How To Make a Call Sheet
- March 12, 2019
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
A call sheet for film and TV production is like the Marauder’s Map for the day-to-day breakdown. You can consider it the end-all, be-all as far as production documents are concerned, as it covers key information that cast and crew need heading into the day. The most important information consists of the call time, parking instructions, number of locations and moves, brief schedule, as well as identifying what talent are on for the day and times they will be arriving, and much, much more. It sounds like a ton of information and a lot of work, but the truth is making call sheets can be simple – and with technology from the likes of StudioBinder, creating call sheets will only get easier!
It’s key for aspiring Assistant Directors to know their way around the enigmatic call sheet. So, we’ll break it down for you as we list off the most important features. And in case you’re in a rush and need a call sheet now, we got your back! You can find the link to creating a call sheet here.
TOP OF CALL SHEET INFORMATION
The top of the page will include who and what your project is — meaning title of the project and the production company. You want to make it known what the project is and what company is producing it.
You would be surprised how many times on smaller productions you will be asked to show proof of a production. And sometimes even a well-executed call sheet will serve to prove that. A friend of mine working as a Production Assistant told me one day he was working on a smaller production for a notable subscription based network, meaning it was a bare bones crew. The location was residential and so a neighbor called a local film office to investigate. A member of the film office drove by as my friend was road side. They asked for proof of the production and he simply showed the representative the call sheet and that was enough to appease the film office. This isn’t to say it will work for everyone. Typically, there’s permits or other documentation required. But, this also conveys the importance of a professional call sheet.
CALL TIME, DATE, & BREAKFAST
Next, is perhaps the most obvious feature; make sure your general crew call time is LARGE and easy to see. The call time is typically housed in a box in the center of the document. To the top right hand side of the document, you want to include the date followed by the day of the production out of the projected amount of days scheduled. After that, you want to let the crew know the time for breakfast, which is RTS, or Ready to Serve. It’s important to have a breakfast option for crew, as it also incentivizes crewmembers to be on time, as well as ensuring they have the energy to make it through the day until lunch time.
Beneath the time for breakfast you can restate the general call time, followed by the shooting call time underneath. If you don’t know what shooting call is, it’s exactly how it sounds. It’s the time you are projecting to get the first shot of the day off. After that, you want to list your time for lunch. That way it’s clear how much time you have for the first half of your day.
It’s also imperative to list the weather for the day. This isn’t always just important for the obvious reasons, but it also prepares your fellow crew for transportation and dressing for specific conditions. There are apps that you can use to figure out the weather specifics, but you can literally Google anything nowadays. So, Google will easily suffice.
HOSPITAL, LOCATIONS & OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS
Below the top row, either on the left or right side of the document, you want to include the nearest hospital, address, and phone number. It’s important to be very clear and precise with this information. If anything goes wrong, this is where everyone will turn. If you have multiple moves to different locations, make sure you have the nearest hospital per location listed clearly for each one.
In this same row, you can include addresses for locations, parking/shuttle instructions, and basecamp if you have it. Consider this a location to also make general announcements. If you want to tell everyone, “No social media posting or photos/information pertaining to story or set activity without prior Producer(s) approval,” then this is where you would put it. This is also where you would state “No Guests” or any announcements of that type.
I like to consider the middle part of the call sheet the bread and butter of the document. This is where you get a good idea of what your day is going to look like. This section works like a schedule, and can work in association with your sides. The header of this section will state the Set and Scene descriptions, as well as scene numbers, cast in the scene, number of pages of the scene, and the location.
For example, if you are filming the Vice President in their office having an ill-fated conversation with the head of the CIA, it might look a little something like this:
If you look above at the diagram, you can see quite a bit of information at once. The middle section of your call sheet is constructed of the aforementioned information. In the Set and Scene description, we have a clear scene heading, which should match the scene heading of the script. The brief description should be concise and to the point. Now, for the scene numbers, they won’t always look so complicated, but this is a lesson, right? So, “1,3-4” pretty much says you will be filming scene 1, and scenes 3 through 4. If we were filming scene 2, as well, then it would read “1-4.”
D/N, PAGES, & LOCATIONS
In the next section you will list cast members, assigning them each a number. Their identifiable number will be populated in the cast section. Next, D/N can be tricky if you don’t know what it means. “D” stands for Day, and “N” stands for Night. Now, I have it filled out as N2, which means second Night. For the page number, you usually just need to use your best judgement. How long is the scene on the page? Is it more than half a page? A little under? You want to be as accurate as possible, so then when you add up all the pages you need to complete for the day, it’s not skewed in one way or the other. Finally, location. Just fill out where the location is your filming the scene. Voila! You just filled out a line. To continue, you just repeat the process for the rest of the scenes. At the end, calculate the amount of pages, and that will be your challenge for the day.
CAST & EXTRAS
Just like the rest of the document, the layout can differ from call sheet to call sheet, but no matter what, each call sheet still presents the following information in a similar order. For our example of listing cast and crew, I’m going to try to make it as simple as possible. You can reference the diagram below.
The first column starts with the pound sign, or number sign. This is where we number our talent. Not because of some Orwellian stage of events that left us to merely identifying ourselves by cold, emotionless numbers. But, because it’s the easiest and quickest way to fit all the information on the call sheet without looking like a heap of meaningless letters. The cast and character names are pretty self explanatory, as well as the call time for the talent to arrive for hair and makeup, and set time for them to physically be ready for set. Status stands for where the talent is in the production. This can include “WS” for Work Started, “SWF” for Start Work Finish – for when someone is a day player – and “WF” for Work Finished. And there’s a note section for – drum roll, please – notes.
Below your main talent section, you create a section for background extras. With this section you don’t need to be as specific. In fact, you really only need to include the backgrounds’ names and call times for each.
THE CREW SECTION
This is where you can list the entirety of your crew for the day. This is best done if separated by departments, starting with department heads and then descending in rank. These departments include Production, Continuity, Camera, Electric, Grip, Sound, Costumes, Hair & Makeup, Art, Casting, Transportation, Catering, ect.
In this section, you want to list the crew’s names, titles, and call times. This is where most crew members, especially in production, gravitate towards to confirm their exact call times for the day. I have also seen call sheets with phone information in this area, though it is not necessary as the production office should already have that information.
NOTE: Before this section, you can make room for department specific requirements. This area can include special props needed for the day, stunts and effects, if you have any, special makeup, or anything that departments need to be reminded of that is particularly special for the day.
END THE CALLSHEET WITH THE EMAIL
Last and final, when sending your completed call sheet, you need to put the key information into the body of the email. This is most effective because if crewmembers have trouble opening the attachment, they can at least fall back on the email itself. You can first state a general greeting as well as what is included in the email as far as maps, instructions, and the call sheet itself. Next, you can add in important information, for example, a crew shuttle or parking directions. Now, the information you need to ensure you include is the address, time for breakfast, general call, and a list of other production notes. I personally find this most effective if listed as bullet points. Let’s be honest, most people don’t want to read a book. So, make sure your email is clean and easy on the eyes. Also, it’s not a bad idea to highlight in yellow any information that is absolutely pertinent.
DO IT THE EASY WAY!
Now, I’m sure many of you are going to take the simple new alternative to building call sheets by inserting your key information and allowing an application, like StudioBinder, to do the work for you. That said, it’s never a bad idea to learn how to create a call sheet on your own. You never know when the internet will be down in a certain locale, or if the planet is invaded by spacefaring squids from the X9I Dimension. So, take your newfound knowledge of call sheets into the world and make something of yourself!