call sheet

How to Create a Call Sheet

Knowing how to create a call sheet is essential to staying organized and keeping on schedule throughout your shoot. It’s a document that is distributed daily that tells your crew when they need to show up on set, who will be there, any special needs for the day, and what script pages the crew is tackling. It’s basically a daily blueprint and is created by the Second Assistant Director (Second AD).

A preliminary call sheet, endearingly known as the “prelim,” is usually sent out after lunch so the crew can get an idea of what is coming up the next day. However, as the world of film dictates, things shift and change as the shoot day goes on, so the final call sheet gets approved by the Unit Production Manager (UPM) and is sent out at wrap. If something’s going to change on a call sheet between the preliminary and the final, it’s the call time. The call time is determined by wrap of the previous day, so if you wrap a half-hour late, the call time will be pushed a half hour.

There is an industry-standard for a call sheet, although you might find small differences from production to production. Below are the essentials that are consistent across the board that can be easily created in Excel or Google Sheets.

The components of a call sheet are:

  • Above the line info
  • Production title and general crew call
  • Date, day of days, the weather and nearest hospital
  • Set address and set details
  • Shooting schedule
  • Talent information
  • Background talent and stand- ins
  • Special instructions
  • Advance schedule
  • Crew list

The top of your call sheet is divided into three parts. Let’s call them the left, center and right. Once you have created this header, the rest of your call sheet is more like a spreadsheet.

1. Above The Line Info

On the very left of the call sheet you want to make sure you have listed, without contact information, the production company, the Director, the Executive Producer(s), and the Writer. The only contact information you must put down is the production office, giving the full address and phone number. If anyone needs something, this is the number to call.

2. Production Title and General Crew Call

In the center of the page, you will have the name of the show, the production itself, and below it, you will put the general call time.

You might want to put a pre-call on there as well, which is when the Grip and Electric show up or if there is a cast rehearsal. Sometimes you will see these details on the far right of the call sheet and can sometimes include the lunch break time and the wrap time.

3. Date, Day of Days, the Weather and Nearest Hospital

On the very right, you will have the date, and what day you are on in context of the whole shooting schedule. For example, you start with day 1 of 21, to 2 of 21, etc.

The weather is another important piece of info, given that rain could mean a change of plans. You will also want to put sunrise and sunset info. Very often you are chasing the sun during a shoot, so knowing when and how much of it you have is important information!

Being prepared for an emergency is essential during production, so noting the closest hospital is important. The last thing you want to do if someone suffers an accident is scramble for emergency care.

4. Set Address

The set address is always squeezed in somewhere on the right of the call sheet. You can also indicate a map is attached, which is a great practice that can also include parking or any transportation information. Some film sets have what is called a base camp, where the crew parks and the food tent is set up for catered meals, so the cast and crew take a shuttle to the actual set.

Knowing how to create a call sheet is essential to staying organized and keeping on schedule throughout your shoot. It’s a document that is distributed daily that tells your crew when they need to show up on set, who will be there, any special needs for the day, and what script pages the crew is tackling.

5. Shooting Schedule

Once you have created the header above, your document becomes more of a regular spreadsheet.

The shooting schedule is the meat of the day. These are the script pages that you are going to shoot. Some people think this is a shot list, but it’s not because it only includes the scene – not the coverage (different camera angles) you will get of the scene. This section is divided into these columns:

Scene Numbers: Simply the scene number.

Set and Scene Description: Example: INT. DINING ROOM, Mary and David discuss getting married.

Cast: The cast is coded by numbers to keep things simple, so in this cell, you would put in the cast code number, instead of squeezing in the names.

D/N – Day or Night: Just put a D or N.

PGS – Pages: In this cell, you put the actual script pages for reference.

Location: This is the location of the set. You might have what’s called a company move during the day, in which you change locations, so it’s important to provide this information here.

6. Talent Information

Here you will put everything you need to know about each Actor’s schedule. This section is divided into the following columns:

ID: This is the identifying number of the cast member that you used above.

Cast: The name of the Actor.

Character: The name of the character.

Status: Here you will use more codes: SW (Start Work), W (Work), WF (Work Finish), SWF (Start Work Finish) or H (Hold). It’s pretty straightforward. SWF refers to a day player and if someone has an H status, they may or may not be needed that day.

Pickup: Will the Actor need transportation or will they drive to set?

Arrive: What time the Actor arrives on set. (They are not there the entire day like the crew).

Block: What time on set blocking will take place.

MU – Makeup: What time the Actor goes into hair and makeup.

Set: What time the Actor needs to be on set.

Remarks: This can be wardrobe or prop notes.

7. Background Talent and Stand-Ins

This section can be divided in a couple of ways. The information here is to make sure everyone knows what time to report for work and when they are expected to be on set. The other thing that should be noted here is how many Extras and Stand-ins you have, so the Second AD and Catering will have a headcount.

Your columns can be a variation of this:

Number (#): How many Extras will be in the scene.

Description: A brief description such as “café customers”

Report: What time they arrive – their call time.

Set Call: What time they are needed on set.

Location: You don’t need the address here, just the location; and you can add a column for scene numbers, too, if you have a lot of scenes that day.

8. Special Instructions

This section will have any reminders for particular departments.

Here’s an example:

Props: Book, notebook and pencils
Makeup/Hair: To match scene 27 – the prom hairstyle
Wardrobe: Ice scream spill on dress
SFX: Squibs, blood
Grip Electric: Crane, day for night – scene 12
Location: Hot set. Do not touch or remove anything.
Vehicle: Hero vehicle, police cars
Stunts: none
Animals: Dog licks ice cream off dress.

If you are interested in becoming an Assistant Director, I would dive into the software options. These tools will make your life easier (and seriously, when you are in the throws of production, you will appreciate this, especially at 1:00 am when you are creating the call sheet for the next day.)

9. Advance Schedule

This section will be exactly like your shooting schedule, but it will have the information for the following day.

10. Crew List

This is the list of crew you will have on set that day. Your columns here are simple: Position, Name and Call Time.

11. Walkie Talkie Channels

A grid with walkie talkie channels is a great reference for crew members and will save the First PA (Production Assistant) the energy of having to remind people on set. Just add a simple list of departments and channels. You might put any other reminders down here as well, such as no cell phone, etc.

12. Hospital Address

Put the hospital address and phone number and make it clearly visible on the bottom of the call sheet.

Resources

As I mentioned above, there are many variations of a call sheet, so make sure you are getting all the information on your call sheet that is important to your production.

And don’t fret! There are terrific resources for creating a great call sheet. If you are looking for a template, check out Simple Call Sheet, Set Hero, or Studio Binder. There is also another industry favorite software made by Jungle Software, called Koala Call Sheets, which is another great tool.

If you are interested in becoming an Assistant Director, I would dive into the software options. These tools will make your life easier (and seriously, when you are in the throws of production, you will appreciate this, especially at 1:00 am when you are creating the call sheet for the next day.) Software will also help keep you organized. Most software options not only have tools for creating paperwork, they also include efficient ways of distributing these reports and documents, and keeping track of it all.

Another note: Save the call sheets for each day of production. It’s an important record of your shoot. And if you are a filmmaker, leading this adventure of making an independent film on your own, if you hang on to them, when you get to the finish line of post-production, your call sheet has the all the information of your cast and crew so you can easily put together your credit sequence!

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