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What Is a Shooting Script?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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A shooting script is a document used within the film and motion picture industry that indicates how different scenes in a movie breakdown. This is basically a screenplay that has been adjusted by the director and other members of the film crew for use as a document to plan out different shots and days of filming. The pages of a shooting script are numbered, as are the individual scenes and shots that need to be filmed. This document also includes notations and instructions on how scenes will be filmed, with indications of different shots such as close ups and the angles that will be used.

While a screenplay is written out by a writer, as a way to tell a story on paper, the shooting script is written for practical purposes. It is typically a version of the screenplay that has been altered or adjusted for use in shooting the movie. As scenes are removed, added, or altered, the shooting script is also changed to reflect this. Each page of this script is numbered, and every scene within it is also numbered, to make it easier for directors, cast, and crew to all know exactly what is being filmed on any given day.

As changes occur to the shooting schedule or new scenes are added to a movie, the shooting script is adjusted accordingly. If a scene is added between the original scene "4" and "5," it is typically labeled as scene "4A" to avoid any confusion with the initial version. Similarly, if a scene is removed from the film, then the scene number remains within the shooting script, but its content is simply replaced with the word "omitted" to ensure people know it was removed and is not missing. The page numbers in this script are handled in a similar way, so that new pages get letters and those removed are indicated accordingly.

Directors and cinematographers typically make notations in a shooting script to indicate how different scenes are going to be handled during filming. This allows the cast and crew to better understand what is happening, and provides an overall guide for the shooting process. Technical cues are typically included in this, so that a scene within a shooting script might include notation such as "CU" for close up. Specific instructions on where the camera is facing are included, as well as indications of actor placement for shots over the shoulder of a character or scenes in which actors move in and out of frame.

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Discussion Comments
By bluedolphin — On Nov 14, 2014

I read scripts of my favorite films when I have the opportunity. I've noticed that if the writer is also the director of the film, he or she usually goes ahead and adds a lot of the necessary info into the script. So the original script can almost be the shooting script this way.

I read one such script recently and the writer had everything in there from scene number, location, time of day and what the camera will do.

By ddljohn — On Nov 14, 2014

@fify-- No, a shooting script has to be done later.

The original script is basically the story. It almost reads like a novel except that there are dialogues and sometimes also small explanations for what the scene will be like, where it will be etc.

But all of the other details associated with a shooting script cannot be put in yet. Usually, scripts are not finalized until it's time to shoot. Scenes may be changed up until then. Also, when a script is ready, lots of people read through it. There is a chance that the script may not be made into a film or show at all. So why would anyone bothering a shooting script when nothing is decided yet?

And a shooting script is extremely detailed. There is so much information in there about how each and every scene will be filmed that no one will bother with it until the project is approved and started.

By fify — On Nov 13, 2014

I didn't know that the shooting script is different from the original script. Why can't they add the details for the shooting script from the very beginning? Won't that save time and effort?

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