When learning the ropes of the film industry, it is inevitable that at some point you’ll find yourself asking the question: What is a call sheet? Everyone’s always talking about them, and you don’t want to look like a rookie. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place!
We’re going to be discussing what they are, what information needs to be included on one, and how you can go about making one for yourself! Let’s get right into it.
- 1 What Is A Call Sheet?
- 2 Who Makes The Call Sheet?
- 3 When Are Call Sheets Sent Out?
- 4 How Can I Make A Call Sheet?
What Is A Call Sheet?
The call sheet is arguably the most important document in a production when it comes to keeping things on time, organized, and running smoothly. The call sheet is a sheet with ALL of the information pertaining to a day of shooting.
They’re sent out to every single member of the cast and crew by E-mail, and dozens of extra copies are usually available in the on-set production office. In addition, PAs are instructed to carry 3-4 call sheets on them at all times to have them readily available for any crew members who want to ask for them.
Making a call sheet does take a considerable amount of time, but the amount of time they save a production in the long run is staggering. Most crew members will find themselves looking at the call sheet dozens of times every day, so it’s important that the information they need is both there, and accurate.
Here’s an excellent Call Sheet Template example we found on Slideshare. We’re going to break down all the essential information in just a second.
To the uninitiated, this barrage of information can be quite intimidating, but after you finish this article you’ll have all the knowledge you need to not only read a call sheet, but make one yourself!
Date, Day _ of _
At the very top of the call sheet, you’ll find the date of the shoot as well as which shooting day it is out of the total shooting days.
This is important, as over the duration of a shoot, many crew members will usually have piles of old call sheets lying around their house and vehicles. You don’t want anyone getting mixed up and showing up at the wrong location!
Title Of Production And Company
The title of the production, name of the production company, and address of the production office can also be found near the top of a call sheet. Large productions almost always have some sort of code-name that is used during casting and the production process.
For instance, while Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was in production, it was referred to on all documents as Ancient Futures.
Full List Of Cast And Crew w/ Call Times
The call sheet contains a list of all members of the cast and crew that should be in attendance on the shoot, and even some personnel who will likely not be on set.
There will be a large call time near the top of the front page. This is the general call time for all crew, but most people will likely have their own individual call times listed next to their names. Some departments will need to come in earlier to set things up, while other may not have to show up until later in the day.
For cast, additional times are included such as what time they will need to arrive on set, go through hair/wardrobe/makeup, and be ready to shoot. On larger films, cast is usually referred to by aliases to protect their identity and the project.
Crew members are divided up by department. If a call time isn’t listed for an individual, it’s because they are going to receive theirs from their key supervisor. It’s not uncommon for department heads to tell their crew members to ignore the call sheet. The sheet is made by production, and they don’t always have the full picture of what each department is trying to accomplish.
In addition to call times, targeted wrap and meal times are also listed on the call sheet.
How Call Times Are Determined
Call times are determined by what needs to be shot and turn-arounds. Keeping a film production open is very expensive, so shoots aim to maximize daylight. Day shoots usually start somewhere between 5-7AM, with night shoots starting at 5-7PM.
On union shows, Actors and key crew members have “turn-around” times that specify how much time off they need between shoots. Actors have the longest one with 12 hours, with camera having the second longest at 11.
That means you’ll always have around 12 hours between wrap and the next day’s call, and you’ll have to push the next day’s call back if you run overtime. If the production has things they can shoot without actors, they will only need to push it back by 11 hours.
On larger sets this usually only includes the line producer, UPM, Locations manager, and production coordinator. Some smaller sets may list the phone number of every single crew member.
Including contact information for important crew members who aren’t present on set is usually a good idea.
Important Note: Be careful whose contact information is being disclosed. You obviously don’t want to be distributing call sheets with Christopher Nolan’s personal phone number listed.
Weather / Sunrise / Sunset
The weather forecast for the day of the shoot is always included. To a PA, this only tells you what you should wear, but to other departments like Grip, Camera, and Make-up, it can be critical.
Grip setups can be drastically different dependent on how the natural lighting is, and the vanity departments may have to prepare to maintain their work more frequently.
Sunrise and sunset times are very important for the production department so that they can keep track of how much time they have left to shoot, so they can rush certain scenes in a time crunch.
In the event of an emergency, call sheets always have the address of the closest hospital to set in case somebody needs to be rushed there.
Which Scenes To Shoot
What the call sheet is most often used for is as a quick reference to see what scenes are being shot on any given day. There is a lot of information, and any questions regarding what is being shot can be answered by a quick glance to a call sheet!
The information provided includes scene numbers, how many page 1/8ths are being shot, Interior/Exterior, Day/Night, and which cast is involved in the scene, as well as a short synopsis of each scene.
The synopsis is typically written in a way that can be understood by the crew without spoiling the movie, as call sheets are sent out to many people, and are prone to leaks.
Map & Directions
If the crew is going to be shooting in a location other than the established studio, a map with explicit directions is included. Typically important areas of interest like base camp, scene locations and crew parking will be highlighted.
If there are multiple locations on a given day, a map for each location should be included along with directions on how to get from location to location.
The advance section includes a few small details about the scenes and page lengths being shot the day following the call sheet. These are almost always subject to change.
Finally, the most important memos are usually stapled to the call sheets and sent out alongside them. This is usually something like a set of rules the crew must abide by while shooting in a house, or safety regulations for a big upcoming stunt.
Very important quick notes will usually be printed on the front page of the call sheet itself.
Who Makes The Call Sheet?
On most larger film industry sets, the call sheet is made by the Assistant Director. Specifically, the 2nd AD. This task may also be passed down to the 2nd 2nd Assistant Director.
Not every set you encounter will have 2nd ADs, in which case the 1st AD will likely delegate it to whoever is available in the production department. The first AD is going to be too busy running the set to be able to spend several hours drafting up call sheets.
When Are Call Sheets Sent Out?
Generally, call sheets are sent out 12-16 hours prior to the time of shooting. Like we mentioned previously, the 2nd AD is usually working throughout the day to get the next day’s call sheet prepared for when the crew wraps.
When the crew wraps, the production assistants will distribute the call sheets among the crew as best they can. Crew members are interested in finding out what time to come into work, so it’s hard for anyone to get missed. Plus, everyone receives them via E-mail as well.
It is important that the production department waits until wrap to distribute call sheets, as delays to production can alter the next day’s schedule, and giving people false information before it is finalized can cause many problems.
Preliminary call sheets, or “prelims” are distributed earlier in the day when production has a rough idea of the details for the next day. These are given under the pretense of being subject to change, so the early distribution is okay. It is a good habit to print these call sheets on a different color of paper, so that they are never confused for official call sheets.
How Can I Make A Call Sheet?
Unlike scripts, the exact formatting of a call sheet is not exactly set in stone. There are several websites and applications that are prevalent throughout the industry.
Our favorite is StudioBinder’s Call Sheet Builder, which has really cool features like allowing you to text the call sheet out to the entire crew. Other websites like this one we found have templates that are just as good.
Of course, if you’re just getting started on some student or small indie films, there’s nothing wrong with throwing together a quick call sheet on MS Excel, Google Docs, or Pages.
As a student filmmaker it may seem unnecessary to put time into making call sheets, but it will save you time in the long run, and having call sheets will make your production seem much more professional.
Just make sure all the information we talked about here is included and you should be good to go!
Now if anyone asks you “What is a call sheet?” You should be able to answer them quickly and confidently. If we left anything important out you would like us to add, please leave a comment! We read them all.