The Timetable

This is the second filmmaking exercise that I give my Year 9 Media students. It is designed to build on the skills that they develop in the first exercise while introducing some new concepts.

This exercise demonstrates important filmmaking concepts, including:

  • Establishing shots. Establishing shots are used at the beginning of a scene to let the audience know where the action is about to occur. They are an important way of letting the audience know that you’ve moved to a different time or place.
  • Bridging shot. Any shot used to bridge the discontinuity caused by a jump in time or place. A shot of the sun setting, for example, could bridge the gap between afternoon and night.
  • Screen direction. In filmmaking, screen direction refers to the movement of actors through the frame. If a character exists frame right, the audience expects that they will enter frame left in the next shot. A change in screen direction might suggest that the character has turned around.
  • Inserts. An insert is additional coverage of a scene, usually close ups and extreme close ups, that emphasise something that occurs in the master shot. Take care to ensure that the continuity of an insert matches the master shot.
  • Continuity editing. This is the most important lesson to learn from this simple activity. Continuity editing, or matching on action, is one of the most important lessons you can learn as a filmmaker. When you film something from two shot sizes or angles, recreating the performance of the actor both times, you will be able to cut seamlessly from one shot to the other as the actor performs a particular action. Cutting on action creates a seamless bridge between two shots that your audience won’t notice. The motion will flow smoothly from one shot to the next. More importantly, this allows filmmakers to move between different shot sizes and camera angles without zooming or moving the camera unnecessarily. When shooting action from different angles, it’s important that to make sure that the actors recreate their performances precisely. If your actor is standing in the wrong place, or has a different expression on their face, cutting between two different shots will create jarring lapses in continuity.
  • The clean frame technique. An approach to capture shots where you start and end with the character out of frame. In other words, you begin and end with a clean frame. The clean frame technique encourages you to capture as much of the action as you can, giving you maximum flexibility when you are editing.

Scene 1, Shot 1 | ELS, LS


Capture an establishing shot or two of your location. This is important to set the scene. When you’re making more ambitious films, establishing shots are the glue that stick your scenes together. When shooting the establishing shots, capture about ten seconds of footage. When you cut this into the final film, it will only go for a few seconds. Your establishing shots might be of the front of your school or several of the buildings.

Scene 1, Shot 2.1 | FS


This is the master shot for the first scene. In this shot, your character walks into frame looking lost. She takes out her timetable, looks at it for a moment, looks around, looks back at the timetable before putting it away and walks out of frame. As a director, it is important to get the performance right in the master shot. Remember, you’ll need to pick up close ups and inserts to cut into this footage so don’t start changing your mind halfway through!

Scene 1, Shot 3.1 | CU


In this shot you’re going to film a close up of your character as she looks around, clearly lost, and takes out her timetable to check where she should be. She looks down at the timetable for a few seconds, looks around, and has one final look at the timetable before putting it away. To edit this seamlessly with the master shot, it’s very important to match the performance between the two takes. This close up will be intercut with point of view shots of what our character is looking at.

Scene 1, Shot 4 | CU


This is the first insert of our timetable. You’ll have to get creative with how you shoot this. I’d recommend putting the camera on your tripod and getting your actor to stand behind the camera, holding the timetable steadily in front of the camera. Again, you’ll need to grab about ten seconds of this even though only a couple of seconds will end up on screen. Once again, it’s better to have too much footage than not enough.

Scene 1, Shot 5 | ECU


Here we’re going to have an insert of our character’s eyes as she scans the timetable for which classroom she’s supposed to be in. When you’re directing this shot, try to encourage your actor to look a little anxious to really sell the performance. Don’t over do it, though!

Scene 1, Shot 6 | ECU


When you’re shooting something like this, it’s important to point out small, important details for your audience. Here the character finds the room that she is supposed to be in for the next class. Shooting this will be a little tricky. It’s probably best to put your timetable down on a solid surface like a table to capture this extreme close up. If your character is holding the timetable, it will probably shake too much to get a decent shot.

Scene 1, Shot 3.2 | CU


In this shot, we’re going to cut back to the close up of our character as she looks up from her timetable, looks around still a little unsure of which way to go. She takes another look at the timetable and puts it away. Cutting directly from a point of view shot to a shot of our character looking around would cause continuity issues. When you’re shooting this shot, make sure you get a good performance, we want to see the anxiety on our character’s face because she’s afraid she’s going to be late for class!

Scene 1, Shot 2.2 | FS


Here we cut back to the master shot as our character puts the timetable away and walks out of frame. It’s important cut on the same action in each shot to achieve a smooth transition.

Scene 2, Shot 1 | ELS

To bridge these two scenes, we’re going to shoot a bridging shot of clouds in the sky. Shoot about thirty seconds of this. We’ll speed it up in post production to show that time is passing. Avoid having people in the frame.

Scene 2, Shot 2.1 | FS


This is the master shot of our second scene. The character arrives at her destination, looks at the room number or door to the classroom, heaves a sigh of relief and walks inside. In this master shot, it’s important to keep rolling until the door closes and the action is complete. Keep recording for a few seconds because we’re going to end on the master shot and fade to black.

Shot 2, Shot 3 | CU


Remember that filmmaking is all about character. Here, we need a close up of our character to show that she’s arrived at her destination on time. In this close up, you should direct your actor to walk into frame, heave a sigh of relief just like they did in the master shot, and then walk out of frame. If you capture all of the action, you’ve got more scope to cut it into the master shot.

Scene 2, Shot 2.2 | FS


In this shot, we cut back to the master to show our character as she finishes sighing in relief, starts to walk towards the door and, as she is about to grasp the handle, we cut to the next insert…

Scene 2, Shot 4 | CU


Here we’re going to have a close up of our character as she reaches for the door handle, opens the door and walks through. Why are we doing this? Basically so we can demonstrate how cutting on action works. Make sure you film the entire action, starting with your actor standing out of frame. Doing this will give us the most flexibility when cutting it together with the rest of the scene.

Scene 2, Shot 5 | MS


Here we’re going to cut from the exterior shot of the door opening to this interior shot. If you cut when the door is in the same place, assuming you’ve recreated the performacne in both shots, it should create a smooth transition. With this shot, film all of the action – start with the actor out of frame, get them to walk into frame, sigh with relief, walk towards the door, open it and walk past the camera. This will give you maximum flexibility when making the cut between these two shots.

Scene 2, Shot 2.3 | FS


Here we’re going to cut back to our original maser shot as the door closes and our character reaches her destination. Hopefully you captured a few extra seconds so we can have a fade to black to signify the end of the scene!