Every once in a while, news comes out about a Director who has filmed their project in chronological order. But that is incredibly rare. For economy of time and financial resources, most movies are filmed out of order.
That being said, imagine the confusion if a production crew tried to film scenes out of order with the original screenplay! Hence, a shooting script.
Basically, a shooting script is a script that is ordered according to how the Director, Cinematographer and other pertinent members of the production crew have decided is best for the project.
1 As mentioned, time is a significant consideration. Even the most modest film can have expenses that go into the thousands of dollars on a daily basis.
If a production can shave off a week or even a day by shooting all relevant scenes in the same location in a single block of time — rather than taking down the set and then coming back weeks later to rebuild it — that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
Schedules might also necessitate the order of a shooting script. Consider the coordination that has to go into films with a large ensemble cast. Especially if the Actors are in high demand, they may have a narrow window in which they can be available for a shoot. For that reason, the Director and Cinematographer may have to reorder certain scenes to accommodate their schedules, all considerations that will go into a shooting script.
Another major factor that can influence a shooting script is location. Outside of trying to save time, a particular location, such as those abroad, might necessitate that the Director and the rest of the production crew reorder the shooting script.
For instance, let’s say that a production is expected to run three months. However, there’s a need to film in a certain location where winter is approaching. To avoid inclement weather, the production might decide to film there first with the hopes of getting the shots they want without having to worry about snow or colder temperatures.
Availability for certain locations could also impact how the shooting script is ordered. Especially popular destinations, such as the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building, might require that productions use their venues only on certain dates. All these considerations will go into how the final shooting script looks.
It’s for all these reasons that even seasoned Screenwriters may not have a clear idea of what a shooting script is — because they don’t write it! Unless the filmmaker in question is a Writer-Director hyphenate, the person who is responsible for writing the story must eventually hand off their screenplay so that the Director and Cinematographer can reshape it for production.
However, when the Writer of the script is indeed also the Director on the project, there might be more latitude in terms of what is used as a shooting script. As Writer-Director Sarovar Banka explains:
“I do create a shooting script, but sometimes I will jump straight to a shot plan or storyboarding. My feature A Decent Arrangement was somewhat unusual because I knew I would be directing it. So from my early drafts, my script ended up being a typical script with also some notes on how I envisioned it as a Director. I wrote these notes and ideas as I was writing the script.”