Breaking down a script for a clapper board...

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: Jun 22 2004


I will soon be shooting a short film production in Manchester.

I have recieved an excellent script but now I need to know how to shoot it.

I will be using one camcorder, shooting 3 times (i.e. once for wide shots, once for character 1, once for character 2) All in all taking 2 takes of everything.

But what is classified as a scene?

I was planning on shooting - in regards to a clapper board - scene 1a (Wide shots) Scene 1b (character 1) Scene 1c (character 2)

But what o I call scene 2? Is it the next location, or the next time I switch the camcorder back on (within scene 1)

I appretiate your help and thank you in advance!!

Joined: Aug 31 2002

Your script has scenes, but your camera shoots shots. So every time you roll the camera on a new setup or a different section of the scene it will be a new shot, and every time you repeat the action that is a another take.

It might take half an hour and a lot of different shots and camera setups to shoot one scene in the script.
THe actors aren't interested in shots, as they will rehearse in scenes - thats why the script should be layed out in scenes. So a scene could be as long as the actors will want to rehearse in one go, or it might be shorter.

The director's shooting script will lay out the scenes into individual shots, and it is these that should be numbered on the slate (clapper).

As well as shot continuity the continuity-person's job it to mark up the shooting script with all the shot numbers that relate to each scene of your script.

If your clapper board doesn't have a box to chalk in scene numbers as well as shots + takes, then write the shot numbers on the board and take very good care to give a copy of the list of shots with how they relate to the scene numbers to the assembly editor.

However you plan the scenes in your shooting script you are always going to end up shooting differently because things will go wrong on location, and you may well have to add extra shots to cover this.

Since you are the director you can do it any way you want, as long as its all written down at the time what you are doing.

If not then it will be up to the long-suffering editor to sort out the mess... ;)

Christian Lett
Joined: Apr 26 1999


If you don't mind me saying, your plan to shoot all scenes with the same three camera set-ups sounds like the end result will end up very static. Obviously without seeing your script I'm not able to comment fully, but unless the whole film consists of two people talking throughout, you may like to give some more thought to the shots you want to make.

My suggestion is that you start storyboarding your script. A storyboard can take a variety of forms; if you're good at drawing then they can look like works of art. If you're not so good, then stick men will suffice, or even a plan view of the set with little pictures of cameras and their angles of view.

The problem with using all static shots is that, although you're getting the coverage, your audience will quickly become accustomed to it and may get bored. If you have a tense scene, maybe an argument, try building in some edgy handheld camera. Always think of ways you can start and end shots (a pan in, a pan out, for example). If you're inventive enough you'll be able to make some kind of dolly to move your camera in or out, or track along with your actors (an office chair or even hanging out of the passenger window of a slow-moving car are a couple of options).

Once you start storyboarding you'll get an idea of the type of inserts you might want to add (e.g. someone picking up a phone, or looking in the fridge). Generally speaking you'll have one storyboard cell per shot. Then all you need to do is assign the scene number and a shot identifier to each (I usually use a letter, so we might be shooting "scene 23-A, take 1!").

If on the day you need to add a new shot then just assign it a new shot identifier and note it in your script.

One further point - don't limit yourself to two takes (and for that matter, don't shoot two takes for the sake of it). This should always be evaluated on the day. Your actors might turn in a great performance on the first take, in which case there's no need to shoot a second. Likewise they might mess up or you might not be happy with their performance for five takes, so just keep shooting - tape is cheap!

Here are a few books you might find useful.

The first is called "Film Directing Shot by Shot" and is a superb reference for storyboarding.

The second is called "Directing Actors" written by an acting coach and a very good book for getting tips on getting the best performance out of your actors.

The third is one of the most influential books on filmaking ever in my humbe opinion - Robert Rodriguez's "Rebel Without a Crew" which is a diary of his experience making "El Mariachi".

Good luck,


Christian Lett After Effects and Maya Artist

Joined: Jun 22 2004

Hi Guys,

Thnaks for all your help - it is really appreciated and now all my questions have been answered!

Thanks again guys!