A call sheet is a daily schedule for filming crafted by the 1st Assistant Director. It's filled with vital information about your shoot, pulled from both the production’s shooting schedule and shot list. It's more than just a scheduling tool for your production, though—it's a way to plan for contingencies and keep your entire production on the same wavelength. 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, phone numbers, 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 will be 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 1st 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 one tasked with creating the daily call sheets.
How to Read a Call Sheet
There is no one right way to design a call sheet, but the golden rule is: the simpler the better. Save the memes and BTS photos for later—the call sheet should be the main line of communication for your production and will be used as a reference throughout shooting. Stick to essential info only.
Top of the Call Sheet
The top of the call sheet 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 (UMP, producer, director, AD, etc.) should also be featured up top in case a cast or crew member needs to get in touch quickly.
- The top of the sheet should include the “Day Out of Days” report (DOOD) to track the progress of your shoot, the specific times for both sunset and sunrise, the high and low temperature forecast for the day, parking instructions, and the address 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 also 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
The bottom half of the call sheet 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, including which actors will be involved. Also be sure to include the time production breaks for lunch (which is always six hours after general crew call). A list of the talent with their corresponding character names may also be included after the scene breakdowns to indicate their respective roles and call times.
Call Sheet Templates
Some people like to create their own call sheet templates, but I’ve always found that letting the pros do the heavy lifting is much easier. Templates are available for free everywhere online, but some of my favorites examples come from StudioBinder, No Film School, and celtx. They’re all incredibly easy to use, allow for minor customization without overcomplicating things, and the finished product is everything a call sheet should be: clean, easy-to-read, packed with relevant information. What’s more, all three of these are readable on desktop, mobile, and paper, so no need to reformat for someone who prefers to read on a cell phone.
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. Make the call sheet your ally in planning and preparation!
For more on how to get work on a film crew, visit Backstage’s crew hub!