The movie should already be broken down inside of the director's head before the director arrives on set to begin filming. The best way to manage the story is to write out the movie, shot for shot, on a piece of paper, so that you can physically carry it around and hold it in your hand. I give a copy of the shot sheet to my Assistant Director so that she can manage and keep track of which shots we have completed and which shots come next. A detailed shot sheet can also help you organize the day-to-day shooting schedule.
For example… if I have a character named Bobby, and a character named Robin, I will often shoot all of Bobby’s footage at the same time. One camera will film the closeup, while another camera films the medium closeup. When Bobby’s “shots” are completed, I move onto Robin’s Closeups and Medium Closeups, and so on...Most of the time, it is easier to shoot a scene out of order. This can drive the actors a little crazy at times, but a professional actor will understand that it is the most effective and time efficient way to get all of the shots completed. Anytime the camera moves, the lighting and camera settings need to be adjusted. So I find it most effective to shoot one actor at a time, rather than bouncing back and forth.
A smart approach, and what I like to do, is film the Wide Shot first. I rarely use the Wide Shot, but it is always a good option to have in editing, since the Wide Shot is a good angle for the establishing shot (the very first shot) of a scene. I film the Wide Shot first because it is usually a rehearsal for the actors. This is when we can establish their blocking and how the scene will start and where it will end.
Below are a couple of examples of the most common shots used in a movie. I used production stills from my newest movie "Perception" (starring Adam Newberry and Richard Anderson) to help give a visual understanding of what the shot should look like.
Extreme Close Up (XCU)
I use this shot when I want to convey stress, intimacy, or force feed information down the audiences throats. An extreme close up is a way to show the audience extreme detail, whether thats detail in the actors eyes, the hammer of their gun, etc.
Close Up (CU)
I use a close-up when I want to reveal an actors reaction, or convey emotion, intimacy, in a comfortable, or, an uncomfortable way. This angle puts the audience up close and personal with the actor in the frame.
Medium Close Up (MCU)
This is a standard shot that I will use for conversations. It puts emphasis on the face, and is usually framed from about the chest up.
Medium Shot (MS)
The medium shot typically films the actor from the waist up. A Medium shot is wide enough to show the background, but close enough to the actor to reveal details about the character.
Full Shot (FS)
This shows the entire actors body, from head to toe, while still putting emphasis on the background and scenery. It is not necessarily a Wide Shot, but it is still wide enough to capture the entire subject in the frame. I may stand 50 feet away from the actors, and zoom in on them. This approach of keeping the camera and crew far from the actors is helpful towards the actors performance, because the actor doesn't have a crowd of crew members standing around them, or a camera guy sticking a camera directly in their face. This technique can really allow them to get lost in their character and the scene.
Wide Shot (WS)
Typically shot with a wide angle lens, the wide shot will reveal the actors entire body, from head to toe, as well as the background and foreground. Shooting wide shots is an effective way of telling your audience “this is where you are, this is who is there, and this is where your character is in relationship to the world around him.” A wide shot is usually very picturesque, and allows the audience to absorb all of the information that they need in a single shot.
Extreme Wide Shot (XWS)
An extreme wide shot is the same as a wide shot, except it’s bigger. An extreme wide shot could be done by using a drone, a jib, dolly, a tripod, or even handheld camera. The extreme wide shot is a great establishing shot to open a scene with. Sometimes a shot is so wide, that the subject in the shot is barely even visible.