[Ditty Makes a Short Film] Part 3: Spec to Shooting Draft

This pre-production stuff is no joke, people.  I’m itching to get back to writing, to be honest, as after spending about six hours on the shooting draft and shot list on Saturday, I’m starting to feel a little neurotic. 

But I’ll have to carry on as this is week leading up to the shoot.  On the to-do list:
1) Arrange for food for cast/crew, which I will call craft service so I can sound like a real filmmaker.
2) Work with my wardrobe/production designer to gather props and clothes.
3) Procure a scooter or similar low-to-the-ground-with-wheels item to use as a dolly.
4) Check in with cast/crew to make sure everyone’s still on board and comfortable with their roles.
5) Go over shooting draft/shot list/storyboards to make sure I haven’t forgotten something that could in turn derail my entire film shoot and thus filmmaking career before it’s even begun.

I’ve been attempting to document my reactions to the process on twitter with my very own hashtag, #LiaE

I’m going to try and keep it up during the shoot itself because I’d appreciate similar documentation from other short filmmakers.  There are so many things you can’t really grasp until you’re in the trenches yourself, but it’s nice to at least have a window, even if it’s dirty and foggy and smudged and only 140 characters at a time.

So, apropos to my middle tweet up there, as a writer of spec scripts, giving myself the opportunity to create a shooting draft was enlightening to say the least.  It forces you think about how words on a page translate to real-life and real-time staging.  Doing storyboards helped with this quite a bit, but it was, in a lot of ways, a macro version.  Plus it turns out I’m a terrible storyboard artist, as more than one of my drawings ended up becoming accidental stick-figure porn.

This is supposed to be two people moving from standing to sitting, not... well... nevermind.

Camera direction is something I’d thought about only vaguely before, so having to do it in a truly concrete manner kind of hurt my brain.  In a good way.  Sort of. 

In short, a shooting script has numbers associated with each scene heading, thus enabling easier reference for the production team.  I didn’t really have much to go off when creating my own shooting draft, so I decided to do what would be easiest and clearest for me and my team.  Because of this, I subdivided my major scenes with letters, e.g., 1A, 1B, 1C, etc.  Normally, you’d only use letters to denote a scene had been inserted in revisions, but, since I’m not dealing with that complex a production, I decided this would work best for me.  I also decided to add headings any time I needed to change camera shots (hence the A, B, & C bits to denote they’re part of the same scene).

Because I hadn’t really thought much about specific camera shots as I was writing it (which you wouldn’t include in a spec script anyway), it inflated the scenes a bit.  Here’s an excerpt from both drafts to compare:

Spec Draft

Shooting Draft

Getting that hammered out allowd me to create a shot list, which includes all scenes/shots in the order they’ll be filmed plus the shot type, any camera movement, props needed, and actors.  This will help us stay organized on Shoot Day.

So, that’s where the short film currently stands.  Saturday, we shoot.  And hopefully I will still be (mostly) sane come Sunday.

6 thoughts on “[Ditty Makes a Short Film] Part 3: Spec to Shooting Draft

  1. This is very interesting to me–to see what goes into a small production then try to translate that into the huge productions we actually see on screen in the theaters or on TV. Just be glad you’re not shooting an action shot like 24 or Avatar!

    • I can’t even imagine doing this on a feature level. My shot list is two pages, and even that seems a bit overwhelming to me. If I survive this experience, I may try something a little more ambitious in the future, but we’ll see. 🙂 Baby steps.

  2. Interesting…what’s this movie about, if I missed it?

    I wish I could make a movie like this. Best I got is my film class, where I’m paired with this one dude who won’t let anyone else suggest anything deviating from his ‘vision’. Insists on this shit metal (or whatever, he says it’s something else, but goddamn if it still sounds like metal) music, crappy angles.

    Done ranting.

    • It’s a very simple short, about two people who get stuck in an elevator and fall in love. It was written specifically as something I could film myself with extremely limited resources.

      Oh man, your film class experience sounds awful. Group projects can be the absolute worst in school settings where you have no control over your collaborators. I had my fair share of horror stories on that front in school, so I definitely feel your pain! Maybe you can get your other group members together and stage a coup! (Film that, and you’ll kill two birds with one stone.) 😉

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