“Ready, steady, go!”
It would be nice if we could just walk onto set and say alright lets shoot this! Unfortunately that is not the case. 90% of making a film is paper work and preparation. The director has a very busy job leading up to principle photography. From breaking down the script to shot listing every frame of the film and somehow transferring the vision in his/her mind into a reality through the means of communication to others in order to make it a reality.
Character/Emotion Beat Breakdown
It is highly important to understand the script inside and out and to prepare yourself for working with your actors and the characters they will embody. Therefor, it will behoove you to line your script vertically for emotional turns and specific beats in every scene. In order to do this you will need to analyze the script and make decisions on the emotional arcs and transitional moments within each beat of a scene, the arcs of the entire scene, and the overall arc each scene contributes to the whole of the screenplay.
Try to think of this as the individual stair steps of a larger set of stairs that is the entirety of the film. What you are trying to accomplish or put forth within each moment of the film, and how they are connected and flow together creating the whole.
Break down each scene itself into it’s own rising and falling actions then breakdown the characters emotional states within this framework. Do this by asking yourself some questions about each character:
- Who are they?
- Where are they?
- What are the characters goals, or objectives within the scene?
- Who are they with and how do they feel about them?
- What are the characters wants and needs.
- What is the conflict and how can they overcome it.
- Do they succeed or fail in their endeavor?
Once you have answered these questions, you need to prepare some techniques to communicate these things to your actors. There are a few ways to do this.
Action Verbs: Compile a list of action verbs to use when discussing the beats.
As If’s: Create a list of “as ifs” that could help guide your actor to the right emotional delivery. Ie. “Try it as if you are a little kid and just dropped your ice cream cone on the ground.” Or “Try it as if you just won the lottery!” You see what I’m getting at here.
Imagery: Create an image for your actor; have them remember a similar emotional real life moment that could be useful for the emotion of the character at the moment. I.e.: The awkwardness of your first kiss; the pain of that first heartbreak, etc. Something real that they can use to build well rounded emotional tools.
These tools help to lead you to a better understanding of each character. Take note of every discovery you make in awaking the character on the page into the moment of reality then use those discoveries as a means of molding your actors. The better you understand them the easier it will be for your actors to understand what you want from them every step of the way…
When creating a shot list remember time is money and shots take time, so do your best to limit yourself when it comes to the number of shots you have in a scene. Work with your DP to try and be creative, playing in depth, or use single long takes, and creative angles. You don’t always have to dolly and if you are shooting in 2k or higher you have some wiggle room in the editing room.
First you need to understand the language of film. Basically the way your shot choice and framing affect what you are conveying to an audience.
XCU (extreme close up) you are trying to focus the audiences attention on a very specific object/expression/moment.
CU (close up) you want to get up close and personal with your subject, or enclose them in the frame.
MCU (medium close up) when you want to get close but not too close, giving your subject s little breathing room.
WCU (wide close up) Staying close yet far away, basically from barely below the shoulders up.
MS (mid shot) you want to give your subject some room to move.
WS (wide shot) you want to get away from your subject and see them in their environment. The background is important.
VWS (very wide shot) your subject is small but your perspective is wide.
XWS (extreme wide shot) or (establishing shot) you want to set up the world from a distance your subject is the environment.
OTS (over the shoulder) you want to perspective from one subject to the other.
2S (two shot) you want to see both subjects in the same mid shot.
CI (cut in) you want to see another part of your subject for emphasis.
CA (cut away) you want to see another part of the environment for emphasis.
POV (point of view) you want to see from your subjects perspective.
Once you understand shot framing now you can add camera movement and blocking to change shot size, type and framing within a single take.
PAN (Left/Right) turning the camera on the tripod to the left or right
TILT (up/down) latterly tilting the camera on the tripod up or down.
CRAB (left/Right) on a slider or dolly moving the frame to the left or right.
TRACK (in/out) on a dolly or slider pushing the camera frame in or out.
PAD (up/down) Moving the camera frame strait up or down.
CRANE (up/down/left/right) moving the camera frame on a crane in whatever direction you desire.
To begin your shot list I recommend lining your script vertically. Here is an example:
Basically you are drawing lines between dialogue or action between another point of dialogue or action and assigning that line to a specific shot that. The line is what you will cover during that shot.
It is best to line your script from your wide shots first then work your way into your close-ups, labeling them as you go. 1/A (scene/shot) 1/B etc… then detailing the shot on a separate piece of paper. I also recommend using a pencil for all this!
Once you have finished lining your entire script you will need to type up a shot list. This will include the shot name, type, lens, and direction.
The Lined Script and the Shot List are the two most important things your 1st AD will need to create a day out of days shooting schedule.
Also check out http://www.sharegrid.com a new app for scheduling shots, and Guerilla Filmmaking: Planning Your Film! @ Film Riot