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The Directors Plan

Lesson 1
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Lesson 2
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Lesson 3
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Lesson 4
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Lesson 5
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Lesson 6
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Lesson 7
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Lesson 8
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Lesson 9
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Lesson 10
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Contributed By Glen Berry

  1. We cannot shoot everything
  2. The Director must have a refined vision
  3. Provide the editor with coverage

We should not proceed this way. We need to make decisions as the director. We ought to know what it is important about the scene and shoot it accordingly. We have a read on the emotional material of the scene, we should be able to select moments in the scene where we will need certain shots and other moments when we will not. As you will recall from the “Fistful of Dollars” example, a classic scene construction starts with wide shots and moves into tighter shots for the climax. Observe this second diagram.

In this diagram, we have made some decisions as a director about which sections of the scene we want to cover from different angles. We have a vision as a director and for this particular scene, that vision does not call for using the wide shot at the climax of the scene. At the climax of the scene, we want to be in tight on the actors and see the expressions on their faces. The wide will be useless for that so there is no point in shooting it. So we open up gaps in our coverage, but the gaps should be planned out in advance. As a director, we need to see what parts of the scene we want to cover from which angles but we also want to give ourselves some leeway, some coverage.

If you will notice from the diagram, the lines overlap. We are not editing in camera, at any given moment in the scene we are offering the editor different choices of angles to work with. We open up the scene with the wide shot, and there is no coverage there, but we can pick-up the 2S before we are too deep into the first Act. Then, at the inciting moment, we have four lines overlapping and four different angles for the editor to choose from. Before we lose coverage on the scene from the 2S at the end of Act II, we pick up additional coverage in our two CUs. From there, we have four angles on our actors, each subject in a MS and a CU. We close out the scene with the medium shot and wide shot – perhaps we will need one actor departing and the other actor sitting at an empty table, alone. This diagram describes sufficient coverage to cut the scene together, cover the action and provide options to the editor without shooting the entire scene from all angles.

One additional aspect of the visualization, aside from knowing which angles and what parts of the action the director needs to cover is knowing the transitional moments to move from shot to shot. As noted above, the director should have a plan for where the edits will take place, where we step from line to line on the chart. There are many moments that can be exploited by the editor to make a seamless transition but the savvy director would be wise to know where they are in advance and incorporate that into his plan for when to start and end a shot. Knowing where these transitions take place requires at least a little knowledge of editing, which we will discuss in the next article.


  • The director cannot shoot all angles. It will wear out the cast and crew, waste time and kill morale. The director must have a vision.
  • The director must know all angles and perspectives and make decisions about what parts of the scene to cover from which angles.
  • Give the editor options by covering the action in the scene from more than one angle.
Shot Vocabulary
Descriptions of shot vocabulary.
Creating your Shot List
How to approach creating your shot list from a script, creating the first visualization
Scene Analysis
An analysis of a scene from "A Fistful of Dollars".
The Directors Plan
The director's plan for covering the emotional content and action in the scene without shooting unnecessary footage.
The Hierarchy of Edits
Taking shot transitions into account when shot planning, providing the editor with opportunities to create invisible edits.