How to Film a Chase Scene

Updated March 23, 2017

While filming a chase scene with one camera is possible, the lack of details and additional coverage can cause the chase to lose its pace, tone and intensity. Coverage refers to the different shots that help the audience fill in the gaps, build suspense and create the dynamics of the chase. In order to film a successful and effective chase scene, preproduction planning of different camera angles, camera position and character action must be done.

Scout the location and plan out the details of the chase scene, which includes where the actors are going to run, where the cameras need to be placed and from what camera angles you will be shooting the scene. Producing a storyboard to help you, your actors and your camera person visualise the scene will make the production process flow more smoothly and efficiently.

Split your chase scene into sections based on location. To save time, shoot the master shots, cutaway shots and closeups of one location before shooting other parts of the chase scene.

Shoot the master shot of one section of the chase scene. The master shot is a wide view of the entire scene that captures the overview rather than details such as facial expressions and slight reactions.

Film the closeup shots of each character or other details that are important to the scene. Make sure the actors are repeating the same actions from the master shot to the closeup. For example, if the actor being chased turns around before he opens the door in the master shot, he must repeat the same action in the closeup. Having individual shots of each person or object will allow the editor to have enough footage to piece together a frantic chase scene.

Capture any cutaways and insert shots that give the editor freedom to create a frantic chase scene and reduce spatial time. For example, if you wanted to shorten the time it takes for the first actor to run from the roof to the ground floor, you may throw in a cutaway shot so the audience does not have to sit through the actor running down the stairs. Examples of frequent cutaway shots are reaction shots of people in the crowd as the actors chase each other.

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About the Author

Paul Lin has been writing professionally since 2010. He has written scripts for the National Science Foundation and short films that have won awards at film festivals. Lin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scriptwriting from the University of North Texas.