So How Do I Shoot Them?

Having established the importance of having a plan, the next question is nice and simple: how do I shoot them? Well there are two main themes we will expand on to answer that question – the shoot plan, and the shot plan. Today, let’s start by looking at an introduction to the shoot plan.

In film and television, the word shoot refers to the process of filming a scene. In photography, it’s the process of capturing an intentional series of images. If you consider everything you record as being part of a shoot – and you have a plan for every shoot – then you’ll find that you’re already on the way to having better footage (or photographs, if that’s what you do). So the first thing we ought to do is to be clear about the purpose of every shoot. We ought to be working towards a larger plan. Exactly what this is will depend on any number of factors (e.g. If we’re camera operators on a feature film, then the larger plan is to gather all the shots required by the script/storyboard. However, that would not be the case if we’re shooting a home video).

Image Source: Used under ‘Fair use’ (Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107)

Pop Quiz Hotshot:
If you were the film crew/photographer at a live sporting event, what might your shoot plan be?

Planning means adopting an attitude in which we take control: it’s by design and not by default. I love that phrase! A good plan means that instead of grabbing our camera, shooting whatever happens, and thinking, “I hope this will look good on video,” – we’re actually thinking, “What do I want this to look like on video?” We then shoot – and direct – the action to that end. As the guys over at Videomaker noted, “When you plan like a pro, you: Plan the shoot in pre-production, shoot the plan in production, and edit the planned shoot in post-production.

We’ll unpack this a bit more in the next few of blog posts: but for now, let me suggest a couple of things that we ought to consider in the planning stages:

Knowing Your Story: do you need a story summary? Is there a script? Is it live action? If you don’t know what you’re meant to be shooting, how are you going to know that you’re done?

Knowing Your Equipment: what do you need for the shoot (camera; tripod; tapes/memory cards; batteries/power supply; microphones and audio equipment; lights/reflectors; stands; pens, log sheets and other required paper work)? And just as importantly, do you – or the people you’re working with – know how it all works? (I’ve been stung by this one before!)

Knowing Your Talent: who do you need to get the job done right? Talent usually refers to the people in front of the camera. But just for today I’d like to expand it to include all of your crew too. I’m inspired by a celebrated director whose career has been built on the back of doing just that: the indefatigable Clint Eastwood. If you have a chance to read this online profile on him, do it. It’s an entertaining and enlightening reading. Suffice to say for this point though that, “[Eastwood] readily admits that his method of making movies depends almost entirely on [his crew’s] experience and skill, and so in return, “They would jump into traffic for him,” says Matt Damon.”

Knowing Your Boundaries: What’s the approximate length of the shoot? How much footage do you need, and how long will it take you to get it? Do you have all the appropriate permissions for your shoot? How do you ensure you stick to your budget: both in time, and finances? Again talking of Eastwood, for day shoots he clocks on at 9:00am and clocks off at 5:00pm most days, because he knows his boundaries and sticks to them.

I’ll wrap it up for now. But let me finish by asking you this: what other areas do you think are important to consider in the shoot plan? I’d love to hear from you!

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