how to write a shooting script

Making a movie or video is a complex process involving many different steps.

Creating a shooting script is one of the most essential steps in the production process.

A shooting script is a document that outlines the specifics of the film, including the scenes, dialogue, and shots, but with more detail than a spec script. This document helps the director, actors, and production crew plan the entire production and ensure everything is done correctly.

In this article, we’ll discuss what a shooting script is, why it’s important, and how to create a shooting script for your movie or video!

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What Is A Shooting Script?

A shooting script is a detailed version of a screenplay or script used during the production of a film, TV show, or video.

It includes precise technical information alongside the narrative content, such as scene numbers, camera angles and movements, shot composition, and director’s notes, as well as any other pertinent information that will allow for a complete and thorough breakdown of the script by the various film departments involved with preproduction, production, and post-production.

For example, the shooting script’s scene numbers allow the shooting schedule to be arranged in the order that scenes will be filmed, which might differ from the narrative sequence for the sake of production efficiency and budget.

The shooting script serves as a comprehensive guide for the director, cinematographer, actors, and other crew members, ensuring that the entire production team understands the vision for each scene and what’s required to bring it to life.

brown and black typewriter

Why Is A Shooting Script Important?

A shooting script is essential because it is the fundamental guide for the entire film, video, TV episode, webisode, or motion picture production.

It provides detailed instructions on how each scene should be shot, specifying camera angles, movements, lighting, and other technical aspects. This clarity helps the director, cinematographer, editor, and production team visualize and understand each scene’s intended outcome.

Furthermore, the shooting script aids in the efficient planning and execution of the filming process. Grouping scenes that share locations or other resources helps optimize shooting schedules and budgets.

In essence, the final shooting script is the roadmap that navigates the team from the start of production to the end, ensuring that the original vision of the screenplay or script is effectively translated onto the screen.

How to Write a Shooting Script

Creating a good shooting script for a movie or video is a detailed process that involves close coordination with all departments involved in film production.

The shooting script acts as a blueprint for production, providing specific details about what needs to happen for each scene and shot in the film. Here are the typical shooting script characteristics and the steps to create one:

screenplay, film maker, filmmaking

Read and Understand the Screenplay

Before breaking down the script into a shooting script, you must read and fully understand the screenplay. Make a note of the characters, settings, and the general flow of the story.

Scene Numbering

Each scene is numbered for easier reference regarding script breakdown, scheduling, communication, shot lists, actor prep, and other department requirements.

When a scene is omitted in later revisions, the scene number will not change but will be labeled as “OMITTED” next to the scene number.

Adding Scenes

Additionally, new scenes inserted into subsequent drafts will get a new scene number, followed by A, B, C, and so on, between two scenes that already exist.

For example, if new scenes are added between scenes 42 and 43, they will be numbered 42A, 42B, etc.

Page numbers

Unlike in spec scripts, page numbers don’t change in shooting scripts, regardless of how many scenes are added or deleted.

In place of removed scenes, you’ll see a blank page, while with added scenes, the overall physical page count might increase, but the numbering is adjusted like with added scenes.

For example, if added material adds physical pages between pages 6 and 7, they would be numbered 6A, 6B, etc.

Titles and credits

Shooting scripts may include information on the title sequence, opening and closing credits, and where they fit into the film. This generally doesn’t apply to spec scripts.

Script Breakdown

Highlight or underline important aspects of the script, such as a list of characters, locations, day or night, props needed, costume changes, special effects, stunts, special equipment, or anything that stands out as needing additional preparation or resources.


For each scene, create a series of sketches or use software to visualize how you want the action to unfold.

This will help you and your team understand the desired camera angles and movements, the blocking of the actors, and the sequence of events.

Determine Shot List

Within each scene, decide how many shots you’ll need, the required equipment for each shot, the type of shots (close-up, wide shot, etc.), and the order in which they’ll occur.

Establish Camera Directions

Define the camera movements and angles for each shot, such as pans, tilts, tracking shots, etc.

Detail Lighting and Sound Needs

man in black jacket holding black dslr camera

For each shot, determine the lighting setup and sound requirements. This might involve anything from general mood lighting to specific spotlights or accents and any necessary sound effects, music, or ambient noise.

Arrange in Shooting Order

Unlike the narrative order, the shooting order is typically organized to be the most efficient for production. Scenes might be grouped by location, actors involved, time of day, or lighting setup to save time and resources.

Rehearsal Notes

Include any rehearsal notes that might influence how the scene is shot. This might include alterations in blocking, changes in delivery, or other adjustments.

Technical Specifications

Include details like:

  • Type of film or digital format to be used
  • Aspect ratio
  • Frame rate

Draft a Schedule

Develop a schedule for your shoot days based on your shooting script. Factor in time for setup, rehearsals, multiple takes, and breakdown.

Final Review and Rewrites

Go through the shooting script with your production team, including the director of photography, production designer, sound mixer, and others.

Make any necessary adjustments based on their feedback.


woman signing on white printer paper beside woman about to touch the documents

Once your shooting script is finalized, distribute copies to all key members of your production crew.

Everyone should have a clear idea of what’s happening each day of the shoot and what’s required for each scene.

Script Revisions

Just because your script is complete doesn’t mean it won’t undergo changes as part of the preproduction and production process.

How many revisions can you expect?

As many as it takes!

Multiple versions are each treated as an entirely new draft, typically with different Writers Guild revision colors for each successive draft.

The first draft sent out is White, the next one is typically Blue, followed by Pink, Yellow, Green, Goldenrod, Buff, Salmon, Cherry, Tan, and then cycling back to 2nd White, 2nd Blue, and so on.

Remember, a shooting script is a living document that will most likely be adjusted as production progresses. Always be flexible and ready to make changes as necessary.

What Software Can You Use to Create A Shooting Script?

Creating a shooting script requires specialized software that can handle formatting, scheduling, and storyboarding needs. Here are some of the leading software options you can use to create a shooting script:


Celtx screenwriting software home

Celtx is a comprehensive software for pre-production and scriptwriting. It includes tools for storyboarding, shot listing, scheduling, and cloud-based collaboration features. It’s my top overall choice for screenwriting software!

Arc Studio Pro

Arc Studio Pro home

Arc Studio Pro provides professional screenwriting tools that follow industry standards. It has a clean, intuitive interface that offers unique features like real-time collaboration and version tracking. It is beneficial when working with teams or getting feedback from various sources.

One of its standout features is its outlining tool which lets you organize your thoughts and structure your story effectively.

Final Draft

Final Draft screenwriting software home

Final Draft is one of the film industry’s most popular screenwriting software tools. It has professional script formatting plus tools for story development and outlining.


StudioBinder software home

StudioBinder offers scriptwriting, but it’s mainly known for its robust pre-production features. You can import a script, then easily break it down into scenes, create shot lists, storyboards, and production schedules.


Scrivener Book writing software home

While not a dedicated screenwriting software, Scrivener has a screenplay format and is highly versatile for all writing projects. It offers extensive organizing and outlining features.

Remember, different software suits different needs. Some are more focused on the scriptwriting process, while others offer comprehensive pre-production tools. Consider your needs, budget, and preferences when making your choice.

Shooting Script Examples

There are many different shooting script examples from the earliest days of movie-making.

The amount of information in the shooting script varies with the director and creative team bringing the story to life and their needs.

A great shooting script example is in the classic film 12 Angry Men (1957), starring Henry Fonda, about a group of jurors deliberating on a murder trial.

From the opening scene, we see the hallmarks of a shooting script vs. a generic screenplay.

12 Angry Men (1957), MGM, shooting script

Scene numbers for individual scenes (in this case, scene 1), camera shots (“long shot” used multiple times in headings and sub-headings), different shots within the action lines (“camera holds on steps and building front from a distance and the dollies in slowly”), and transitions (“FADE IN:”, “DISSOLVE TO:”) – all of which are required for the execution of the filming process and to help visualize each separate shot according to the director’s vision.

None of these would typically be seen in a spec script.

Here’s another scene from the same script, which shows that in addition to the above elements, shooting scripts can include information about actor blocking and which actors or items for the camera to focus on in a given scene.

12 Angry Men (1957), MGM, shooting script

Common Questions About Shooting Scripts

What’s the difference between a shooting script and a screenplay?

A screenplay is the narrative written document of a film or television program detailing the story, character dialogues, and primary action. A shooting script is a version of the original screenplay intended for production use – it includes technical instructions like scene numbers, camera angles, shot transitions, and sometimes specific lighting and sound cues. Shooting scripts are often arranged in the order of filming rather than in a narrative sequence.

What’s the difference between a shooting script and a spec script?

A spec script, short for speculative screenplay, is a non-commissioned script written in hopes of being sold. It typically follows standard screenplay formatting and includes only story elements like dialogue and action. A shooting script, however, is a screenplay prepared for actual production, containing technical directions like camera angles, shot sizes, and scene numbers, and often arranged in the shooting sequence rather than in narrative order.

What is the difference between a shot list and a shooting script?

A shooting script is a detailed version of the screenplay that includes technical elements such as camera angles, shot sizes, and specific blocking or staging information for each scene. On the other hand, a shot list (or shot plan) is a document derived from the shooting script, listing out each individual shot within a scene in the order they will be filmed, along with details like shot size, camera movement, and any specific notes for the shot.

Do you need a shooting script?

Yes! A shooting script is crucial for film or video production as it serves as a detailed roadmap for the production company and the entire team. It guides the shooting process by detailing technical instructions, like camera angles and movements. It helps organize the shoot most efficiently, ensuring all required shots are captured and nothing is missed.

Final Thoughts

Creating a shooting script for a film or video requires meticulous planning and a deep understanding of the movie’s story and technical aspects of filmmaking.

From carefully reading and breaking down your screenplay, identifying key elements, storyboard creation, and establishing camera directions to planning your shooting order, every step is crucial in crafting an effective shooting script.

Using the right software can further streamline this process and enhance collaboration among your team.

Remember, a well-prepared shooting script not only provides a clear roadmap for your production, but it’s also a powerful tool to ensure your vision is translated effectively onto the screen.

For more help with screenwriting, check out these great articles:

The 7+ Best Online Screenwriting Classes [Free & Paid]

shooting script

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