Movie Directors Can Rely on the Master Shot

An old school director of photography shared a filmmaking pearl of wisdom that has stuck with me before ever shooting my first movie scene. They said no matter what kind of amazing camera shot I might want to experiment with as a movie director (I call it a “wonder shot”) always shoot a simple master shot. Avoid getting too fancy or cute with it.

He advised me to always film a take or two using a master shot in case your “wonder shot” does not work out. A master shot is used to cover most or all of a scene including actors. It can be as straightforward as locking the camera down on a tripod for a static shot. Or going hand held with the camera to follow the action. You will not get close up details of a scene, but a master shot guarantees you will have the entire scene covered for post-production.

Knowing you have a master shot gives you much more flexibility as a filmmaker to be creative, take chances, and experiment with a scene with the rest of the takes you have time for. During the shooting of my first movie I used a few “wonder shots” hoping they would turn out as I envisioned them. I dreaded the thought of being in post-production when the editor informs me that a scene could not be cut together or was unusable

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