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How to prepare a shooting schedule


Written by Becky T

Published Apr 11, 2024

Behind every successful film production lies a meticulously crafted shooting schedule. Whether you're working on a large-scale feature film or a low-budget independent project, your shooting schedule serves as the backbone of your production. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can streamline your production timeline, minimise costs, and maximise your creative output.


  1. What is a shooting schedule?
  2. Break down the script
  3. Identify locations
  4. Determine the availability of cast and crew
  5. Establish shooting dates and times
  6. Import information into a spreadsheet or scheduling software

What is a shooting schedule?

A shooting schedule is a production document which lays out where and when each scene will be filmed. This allows production teams to ensure that enough time is allocated for each shoot, and helps them keep track of the intended timeline for filming.

Shooting schedules are usually pieced together by the 1st assistant director using the shot list, shooting script, and script breakdown. They will also collaborate with different departments to ensure that the schedule works across the production.

A shooting schedule is different from a call sheet in that, whilst the shooting schedule outlines the overall plan for filming scenes, the call sheet provides specific details and instructions for each day's shoot. The job of a shooting schedule is to provide a structured timeline for executing the script, whilst a call sheet ensures that everyone is on the same page and prepared to execute the day's work. Once you've pieced together your shooting schedule, you can check out this guide to crafting a call sheet.

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Break down the script

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of scheduling, it's crucial to thoroughly understand the script. This involves breaking down both the spec script (screenplay) and the shooting script, identifying key elements such as locations, characters, props, and special effects.

By gaining a clear understanding of the script's requirements, you can make informed decisions about the logistics of shooting, anticipate potential challenges, and prioritise scenes based on factors such as actor availability and weather conditions. Analysing the script allows you to identify opportunities for efficiency, such as grouping together scenes that take place in the same location or require similar setups.

image of a production member reading a script to two actors in a studio
Image by Ron Lach

Script breakdowns are not just about logistics; they also offer an opportunity to delve deeper into the emotional and thematic layers of the story. Understanding the subtext of each scene can inform decisions about lighting, camera angles, and performance nuances, enhancing the overall impact of the film.

Identify locations

Now that you've broken down the script, you should have a better idea about the locations required for each scene. Consider the unique characteristics and ambiance described in the screenplay, as well as any practical considerations such as indoor versus outdoor settings, or the need for specific architectural features.

You can start scouting for film locations using Tutti, and then map them out using a location library software, like SuperScout. This will help you keep track of all the locations across your project, and allow you to start mapping out timelines and travel routes.

user interface of SuperScout, a location library software
Image by SuperScout

It's important that you explore a variety of locations to provide flexibility and alternatives in case of scheduling conflicts, unforeseen challenges, or changes in the script or creative direction.

Before you lock down your shortlist of locations, make sure you conduct a recce on potential sites. Consider accessibility requirements, parking availability, proximity to amenities, and any necessary permits or permissions required for filming.

Determine the availability of cast and crew

An effective shooting schedule takes into account the needs of both your cast and crew. Consider the number of consecutive workdays, meal breaks, and sufficient rest periods. Creating a positive work atmosphere and taking care of the well-being of your team will go a long way in ensuring a successful production.

Remember that your cast and crew are the heart and soul of your production. By prioritising their well-being and creating a supportive environment, you not only boost morale but also increase productivity. Encourage open communication and feedback, and be willing to make adjustments to the schedule if necessary to accommodate the needs of your team. A happy and well-rested crew will always deliver their best work on set, leading to a smoother and more successful production overall.

image of a film crew standing around chatting
Image by Ron Lach

Providing adequate breaks, nutritious meals, and access to mental health resources can significantly impact the overall mood and productivity on set. Additionally, creating a comfortable and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected can lead to a more collaborative and successful production.

Establish shooting dates and times

Consider the availability of actors, locations, and any special equipment or crew members needed. Aim to schedule scenes in a logical order to minimise disruptions and ensure a smooth workflow. Keep in mind that unexpected changes may occur, so allow some flexibility in your schedule.

Efficient scheduling requires a delicate balance between artistic considerations and practical constraints. Factors such as weather conditions, actor availability, and technical requirements must all be taken into account when finalising the shooting schedule. Flexibility is key, allowing for adjustments to be made on the fly to accommodate unforeseen circumstances without compromising the quality of the production.

image of a paper shooting schedule laid out on a table
Image by Ron Lach

Even with the best planning, unexpected changes can arise during production. Whether it's bad weather, technical difficulties, or last-minute script changes, it's crucial to be flexible and adaptable. Have backup plans in place and communicate effectively with your team to solve problems efficiently. Remember that challenges are a normal part of any production, and how you handle them can make all the difference. Check out this article on dealing with weather on film shoots. Embrace the opportunity to think on your feet and come up with creative solutions that can turn a potential disaster into a memorable success story.

Import information into a spreadsheet or scheduling software

There are a number of software options available to assist with creating and managing shooting schedules. Popular options include StudioBinder, Celtx, and Scenechronize. These platforms offer features such as automatic script import, real-time collaboration, and call sheet generation.

Using software for shooting schedules offers several advantages over traditional pen and paper methods. It allows for easy organisation, quick revisions, and improved communication among the production team. Digital schedules can also be accessed remotely, ensuring that everyone is on the same page even when not physically present on set.

user interface of Celtx, a shooting schedule software
Image by Celtx

These software tools usually provide detailed analytics and reporting capabilities, allowing production managers to track progress, identify potential bottlenecks, and make informed decisions to keep the project on schedule and within budget.

Whilst it's important to be meticulous, it's also normal for shooting schedules to adapt throughout the production process. If you're working ahead or behind schedule, things will need to shift around, and you should remain flexible and adaptive to these changes.

Wrapping up

Creating a thorough and detailed shooting schedule is essential for any film production, allowing you to foresee potential conflicts, and provides you with the foundation for your all-important call sheet. Shooting schedules are prone to change as filming commences and priorities change, but the more thought you put into it at the start, the easier things will be as you evolve throughout production.

Find amazing film locations with Tutti

Choose from 1000+ spaces and locations on Tutti and deal directly with space hosts for a quick, hassle-free booking process.

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