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Old January 5th, 2010, 01:44 PM   #1
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Organizing The Order In Which You Shoot Scenes In One Day

So Im shooting a short film, Im not going to go through the entire story because it would be too long, but basically it's a couple's drama with a third person involved in the story (3 main characters). The entire story happens inside a house and its made of 3 basic scenes, the entire short will be between 10-15 minutes and it has to be shot during one full day (7am until we finish)

My question is basically, how do you guys plan the orders in which you shoot scenes for the day? I just want to get some tips and inputs from different fellow filmmakers as I often find important information from others that I didnt think before myself.

Have in mind that all my actors are professional models, with some light acting experience (mostly by acting classes and very small commercial roles) They are not getting paid for this film, but they have gone thru a casting process and I made sure they are enthusiastic and they really want to do this short film. I want to be sensible for their inexperience and want to make them feel comfortable so they can deliver good performances

All scenes take place inside a house:

FIRST SCENE is female lead comes into her house and she changes clothes (partial nudity) and then she kisses with one of the male characters (first on camera kiss for both actors)

SECOND SCENE is the most complicated scene, heavy dialogue, heated discussions and a physical altercation (no punching, just pushing)

THIRD SCENE is the conclusion, basically female lead and male lead sitting in the backyard, they get into a short dialogue which is the conclusion of the film.

I was thinking of starting the shooting day (7am) with the THIRD SCENE first, because it is the most simple one, and it would get the actors to warm up for the other most complicated scenes.

Then I was going to go for the FIRST SCENE just because I wanted to leave the SECOND SCENE for last, because the second scene is really the most complicated one.

The cons of shooting in this order is that I think the third scene (as it is the conclusion of the film) is also very important and Im putting it first in the morning, the other option is to shoot the first scene first but at the same time the FIRST scene has an on camera kiss and with both actors being first-timers Im not sure how comfortable or how good of a performance they can deliver by shooting this first.

Like I said I would just like to hear opinions. Thank you for your input!

Last edited by Rich Mayer; January 5th, 2010 at 04:57 PM.
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Old January 5th, 2010, 03:26 PM   #2
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Im organising scenes at the moment for my first short as well and have considered similar issues.

I think your idea about shooting the third scene first is a good idea as like you said the actors will be able to get used to each other, the crew and yourself. Also its simple and not too much pressure.

If I was you I would then film the second scene as it is complicated and you dont want tired actors to do it, which if its their first time, they will be by the end of the day.

I would leave the first scene last as its it wouldn't require as much concentration as scene 2 and by this time the actors will be used to each other and the crew. Also as the actress has to change clothes I'm sure she would be much more comfortable doing it at the end of the day when she knows everyone rather that first thing.
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Old January 7th, 2010, 08:26 PM   #3
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My general suggestion is to set up your shoot so that each of the actors have to be at the shoot for as short of a time as possible.
If one of your scenes is the only scene in which you'll need one of your actors, have that actor come to the set at a specific time, shoot their scene and let them go. First middle last, it doesn't matter.
I find that in general, actors crash pretty fast, and standing around precipitates that much more so than the actual filming, so I try to get them in and out as fast as I can.

Now having said that, if all of your actors are all in every scene, then I, personally, like to shoot in order of the script as much as possible, as long as I am not having to rebuild set ups later.

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Old January 8th, 2010, 11:30 AM   #4
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Like most things in film making there is no one way to go about doing this. I'm assuming you have your shot list complete and that you are really trying to prepare a shot order. When preparing the order there are several things to consider, the least of which is usually the order the scenes come in the script.

The first thing is to consider physical limitations that you cannot control:

Lighting: From your scene descriptions you have an exterior shot in scene 3 (assuming daytime) and you have a shot in which you may need to have similar lighting in scene 1 (when the actress enters her house she will open the door which I would assume will show exterior). so depending on the time the movie is suppose to occur over, you may need to get the shot of the door entrance and the final scene close to the same time.

Things like scenes with food and eating are difficult for most small budget movies since it's very hard to keep the continuity. Can't have a half eaten chicken in a scene then later in the time line the chicken all of a sudden has grown it's drumstick back. Believe me this happens even on some very big budget movies. Remember too that if something is suppose to get broken in a scene, make sure you get all the shots that require the in tact prop before breaking it. This goes along the same lines as with eating or drinking scenes.

Second thing to consider are your talents time restrictions. On most small movies your talent may have other gigs or jobs that place time restrictions on when they can be on set. So you have to consider that. If they are use to acting in films, shooting scenes out of sequence or jumping from shot to shot or between scenes should not be a problem, and they may even appreciate it as it could shorten their day. With that said also give your actors enough time between scene of very different emotion to get prepared and also have enough time to rest. Remember, acting takes a lot of emotional energy which is draining physically. And, just like with weight, the camera magnifies low energy. So, if you shoot your Scene 2 late in the day, it may come across as flat and not have enough energy since it is suppose to be a heated exchange.

Next consider your set up. If certain shots can be done without having to move lighting or a lot of changes to your camera setup, group those together. This consideration would usually be lower in order of things to consider but since you will be shooting this in one day this may be very important to being able to keep on schedule. Of course you have to consider your locations. For your scenario I would consider it a two location shoot. I'd consider the exterior shot in the backyard as one location and the interior shots in the house as location two. You'll have to allow for enough time to move equipment.

Finally, put all of the shots that you think are least important last within that location. You will be able to decide if those shots are really necessary when you start running out of time.

Without seeing your complete shot list it's really impossible to give a shot order. As you can imagine, in a one day shoot you will not necessarily shoot it by scene. If I were creating the shot order I'd do something like this:

Scene 3 - Exterior - all shots
Scene 1 - Shot of female entering through door
Scene 1 - Shot of kiss
Scene 2 - all shots
Scene 1 - Female changing clothes

I'd put the partial nude scene last so that you can release non essential talent and crew which will give your female lead a little more privacy if she needs it for the scene.

As a DP I'm a fanatic for set up time. I hate to feel rushed and I hate not being ready when the talent shows up on set. Nothing kills an actors ability to get into a scene like them waiting on set for the crew to figure out why they're not getting sound or a light isn't coming up. I'm assuming you want to have the camera rolling by 7 a.m. For me, that would mean a 5 a.m. crew call and a 6 a.m. call for the actors.

Keep in mind that you will most likely be shooting into the night which means you will lose the sun. If some of your interior shots show windows you may need to place some lighting outside of the windows when the sun starts to go down to simulate sunlight coming into the windows. That's of course assuming this occurs during daytime. If this is a suppose to be an evening scene you have a whole different order and a bunch of other considerations.

That's just how I'd approach it.

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Old January 9th, 2010, 08:27 AM   #5
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Garrett touched on most of the points I would make. You should base your schedule around daylight since that is the least controllable factor. You wouldn't want to be shooting that scene at high noon, so first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon will be preferable, and you'll want to determine the position of the sun at both times to decide which is best (i.e. avoiding hot sun in background and/or talent in shade). Following that, it's good to weed out which shots or scenes could possibly be shot night-for-day, so that if you run out of light you can still finish up.

If you are unconcerned about the visuals on the film, prioritize the whatever makes the most sense from a performance standpoint. Remember though that actors can take direction, but the sun won't!

Agreed also that it is good practice to avoid having actors hanging around all day. Don't call them all in at the beginning if you will not be using someone until the end of the day.

It's a juggling act to be sure.
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Old January 18th, 2010, 09:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Garrett Low View Post
Like most things in film making there is no one way to go about doing this. I'm assuming you have your shot list complete and that you are really trying to prepare a shot order. When preparing the order there are several things to consider, the least of which is usually the order the scenes come in the script.


Yes, I mentioned shooting in the order of the script. And yes, I agree with Garrett, that shooting in the order of the script would be the last consideration. Such a low consideration that I probably shouldn't have even mentioned it. It's just my preference when possible. Which admittedly, isn't very often.
I think that since 75% of my stuff is one day/one location type of shoots, I might have a little more leeway than larger productions would have.


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Old February 5th, 2010, 12:20 AM   #7
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The advice from the DPs is very good.

As a producer, I have an additional concern. Depending upon the level of nudity involved and how critical it is to the story, I would get that scene out of the way as soon as possible. Nudity, which I think is a critical experience for any actor, is scary and intimidating until the moment that it's done. Then it's no longer a big deal. That scene is going to be nagging at your actress all day. If it's done and over with, then she can just move on to the other scenes without that hanging over her. Some of your crew, if they aren't experienced, will also be weird about. Shoot it first. Get it over with. And then you can use the rest of the day to focus on performance.

I think the critical thing for you is to rehearse your actors really well. Put 'em through each scene at least 20 times prior to the shoot. If you do that, then you can arrange the order that you shoot in without concern for the performance. The actors will just go where they need to go, like stage actors do night after night.

Best of luck.
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