Why You Need A Shot List

Why You Need A Shot List
By Filmmaker and guest blogger, Zach Lipovsky

My first feature was a science fiction monster movie called Tasmanian Devils. As is usually the case with first features, we did not have enough time or money, and so 12 pages a day of monsters and blood explosions was to be expected.

I was ready for the challenge and I was as prepared as I could be. I built extensive shot lists before the shoot – creating all sorts of custom spreadsheets to manage the hundreds of scenes and thousands of shots. Then my AD and I meticulously rearranged our shooting days to make the perfect plan.

This was all very exciting. Every day I would print out the shot list, then head to set with a big smile…

But despite my enthusiasm, it quickly became apparent to me we had a problem. Every day we would show up to discover a new surprise. Either the set would be in ruins (destroyed by a random snow storm), the camera would break, or the helicopter would be missing! (I am not making this up.)

As a result of these hiccups, every day within minutes of call time the shot list and schedule became almost meaningless.

Imagine this: My AD and I are out there, standing in the middle of snow covered woods scribbling over the shot list with a pen. We end up frantically combining and crossing out shots, calculating times in the margins and drawing arrows everywhere!

It didn’t take long for that once beautiful well planned shot list to end up looking like crumbled up rag covered in red ink. Eventually we would just resort to writing a new shot list by hand.

It was at that point where I thought there has to be a better system for this. So I looked online and was shocked to realize there wasn’t. The state of the art for shot listing was drawing all over a piece of paper in the woods? This seemed crazy to me.

Keep in mind that I happened to be sleeping on my mother’s floor while shooting the film. And one night I told my mom how everything in the film industry is digital except for arguably the most importing thing – the shot list. So that night I decided to make life easier for filmmakers. I borrowed some money from my mom and started designing and building a new app called Shot Lister.

Here is a video of Shot Lister -

Shot Lister - Reel Apps Inc.

Shot Lister lets you build, organize, schedule and most importantly change things while you’re shooting in an fast and easy way. I have field tested it and it’s revolutionized the way I shoot, and I really hope it helps other filmmakers too.

It’d be great if it catches on, not only so I can keep upgrading it, but so I can pay my mom back too. Happy shot listing.

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Zach Lipovsky is a film director with a strong VFX background who started work in Vancouver’s indie film community right out of high school. He is now in development on two feature scripts with Telefilm Canada, another with Rhombus Media, as well as new media projects with Bad Robot and Machinema. Additionally, he is also in post production on an original SyFy Channel movie, as well as bringing his unique visual style to the commercial world in Canada, the United States and Europe.

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