Block or Die

A little dramatic for a title, but I think it’s appropriate.

Pre-blocking for camera and action and making a shot list is one of the most important things you can do to make sure you have a successful shoot.  Whether it’s a no budget, low budget or larger budget shoot, blocking and shot lists are essential for good communication between the director and his department heads, efficient shooting, and maybe more importantly, staving off potential disasters that could derail or kill your shoot.

You don’t need to do storyboards or any elaborate plans unless you are doing a big action sequence where designers, CGI artists, cinematographer and director how everything fits together.  Odds are you aren’t.  Story boards can also stifle creativity.

I learned to pre block when I was directing theater.  I learned very early on that actors like structure.  You actually get a stronger performance from an actor when they know that they don’t have to make it up as they go along; that they don’t have to cover for an unprepared director. It also gives them more confidence in you and will make them feel more comfortable on the set.

I learned to pre block for camera and draw ground plans from Lloyd Freidus, the Director of Photography on THE SECOND ROOM and I’M NO DUMMY.

The director is the only person involved in the making of the film who knows how every piece will fit together to realize his or her vision.

So here’s a short scene that you and I will block for camera and action. 

Download Scene


Take a piece of graph paper and let’s block it for no budget, a little budget and the possibility of a somewhat larger budget. Here are the symbols that I learned to use to represent the various pieces of a blocking diagram. Although it’s not essential to make your drawing to scale, it can be beneficial.  1/4″ to a foot is what I like to use.




Here is a link to some ideas I had about blocking this scene.

Block the Scene

Remember there’s myriad of ways to block the scene.  Make it your own. 

Here’s a scene from Citizen Kane that has amazing blocking. Hope you find my deconstruction of this scene illuminating.

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