travel to LOCATION 4: Claybury Fields. 13.30-14.30 Shooting by the canal. (marked number 2 on map). Shots 16-21. 15.30 Finish filming. Return equipment to John’s house. All members of your film crew should receive a copy of the shooting schedule, so that ev- eryone understands exactly what the plans are.
You will notice that many of the processes within this guide are interlinked and you can dotwo at once. Many of these do not take long to complete, but they will no doubt help you tobe better organised.Be organised and prepared - then you can be creative and let your talent shine through!