View Full Version : what's your way to cut your script into shots?

04 April 2005, 12:26 PM
I'm going through some kind of crisis and I though starting this thread could help me. I'm working on a new amateur film and I'm currently cutting the script into a series of shots. I just realized how much my technique doesn't match my personality as an artist. The process even bores me to death. I need to find a new way to do it, so here is my question:

How do you chose your shots? Do you read the script line after line writting down : "Close up on the eyes", "traveling backward to a panoramic view of the city"...? Or do you wait to be on the set to start thinking about it?

My way (until now) is to write the description of each shot, to give it a number and to group all of them by scenes. Then I take the script and I separate the lines with a slash and the number of the corresponding shot. My problem is I tend to be too precise when I describe every shots eventhough I don't have all the information I need about the set, the place the actors will be and such.

Please, tell me how you do it.
Thanks a lot.

04 April 2005, 04:53 PM
Hi there,

First of all I don't think that there's one right way to visualise your script. Everyone has an other way to do it, and it can take some time to find out which method comforts you the most.
But one thing I can say for sure. Don't start thinking about your shots on set. That's part of pre-production. Knowing every shot before the first slate is crucial. It will safe you a lot of time. Your assistant director can come up with an economic shooting scheldue, the team keeps working because nobody has to wait for decisions, nobody gets frustrated (at least not too soon ;)). You as the director can concentrate the important things. The actors for example. Shooting should not be the hardest part of movie making process. Often it is because of poor preperation work. Shooting should be executing what has been carefully planned. Certainly there are situations that make improvisation necessary and require quick decisions.

Whenever I have to come up with a cinematography concept for a movie I try to analyse the scene. Look at it as a whole. I try to find out what the core of every scene is. You need to have a good screenplay for that for sure. Often you read scenes that tell nothing new, don't support the drama and just slow down the narrative flow. Writers often fall in love with certain scenes.
Who's scene is it? What' s the atmosphere like? What's the relationship between the characters? Where is the action happening?-Inside the characters or is it more of a physical scene. Is the environment important? Do you have establish something visually while the scene goes on? How much intimacy do you want?
There must be a reason for every shot. Or at least for most of them. We all love to do shots just because they look cool, it hard to resist.
You can learn a lot by just watching movies and pay attention on how the camera tells the story. How it introduces places and characters and how the camera changes douring the scene. Think of the camera as a character. How much does it know? Is it just a neutral watcher standig outside or is it emotionally envolved in the scene?
Try to tell ass much as possible visually, that's how you reach people. The audience should understand what's going on even when sound is off. Characters are not defined by what they say, but by what they do, and that's what you can show.

That how it works best for me, but as I said, it's only one way.
Hope it helps a bit.

Jean Genie
04 April 2005, 08:35 PM
I tend to agree with what richiesbuddy said. It's important to look for function when establishing a shot.

One way to go about it is starting with key shots instead of going through your script in a linear way. When you think of a scene, you often have a shot in mind. Chances are this is your key shot. Sart by drawing/describing this shot (it doesn't have to be precise, just try to get the mood, situation described). The way I do it is I do the key shots I feel strong about. Then other important shots start to fall into place and when a scene feels complete in my head, I usually just have to put them to paper (they're already cut). Then I look at the scene and think of it's function in the film, make adjustments if necessary.

I'm sure it's different for everybody, but if you feel you're getting sucked into detail and can't see the whole anymore, then go back and tackle a different key shot.

Also I believe you can only make good improvised shots if you have a good sense of what the scene is about. A good way to have that is by doing a rough storyboard.
(It all depends on how good you are at visualizing and how well you can remember what you visualize)

04 April 2005, 09:59 PM
Jean Genie mentioned an important thing. Storyboards. They are the most useful tool during pre-production and can keep you out of trouble on set because they make clear what's needed in every shot. Let all the department have them.


04 April 2005, 09:41 AM
Thanks for your replies.

I especialy like the idea about key shots. Thanks Jean Genie. Actualy, I already tend to do that, but not enough actualy. I should try to build my scenes around those important shots.
Richiesbuddy, I know it's too late to think about the shots when you're on the set. I was just asking if some does and what they feel about it. And I know how to choose my shots. I wanted to know about other poeple's way to do it in a practical point of view, not especialy in an artistic point of view. Thanks anyway for your reply.


04 April 2005, 10:33 AM
There are directors who really start thinking about their shots on set. But then it becomes more of a theatre play in front of a camera, and the camera itself is not much more than a dull recording tool.
I'm aware that you know how to choose your shots because you described it. I just wrote everything down that poped into my mind about my personal way to do things. And it was from a practical point of view because all those question help me to get my work done. Because, as you said, when something bores you to death you have to find your way to make it challanging and fun again.

04 April 2005, 11:01 AM
And it was from a practical point of view because all those question help me to get my work done.
I didn't undertand it that way. My mistake.
Thanks for sharing.

04 April 2005, 04:57 PM
Hey, never mind.
Good luck for your project!

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