What Is a Call Sheet?

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A call sheet isn’t just a way to separate the A-listers from the extras. Every person on set should know how to effectively use this tool: it’s a scheduling aid, a way to plan for contingencies, and it keeps the entire production on the same wavelength. If you want to make the call sheet work for you—whether you’re No. 1 or No. 100—here’s what you need to know.

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Why use a call sheet?

A call sheet is a daily schedule for filming crafted by the first assistant director. It’s filled with vital information about your shoot, pulled from both the production’s shooting schedule and shot list. Cast and crew members will refer to the call sheet as production unfolds to keep track of crew calls, locations, shooting progress, parking instructions, major contact information, and more. You’ll realize the importance of a call sheet when you forget to send one out the night before a shoot day and everyone from your actors to your production assistants is calling in a panic asking, “When do I show up? Where do I go? What scenes are we doing? What weather should I prepare for?” 

While it’s crucial for the first AD to know how to create a call sheet, it’s equally important for all members of a production to understand how to interpret one. And if you find yourself on a small production or one with a limited budget, you may just be the person tasked with creating the daily call sheets.

How to read a call sheet

Film set

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There is no one right way to design a call sheet, but the golden rule is: the simpler the better. Stick to essential information only. The call sheet should be the main line of communication for your production and will be used as a reference throughout shooting. 

Top of the call sheet 

This section should always include:

  • The name of your production
  • The date of the shoot
  • General crew call, aka the exact time the majority of your crew needs to show up
  • Important contact information for the heads of your production (unit production manager, producer, director, ADs, etc.) in case a cast or crew member needs to get in touch quickly
  • Day Out of Days” report (DOOD) to track the progress of your shoot, the specific times of both sunset and sunrise, the high and low temperature forecast for the day, parking instructions, and the addresses of the nearest hospitals. Make this information the easiest to find on your call sheet.

For larger productions, the top of the sheet may also include a short breakdown of the schedule for the day (e.g., crew call: 9 a.m.; lunch: 3 p.m.; company move: 4:30 p.m.; and so on). You may want to use some free space to include notes about the day’s schedule, like noting that smoking isn’t allowed on set that day because of a stunt setup. 

Bottom of the call sheet 

This section should contain:

  • A breakdown of the scenes to be shot
  • Where and when these scenes will be shot
  • Who is scheduled to appear in these scenes

Make sure you note whether a scene is day or night and how many pages each scene requires. (This will continue to help production plan for the amount of time needed for each scene.) Include a very brief description of the scene, listing which actors will be involved. And be sure to add the time that production breaks for lunch, which is always six hours after the general crew call. A list of the talent with their corresponding character names may be included after the scene breakdowns to indicate their respective roles and call times.

Call sheet template

Properly creating and circulating a call sheet is an essential practice for any production hoping to run smoothly. Even if your production consists of 10 close friends, getting in the habit of being organized and professional will take you a long way in this industry. The template you use to make your call sheet is completely up to you, just as long as all the pertinent information is presented clearly. Try this call sheet template that allows for minor customization without overcomplicating things:

Call sheet

Call sheet

Author Headshot
Jenn Shadd
Jenn Shadd is a filmmaker and film scholar based in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television with a degree in Narrative Production, and a graduate of ASU’s Film and Media Studies Master's program. She works for the world's largest film and TV visualization studio, THE THIRD FLOOR, and is an associate faculty member in the ASU Department of English. Jenn hopes to create a cinematic body of work that reflects her passion for the empowerment of young girls and women.
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