Time. Once I’m on set, there’s always too little of it, it seems. One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years of working on film sets and producing my own projects is that effective time management can really make or break a production. This is why any experienced filmmaker will advise new filmmakers to always invest ample time preparing and planning things out before walking on to set. Having a plan definitely helps. And yet, one of the biggest challenges I’ve always faced was how to keep track o my plan once I set foot on set!
Well, in recent Stories by the River productions (Slippery Slope and Playing with Ice) we’ve been able to implement a great new tool that has changed how we are able to track our progress and visualize how far behind or ahead of schedule we might be at any given moment. That tool is Shot Lister.
Shot Lister is an iOS app for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch that allows you to import your shot list from a spreadsheet template they provide. Once in the app, you can schedule your shooting day. Here, rather than me explain how it works, just check out this great video that explains what it does …
Shot Lister has been updated and I’ve yet to use the latest version on a production. Hopefully that will change before too long! But the version I have used has greatly helped us track our progress and make informed decisions on the spot about camera set-ups that need to be combined or shots that simply need to be cut to get us back on track. I love taking the guess work out of such decision making.
But really, one of the greatest benefits of using Shot Lister is in the planning process. In order to make the most effective use of Shot Lister, you do need to have a fairly solid idea about what you’re shooting, how complicated it is, and time consuming it will be to accomplish. In mapping things out in Shot Lister, I am forced to focus my mind and make informed predictions based on my past experiences and the script and crew I am about to work with. I have to realistically consider if a given camera set-up will take ten or fifteen or sixty minutes to accomplish. Not all set-ups are equal. Jib or dolly shots are always going to take longer to set-up and shoot. But it’s not just that. Is this a challenging scene for the cast? I may want to give us more time to shoot more takes or to just get into the right headspace to shoot a given scene. These are all important things to think about in advance.
I also look at my total set-ups and think about how much time can be dedicated to each. I take the total shooting time I have available and divide it by the number of set-ups. If the average comes out to only five or ten minutes per set-up I know I don’t currently have a realistic shooting schedule for that day. Either the shooting day will have to be longer or I will need to combine or cut some set-ups from the day. The fact that Shot Lister also allows me to schedule breaks and lunch helps me make a more informed choices ahead of time about how things are organized and scheduled.
Now, I’m just waiting for an Android version of Shot Lister, which is in the works, according to Shot Lister’s Facebook page. Click here to visit the Shot Lister official website. As for me, I can’t wait to try out version 2.0 on a new project some time.
UPDATE (10-29-13): Shot Lister has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a version of the app for use on Android devices. Check out the campaign by clicking here.