5 Reasons to Stop Using a Paper Shot List

crumpledballThe shot list is a crucial but often over looked part of filmmaking. Having a good plan is the most important tool for getting what you want. Before the mobile revolution the only option was to print out your plan on paper, an inferior tradition that needs to end.

I’m a director, and after shooting my first feature, I couldn’t believe scribbling all over a piece of paper was the only option. So after we wrapped I got to work and designed an app called Shot Lister. I also made the pledge to no longer use paper for anything else in my life. Not a sticky note, not a shopping list… anything.

I’ve been paper free for over a year now, and let me tell you there isn’t anything the digital world can’t improve. You may not be ready to completely put your pen down, but here are the reasons you need to stop using a paper shot list.

1 – You can change it!

IconSHLOnce you print out a piece of paper, that’s it. If you want to change it, you’ll need to print out a another one, or scribble over the original with a pen. In a digital world of mobile devices there is no need to scrawl over tree bark like a caveman.

With Shot Lister you can instantly change the plan with a flick of the finger. Want to shoot your pickup shots at the end of the day? Don’t draw arrows everywhere, just drag and release. Your actress suddenly taking an hour longer in makeup? Just add more time, and the app recalculates your schedule without your needing to do arithmetic in the margins.

Another great example of an app that lets you change the plan as you go is Shot Designer. It easily builds beautiful camera overheads, and lets you drag and drop setups around a blueprint of the set. If you decide to change your axis in the middle of blocking a scene, just rotate the axis and all the camera positions follow. Much better then a red pen.

2 – You always have it with you

For now at least, physics only allows paper to exist in one place. You can print out more but that doesn’t help. Moving to a paperless existence not only unclutters your life, but means you always have access to your files, without having to visit the chiropractor.

Shot Lister works on you iPhone or iPad and syncs with iCloud and Dropbox. This means you can do up a new schedule or build a new shot lists anywhere. Lots of people tell me they love using the app on the bus or in the location scout van.

Another incredible app for ensuring you have everything with you is Evernote. You can store any type of document, image, video, webpage and let it sync with every device you own. Even if your phone, tablet, and computer fall off a cliff, you can logon to their website and access all your files… and all this for free!

shot list
The shot list.

3 – You suck at math

Every second on set is precious, and when the crew is standing around waiting for the next setup, the last thing you should be doing is math. I often found myself behind schedule madly calculating what I can afford to film before the sun goes down.

With a paper shot list this means quickly doing arithmetic in the margins. Constantly going back and forth between the AD, your watch and your paper scribblings. This is probably the absolute worse part of using a paper shot list, but thankfully it’s the single greatest feature of Shot Lister.

Computers are awesome at math! When you’re on set Shot Lister enters “Live Mode”. It’s more then just a clock telling you how behind you are, it’s an amazingly fast tool to figure out how to get back on schedule. If you’re twenty minutes behind, you cut or simplify future shots and the app instantly calculates if that brings you back on track. In one look you know exactly how you’re doing.

Live mode.
Live mode.

4 – You will be left alone

Leading the crew into battle with confidence is key to having your shoot run smoothly. Actors, producers, even the catering staff can smell the fear. I’ve had an interesting experience since using Shot Lister.

Not only does the app give you the confidence to lead, but because everyone knows you have the app, they know there is a solid plan. The crew is confident they are in good hands, and most amazingly of all… the producers leave you alone. They have no need to remind you of the time, you have an app for that.


5 –  You look cool

Let’s face it, it’s a pretty great feeling to whip out an app and you get to say “oh you don’t have this?” Shot Lister is just one of many cool apps that make people jealous on set.

Two other great apps that always impress are Sun Seekerwhich gives you an augmented reality view of the sun’s path through the sky. This app has saved me so many times because you can quickly find out the exact time the sun will go behind the trees. Very cool.

The other app is Artemis Viewfinder, this very popular app allows you to simulate different lenses right on your device. This is better then a real viewfinder because everyone can look at the screen at the same time and agree on the focal length before wasting time swapping a lens.

So to finish off I encourage you to look at each piece of paper in you life and ask yourself if you really need it. One piece of paper is small and innocent, but we all know as soon as you print one it multiplies faster then a zombie apocalypse. There are amazing solutions out there to simplify and improve your life.

Check out my app at www.shotlister.com and please leave a comment below about your favorite paper saving film app.

Zach LipovskyZach Lipovsky is a director and visual effects specialist, who started working in the industry as a child actor, when his mom, a producer, decided to put him in front of the camera. Lipovsky was also a finalist on the Fox reality show “On the Lot.”

2 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Stop Using a Paper Shot List

  1. Looks like a great app. The only thing missing is a robust movie slate functionality like Movie Slate, the iPad app that for some reason they are not interested in porting to the Android world. Android users need a decent Movie Slate too!

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