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Old 03-20-2013, 02:05 AM   #1
mainstream180
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Question No Storyboard, No Shot List Directors

Hi guys,

I currently only know of two directors that don't really rely on storyboards or shot lists: Christopher Nolan and Clint Eastwood. Further Evidence to support this below:

Regarding Nolan:

Quote:
"In the DVD commentary you mention that you often work without shot list or storyboards. Do you find it difficult to communicate to the crew what your intentions are?

I donít think I do. No, thatís probably why I donít tend to use them that much. I use storyboards for action scenes because obviously when youíre dealing with stunts and intricate physical effects you have to be pictorially demonstrating to everybody exactly what it is youíre after. I find beyond that Iím able to communicate to the crew and to the actors what Iím after using words, blocking, and actually being there on the set and showing them whatís going on. To me itís a slightly more spontaneous way of working for most sequences in the film, particularly one thatís very dependent on the performances than the pyrotechnics. I think that itís very important to be open to changing the way you shoot the scene depending on what the actors want to do in moving around the scene. The physicality of the scene is very important to the actor. I like to try and give them room to maneuver so that in our rehearsals we can find the best way to play a scene and the best way to photograph it."
--From: http://www.dvdtalk.com/insomniainterview.html
Quote:
"The editing-driven, somewhat catch-as-catch-can approach to staging and shooting is clearly Nolanís preference for many projects. He doesnít prepare shot lists, and he storyboards only the big action sequences. As his DP Wally Pfister remarks, ďWhat I do is not complicated.Ē Comparing their production method to documentary filming, he adds: ďA lot of the spirit of it is: How fast can we shoot this?Ē"
--From: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/20...olan-vs-nolan/
Quote:
"Q: Without shot lists or storyboards, how do you keep track of everything?

A: In my head. I've always been able to visualize what I want mentally, and I can lie there at night and cut the film in my head, one shot at a time, all the way through the whole thing. Watching dailies, which everybody used to have to do but now seems to be much more of an option, is an important process for memorizing the material. After memorizing it, you can then cut it in your head as you proceed, and when you get into the edit suite you know exactly where to find things. I can say to my editor, 'You know, we shot a different angle on this' or whatever, and tell him where to find it."
--From: http://www.dga.org/Craft/DGAQ/All-Ar...her-Nolan.aspx
Regarding Eastwood:

Quote:
"He has made Clint Movie after Clint Movie, but the Clint Movie is itself defined by what he won't do. He won't go over budget. He won't go over schedule. He won't storyboard. He won't produce a shot list. He won't rehearse. He doesn't say "Action" ó "When you say 'Action' even the horses get nervous" ó and he doesn't say "Cut." He won't, in the words of his friend Morgan Freeman, "shoot a foot of film until the script is done," and once the script is done, he won't change it."
--From: http://www.esquire.com/features/clin...#ixzz2O3pjBSiV
ON THAT NOTE: if Clint doesn't say Action or Cut what does he say??

Quote:
"Eastwood only uses storyboards when special effects are involved, such as on Firefox and Space Cowboys and doesn't prepare shot lists either. Instead, the film is in his head. "You visit the set. You get ideas. You say, 'You know, I could bring the person in there and I could come around there.' You kind of rough it out in your mind," Eastwood explained. "When you come back, a month or so later, to actually be on the set, you might notice the art director's got some nice things that you didn't know he was going to have. If you don't like them, you can move them around. But if you like them, you think it'd be nicer if the actor came in another way. It evolves. It's like clay. If you're locked into something, if it has to be an exact duplicate of the mold that you had in your brain and you can't deviate from it, then you're going to be locked in. Sometimes people aren't comfortable. Or an actor comes up with a splendid idea, which sometimes they do. They say how about if I do this? And I say let's do this one, and after I make sure we have it say, 'OK, that sounds good. Try it.' I'm very sympathetic to actors trying things because that's the way I like to be directed myself.

"You've got a bunch of creative minds on the picture ó the art department, wardrobe department ó everybody has good ideas. You take those good ideas and it all goes into the pot and it becomes the final. Don Siegel always used to make fun of himself and say, 'God, I don't care who comes up with a suggestion, if it's a good one I'll take credit for it. If it's a lousy one, they can have it back.' He used to joke about it. In essence what he was saying is that there are an awful lot of people who could have input and you might as well not stifle them. Try to encourage them. I know there are some directors I've worked with who say, 'Don't change.' I say, 'OK.' If they want to do that and it works for them, that's fine."

"You've got a bunch of creative minds on the picture ó the art department, wardrobe department ó everybody has good ideas... there are an awful lot of people who could have input and you might as well not stifle them. Try to encourage them.""
--From: http://www.dga.org/Craft/DGAQ/All-Ar...-Eastwood.aspx
So In summary both directors visualize how the finished movie will look in their head while on set (with Clint being further open to suggestion) and then work from there. Are there any other directors who do this? Do any of you guys follow this methodology and if so what tips do you have? or do you all prefer to be meticulous with your previsualization?
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:33 AM   #2
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Eh, I kinda think it's misleading to say that neither of these directors uses shot lists. I guess it depends on how you define "shot list".

So far as I can see, a shot list is nothing more than a check-list. These are the minimum shots that you need to get in order to wrap that scene. Just cuz you never write them down, that doesn't mean you haven't made a list. That just means you're cocky enough to think that you don't need to write things down.

ALL directors use shot lists.
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:45 AM   #3
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That's a very good point Cracker Funk.

I personally fall in between with most of the projects that I have directed; I tend to write a detailed shot list and storyboard parts of scenes where I want to employ something unusual to tell the story. But on set I will often change things or forgo whole shots entirely.

However, for my next project I want to go with something less stringent from the get go because of my familiarity with the script. BUT you're definitely right Cracker Funk in that I already have an edited version of the film in my head at least which itself acts as an informal shot list.

I guess what I was wondering though, was if their is anybody else who doesn't formally produce a shot list or storyboards but is more spontaneous on set and if they are what tips do they have?
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:53 AM   #4
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Spontaneity is great! Be willing to listen to new ideas from your cast and crew. Ask questions, and engage in an actual conversation.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a check-list. Chris Nolan has a scripty. You probably won't. He feels confident enough to keep his shot list in his head, and that's fine, because he's got a team of people to make sure that they get what they need. You'll probably have to be your own script supervisor. So write shit down!
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Old 03-20-2013, 06:51 AM   #5
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IIRC, Eastwood uses some other phrase like 'whenever you're ready' which, granted, is less intimidating than loudly screaming 'ACTION!'.

Realistically, it depends on the set: sets with not that much money and not that much time are really giong to find storyboards and especially shot lists useful, as they know what they need to get. If you're on a fully equipped set, with Grip trucks, a bevy of grip and lighting equipment (including dollies etc.) and enough time, you could be more free with a shot list and pick what feels right on the day. Realistically though, you should at least shot list - how else are you going to know which day to bring in your steadiop, for example?
I think you'd find that these Directors discuss shots with the DP well before shooting, even if they don't sit and write down a specific shot list. I also like to watch blocking for best coverage, and best angles, but I always shot list.
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Old 03-20-2013, 08:11 AM   #6
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They have shot lists, most certainly. Only its in their head instead of on paper.

And I gotta admit, since that's how I do it, it works great
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Old 03-20-2013, 09:26 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mussonman View Post
They have shot lists, most certainly. Only its in their head instead of on paper.

And I gotta admit, since that's how I do it, it works great
That's great if it works for you. I tried doing my first short recently (only 3 scenes) with the list only in my head and it didn't go so well... detailed lists for me from now on.

I like Eastwood's stance on input from others. You're crazy if you think you're the only one with a good idea. Also, I think from now on "whenever you're ready" will take the place of "action." I like that.
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Old 03-20-2013, 11:04 AM   #8
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It really depends on your crew. Experienced crew = Shot list and storyboard optional. With Novices, you better have as much stuff as possible.

I shot "Griffin and Gretchen" without either. It was pretty smooth, but I know it would have been more crisp with visual aids. We ended up getting most of what we wanted on the first episode, but the snowstorm caused us to deviate from the original plan. We had actors driving from as far as 4 hours away. They had to book it to stay ahead of the snow.

End result: Mostly masters and a lot of compromises. That said, a shot sheet would have helped us make the most of the time we had.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJGbm38OQHQ
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Old 03-29-2013, 12:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jax_rox View Post
I think you'd find that these Directors discuss shots with the DP well before shooting, even if they don't sit and write down a specific shot list. I also like to watch blocking for best coverage, and best angles, but I always shot list.
Nolan and Pfister also have worked together long enough to develop what Pfister has called in interviews a "form of shorthand" IIRC he's even cracked jokes about shooting shots that both of them knew would never make the edit, and then on the next film skipping those - thus further refining the short-hand.

It takes time, experience, and a team who are all on the same artistic page for the free-form style to work. I think it's short sighted for inexperienced film makers to look at outlier examples like Nolan or Eastwood and say "Well, if they don't shot list, why should I?"

For the OP:

Please disregard everything David Bordwell writes about film. If he thinks Nolan is going in "catch as catch can" because he happens to not use paper most of the time, well, I don't even know how to respond to that. Nolan clearly has a plan going in, just because he's developed an efficient way of executing it by keeping (mostly) the same core team throughout most of his work doesn't make it any less pre-meditated.

Sorry, but I can't take Bordwell seriously. Anyone who thinks that film craft (editing, color selection, composition, camera movement, etc) serves only style and does not enhance story just doesn't understand film as far as I am concerned.

Last edited by David.rhsc; 03-29-2013 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 03-29-2013, 01:22 AM   #10
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Spielberg famously shot the entire opening scene of Saving Private Ryan without a shot list or storyboards, and that scene turned out as one of the greatest battle scenes (if not THE greatest) ever put on film.

Like mckinise said above, it comes down to experience, and I think confidence as well..
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:47 AM   #11
Caidh Mor
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I typically walk onto set with a well planned and typed-out shotlist.

I typically grab about 20% of the shots as they were planned, and let inspiration take control of the other 80%. What I use the shotlist for in that kind of situation is as a checklist to make sure that I have what that shot will be needed for covered.I plan for an ECU but decide to do a cut-in to a hand for the same moment? I'll still check off the ECU.

What people seem to fallaciously think "going in without a shotlist" will allow them to do is "go in without a plan." And a movie without a plan is a movie with no chance of success.
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Old 03-29-2013, 10:58 PM   #12
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To each is own, and what works... works.

However, we are talking about Nolan and Eastwood here. They probably answered the interviewer's questions in the present time. They both have such a huge background in filmmaking, plus being successful, they may be fine without a shot list and have the genetics/experience to literally run it through their heads.

However.

Don't forget these guys have a 1st AD who develops/distributes/negotiates the schedule, and my guess is they work together a lot; In other words, the 1st AD knows what the Director is looking for, their shooting style, etc. Not to mention that every scene or complete scene is shot in one day. This is time for the Director to get a grip on the shots he/she wants for tomorrow. And the Director, 1st AD, Sound, Art, and DP have discussed each scene in pre-production-- they don't just show up on the set with no planning and ask, "what should we shoot today?"

I've been 1st AD on about a dozen projects, and overwhelmingly a shot list helps. Those without (much to my consternation after multiple requests) *suffer* in their footage given to the editor.

My 2 centavos. Good discussion, folks--
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:34 AM   #13
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The difference here is greater than saying these directors just walk in with "mental shot lists" that they haven't written down. I think what they are saying is they don't prepare shot list because they want to be open to ideas on the day and be dynamic in the way they can work with the location and actors rather than sticking to their own preconceptions.

I've worked both ways and have progressively moved towards working it out on the set. I recently shot a music video where I had the producer breathing down my neck being pretty strict on how many shots and how much time etc. Right down to me and the DP having to specify on the shot lists which lens and lights we were using. We stuck to the script the first day but felt like the work was really suffering because of it. We just weren't adapting properly when shots didn't look great/ work as they should because we were trying to stick to what we put on paper a week earlier. For the rest of the shoot we walked round with the shot list in our hands like we were working from it but just made it up as we went along.

There's definitely a trade off working that way though. You wouldn't describe either Nolan or Eastwood as very visual directors. Both are just capturing the action rather than composing complex frames with layers of action. Definitely gets me thinking about the way I work.
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Old 03-30-2013, 06:54 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dom D View Post
The difference here is greater than saying these directors just walk in with "mental shot lists" that they haven't written down. I think what they are saying is they don't prepare shot list because they want to be open to ideas on the day and be dynamic in the way they can work with the location and actors rather than sticking to their own preconceptions.
Well, okay, but isn't the director the final word on those preconceptions, and what if he/she doesn't have any? I do agree, and am all in favor (as others have said in the thread) of being flexible and open to ideas on the set. However, I've also seen with my own eyes the AD and DP making the movie-- the director walked in *too* open, as in, clueless. Talk about a slow shooting day...

So the issue may be one of extremes. I love having a shot list (i.e., plan) for the shoot. The director and crew have something to fall back on, and there's a far greater chance of getting what shots you need to tell your story, on schedule, and in the can.
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Old 03-31-2013, 08:52 AM   #15
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I have a friend who shots everything with only a few notes on a page - http://valentinofilms.ca/
And his stuff is amazing cinematography - only uses a Canon 5DM2 and a 50mm lens for most of his shots (he also has a 24-70L for wide angles).
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