How to schedule the shootings for a short film?


Active member
Hi all,
I'm studying filmmaking and I am learning about pre-production at the moment. One of the things I am having problems figuring out is the schedule.
How do you schedule the shootings for a short film? What do I need to consider when scheduling it?
Is there a method to properly schedule shootings?

Maura N.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
Hi Emily! It is very important to have a clear schedule over what you will do, otherwise you will spend a lot of time being unproductive. The best way to do this is to write down everything that you have to do and put a time to it. You will get better as you do it. :D

Olivia Perez

Active member
Dear, schedule and planning can be very tricky if you have little to no experience. Take an agenda and write down when everyone is available for your project and then see how you can manage to work around their program.

Oskar Kuusk

Active member
Start planning in advance, like weeks or even months before the filming days. Then, when the day comes, everyone knows exactly what and when to do. And hopefully, no one will ignore their appointment.


Hi all,
I'm studying filmmaking and I am learning about pre-production at the moment. One of the things I am having problems figuring out is the schedule.
How do you schedule the shootings for a short film? What do I need to consider when scheduling it?
Is there a method to properly schedule shootings?

This is a step by step guide for scheduling your short film. I have successfully used this method for years and have at most been delayed by 2 hours due to unforeseen circumstances or underestimating technical difficulties.

Scheduling is super important because if you do not schedule your project, you will quickly lose your cast & crew and burn bridges due to false promises. And your costs will balloon like crazy.

Scheduling should be done in tandem with the preliminary budget so you can plan around major elements, when you have completed a preliminary schedule you will get an idea of what your final cost will look like and can adjust the schedule to decrease production costs.

Before creating a schedule you need to lock your shooting script, shot list and sound list. A production schedule should look like a production strip board (google it). You can use excel, numbers or any free alternatives to create one. The industry standard is movie magic scheduling but that software is expensive and more useful in big productions with multiple crew members involved.

Each shot should be color coded and divided into Day-interior, Day-exterior, Night-interior and Night-exterior along with a day separator, again I use movie magic’s colors because it is the industry standard and helps you memorize them if you work on a bigger production in the future.

Each strip (shot) should have at least the following information, Time, Scene&shot number, Script page & length (divided into eights 1/8, 4/8=half page etc), shot description (one sentence what is happening in the shot), cast, location & notes.

The schedule is called a production strip board because you can easily move the strips around to adjust your schedule. If this is very confusing read the wikipedia article or watch some youtube vids to help you visualize what I am talking about.

The biggest cost and scheduling issue will be the actors and locations. Your top priority is to finish off as many shots as possible in the same location or finish off all scenes from an actor in as few days as possible.

Example: You have Actor A & Actor B with 2 locations: Location C & D.
Actor A will appear in location C & D, Actor B only appears in location C.

Which costs more? If the location is more expensive then you want to wrap up location C in one day and perhaps pay Actor A for 2 days of work if that is the cheaper option. If Actor A is a name actor that costs you a lot of money then you want to prioritize getting all shots of Actor A in the least amount of time and perhaps finish off location C another day with just Actor B.
For me personally, I have only paid for a location once, in a music video. So my biggest costs is Actors, and my main prio is scheduling around actors and if possible only paying them for one day's work. That can mean jumping between locations back and forth.

I do not recommend you shoot scenes in chronological order as that is usually not the most cost efficient way unless you have a viable artistic reason for needing it like the movie Boyhood. I do recommend that you shoot your shots (beats within each scene) chronologically to keep tabs on continuity and let the actors get a feeling for if the scene is working or not and make adjustments.

With 6+ years of experience shooting short films, commercials and music videos I have been able to narrow down my schedule to 5 minutes per insert and 15 min per Medium & Wide shots. This is possible because I thoroughly plan my shot list, with storyboards & floor plans and I test shoot on location before filming with the real cast. You can check out my instagram to see how the test shoot looks like compared to the final cut. The less planning you do, the more delays you will have.

If you are just starting out or relying on other crew members to design your shots then 15 min per shot is most likely unattainable. You should then schedule at least 30 min - 1 hour per shot. This gives you between 3-10 takes depending on how fast you can setup the shot. Big productions take about 40 min - 1 hour per shot and they are shooting with large crews and multiple cameras. Avoid multicam setups unless you are filming a one take, such as a character dropping and breaking an expensive prop.

Also, if you are shooting at public locations like subways or busy streets without permits, expect to increase shooting time per shot by 50% as bystanders will heckle your crew, or security will usher you out. Scout first and see if you can steal the shot or if it’s better to shoot somewhere less busy. Example: You can’t film in an airport or Central station with a big camera and crew. You might get away with just your dslr and one actor and say you’re filming a vlog but the moment they see a boom pole you’re done and might even get fined, ouch.

If possible avoid darling shots like the steadicam one-take or magic hour sunset kiss scene because most likely you will fail without professional crew members and be further delayed, adding costs and extra days. Also it can be a disadvantage to work with much more experienced or older filmmakers as the moment you show inexperience or doubt they will want to take over your production and insert their vision into the final product which is no good. Better to work with friends and family and build your skills up, through experience and online tutorials.

A rule of thumb is that the cast and crew can work for 12 hours with at least 2 half hour breaks, and 1 one hour meal break. Going over 12 hours per day and your team will start to get tired and grumpy unless you are a very good hype leader and you make them feel like the film also belongs to them and not just your passion project.

So if you or anyone reading this is a beginner, lacking knowledge in cinematography, 3 point lighting, mis-en-scene blocking, directing actors, issues that may arise from production sound recording, time it takes to fix makeup and costumes etc. Then I highly recommend you schedule 1 hour per shot. This gives you about 12 shots a day and you will have time to experiment and find out what isn’t working without the feeling of constant stress and panic mode. You can increase the amount of shots in your schedule the more handheld and documentary style you go, such as using only natural lighting, no makeup etc but remember that there must be a minimum baseline of quality if you are going to keep the audience interested, if the image is subpar, then the audio better be amazing.

With this in mind if your schedule has ballooned to more than 3 days for a 5 min short film then you really need to rework your shot list. If you can’t see your film working without those darling shots like that magic hour kiss then that means your story is probably weak and requires a rewrite to improve the protagonist’s desire line and narrative conflict without needing the gimmick payoff or intro to wow the audience.

Once you have locked your budget and schedule you can use the production strip board to create a daily call sheet. This helps you coordinate with cast and crew so they know where to show up, what scenes & shots will be filmed for the day and what time they can expect to go home. (google call sheet template)

I got more tips but this should be enough for now to give a clear picture of the basics of film scheduling. If you or anyone else has any further questions I am happy to answer them.

Good luck & can’t wait to see your results!
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