Filmmaking Blog Posts by Indie Film Factory

Film School 101: The Shot list

The first thing in film school 101 is the shot list.

By Kelly Schwarze – Filmmaker and Author of “What Film Schools Don’t Tell You”

Film school 101 and the camera shot list: 

Consider a shot to be what a word is to a sentence. Sure, you can just randomly mash your hands upon a keyboard and hope that poetry appears, or you can sit down and consider what you want to say. This, in film language, is your shot list.

A shot list is a basic outline of the types of shots you need and their emotional service to the story. Here are some film school 101 tips to help you make your next shot list meaningful and useful: 

  1. Your shot list does not have to be complicated. It can be as easy as starting by writing out a list of scenes for a production day and adding from there. As long as you have a plan of what needs to be shot. A director is a visionary leader; if you don’t interpret and communicate your own vision, everyone else on set will try to do it for you.
  2. Only shoot what you need. Film school will tell you that you absolutely must get all of the essential coverage. This is a major waste of time. Go through your script and write down the shots you visualize for each beat. If a master shot of the room is not included or needed to progress the emotional or contextual feel of the scene, then don’t include it in your shot list.
  3. Every shot in a movie expresses something. Shots are for more than just framing dialogue, they should enhance and express the emotion of the scene. 

Attempting a film without a shot list is like attempting an essay without a first draft.  A shot list is not only your guide as a director, but will be used by just about every department on set to prepare for what’s to come.

If you would like to learn more about this stuff, be sure to check out my new book:

What Film Schools Don’t Tell You
Your Basic Guide to Making Movies and Finding Good Distribution.

That’s all for now. Make Movies!


Kelly Schwarze is an Emmy © Award Recipient filmmaker who has written directed and produced 7 feature films, dozens of music vides and commercials, and has owned successful media companies in Las Vegas. 

Kelly also does one-on-one consulting for filmmakers. Click here for more details.

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