How to Prepare a Call Sheet
Call sheets are an imperative part of the pre-production process. It provides all the details to your cast and crew to ensure everyone is on the same page for the day. It makes sure they show up on time (early) with everything they need to be successful on the day. Like all aspects of the production process, although there are industry standards for how these are done, find a process and template that works for you and your cast / crew and roll with that. Call sheets are there to set you up for success – not create un-needed work.
Below I have broken down some essentials for all call sheets. Again, pick and choose what is important for you.
- Working Title: Having a working title will keep you organized from the get-go. Whether multiple productions are rolling at the same time or if you simply need a way to keep all assets organized (including invoicing at the end of the project), this is a good way to go. The title can change when the production is released but as long as you have some system for keeping all assets for the project together.
- Date / Call Time / Lunch Time: The call time should be front and center on your call sheet. It is the most important of the lot. It is imperative that everyone shows up on time – so make sure that the time is easily viewed. For crew that wants the first meal, they can usually expect to have to show up about 30 minutes early to eat as they are expected to be on-set working at the given call time – not just showing up to work at that time. Regarding lunch time, having that on the call sheet shows people when they can expect food to be there for them. Keeping the crew hydrated and fed is the best way to ensure a happy crew. If you happen to have to push lunch a few minutes to finish off a scene, keep your crew informed so they aren’t in the dark.
- Craft / Catering: List who is catering the shoot as well as any specific food requirements. You will also want to include the amount of mouths to feed.
- Transportation Information / Location Details / Maps: This is a very important section and needs to be clear and concise. Whether a shuttle is required or available or information on parking should also be included. Having a central meeting location is also a good idea to keep everyone together. This helps with any unit moves if they exist. List all of the locations for the day and number them in the order you will be going to them. Make sure to have the address as well as contact information for someone at the location. At the bottom of the call sheet, you will also want to include maps for each location. This can also include a marker for parking. This will clear any confusion for people.
- Weather Details: Weather details are also a good one to include. It gives the crew important information to ensure they dress appropriately and show up prepared for the given weather conditions.
- Nearest Hospital / First Aid / Fire Extinguisher: You may have multiple locations in one day so make sure to have all hospital information included toward the top of the call sheet. This is important to make sure you are prepare if something was to ever happen. You will also want to have a first aid kit and extinguisher on set too. Include on the call sheets where those two things will be located during the shoot.
- Production Office: If there is a production office, include the address and phone number. If there is any specific invoicing information for the crew, include that as well.
- Key Crew Contact Info: At the bottom of every call sheet should include contact information for the key crew members (Producer, Production Manager, Production Coordinator, First AD).
- Scene Breakdowns: This is the meat and bones of the call sheet. It should include all of the scenes scheduled to be shot on the day. You need to include the scene number, scene heading, description, cast, pages, and location number. You may also want to include how much time is allotted for every scene but that totally depends on the style of your production. Some First AD’s like to keep this on their own call sheets so the entire crew isn’t stressing if they are behind. The job of the First AD is to ensure they stay on track and communicates with the Director and DP to ensure they are able to get their shooting day completed – or works with both to see what can be cut or added (almost always cut — unless you have an amazing First AD that is great at his or her job).
- Crew List: It is important to list all the crew members, the rolls they will be filling and their given call times. Some people will require an early call time (pre-call), such as the camera department to ensure they are ready to go for the general call (which is the big time in bold near the top of the call sheet). I will generally have a line item near the top of the call sheet that explains that some departments should reference individual call times to see when they are needed.
- Cast List: Include both the character names and their real names as well. Don’t include contact information for them but make sure to include both their names so everyone knows who is who. Make sure to include their pick up time, makeup time and set call time. You will also want to use SW / H / FW (Start Work / Hold / Finish Work) as well as H / M / U (Hair / Makeup) codes. That lets everyone know the status of the given actor.
- Background: Make sure to have a separate section for extras / background performers. All you need here is their given call times.
- Special Notes: Having a section for specific notes, like department needs is a good way to lay out any extra things that may need to be considered. This would include a list of stunts or special props that are needed.
- Radios / Walkie Channels: Near the bottom of each page of the call sheet, you should include a list of Walkie channels and which department should be using them. You can determine what works best for your given scenario.
- Easter Egg: A fun thing I tend to do with call sheets is include an easter egg to see who has and who hasn’t read the call sheet. It can be common that crew will just skim over the call sheet to see the information they need but not fully look at the call sheet. Hide something that will entice your crew to read the call sheet entirely. It will ensure everyone is on the same page.
Now that you have a rough idea about what needs to be included, here are a few options for creating your call sheets. I’ve included four options. Check them out and see what works best for you!
Simple Call Sheet – Free
One option for creating call sheets is the new service from Rachel over at Simple Call Sheet. Currently this is a free service. When chatting about her on how she plans to use the data / make money, she stated that, ‘We might offer a premium version later on but this one will stay free. We’ll take the good karma from it!’
It is super simple to use and works great. The one catch is that if you are making many call sheets for the same shoot, this may not be the best option as you are unable to save the data from the previous day to create a new version – or if you need to go in after the fact to edit it, it will be more challenging than if you had an account or file that kept track of each individual production for you. You can check it out here: https://www.simplecallsheet.com/
Studio Binder – Free to $85/month
Another great option that exists is from Studio Binder. The platform can be either be used on your computer or on the go through their app. What is amazing about this is that you can add all your cast and crew to your database and add whomever is part of the given production. There are four tears based on your needs and the amount of productions you want imported into the platform. They have also added a beta version for adding scripts to the platform as well which really saves on time if you have broken down your scripts / films properly. You can access the platform here: https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/callsheet-example-call-sheet/ For pricing, check out this link: https://app.studiobinder.com/pricing.
Set hero – free to ~$100/project
SetHero aims to rescue filmmakers from the stress of production, freeing them to tell the stories the world needs to hear. Cost-wise, that is based on size of crew & shooting days. It is very reasonably priced. What is great about this one as well is that it is web or app/mobile based as well. Further to this, when sending call sheets out, there is a feature that allows create to confirm they received / viewed it and makes it easier to find out who still needs it. I’ve yet to try it but it looks great. You can check it out here: https://setheroapp.com/features/
Simple Excel Template – Free
The last option is the simple excel spreadsheet. It isn’t as flashy as the other options but it works just as well. You can download to it here.
Delivery Protocol / Wrap up
Once you have created the call sheet, your work isn’t done there. As a First AD, it is your responsibility to create these (for me, it will either be a First AD if we have one, otherwise it would be a producer or production manager that would take on the responsibility). If it is the first day of production, email these to your cast and crew and follow up with a call to ensure they received the call sheet – so they are not able to use the excuse that they didn’t get it. If it is day two of production, prepare the call sheet during day one and hand out before wrap time. State that if any changes are to occur that a follow up one would be emailed and a call would follow that. If they don’t hear from the First AD, it is assumed the crew shows up at their given call times.
And that’s pretty much it! I truly can’t overstate the importance of call sheets. If you want your crew to show up on time (early), call sheets are critical. If you have any other tips or things that should be included, just let me know below!