When are we shooting? Where are we shooting? What are we shooting? Who is supposed to be there? Who do they report to? There’s a lot of questions that arise when planning a shoot. A lot of questions that need to be answered for everyone involved whether they know they have that question or not. Luckily, we have a tool that quickly and effectively communicates all of that information and more to talent and crew: The Call Sheet.
A Call Sheet is a document generated by production that provides a quick reference for everyone on all the pertinent details of the shoot. If you do some searching, you’ll find a wide variety of examples of Call Sheets. Some for very large productions. Others for small. Some are full of detailed information. Others are very basic. We’re going to review what’s needed for a Call Sheet somewhere in between. A Call Sheet model that will work well for a small shoot but can also be easily adapted for a larger shoot.
For any Call Sheet, you need to communicate a few basic things: When are people expected to arrive (call time), where are people supposed to go, what is being shot that day, and contact information for relevant members of the production team.
There is expensive call sheet software out there, but can accomplish everything you need to with a free call sheet template like ours, which can save your precious budget for critical things.
Our Call Sheet model, which you’ll be able to download for yourself at the end of this post, provides all that as well as specifics on weather, emergency services, and when and who individual talent and crew are to report to. Here’s a breakdown of what you need for your Call Sheet for our template.
The Call Sheet Header
Include in the Call Sheet header the most broadly applicable information for the most people in production. In the header you are providing vital production and VIP contact information, location information, weather information, and potential emergency information. Any member of production, talent, or crew should be able to glance at that and have the basic idea of where to be and when before even looking themselves up on the Call Sheet.
Production and VIP Contacts
Some of the most vital information on the call sheet is the basic production and VIP contact information. The first thing you need at the very top of the Call Sheet is the name of the production. In nice big letters let us all know what we’re shooting today. Then provide names of the Director, Producer, and Assistant Director as well as anyone else who talent or crew may need to be aware of or reach out to. In addition to those names provide a list of Emergency Cell Numbers. This list provides the contact information for who Talent or Crew should contact should they be running late or encounter a serious issue that can affect the production. You also want to provide the location of the Production Office and contact information. If the Production Office isn’t separate from the location just say: Same as Set.
The contact information you provide in this section is dependent on your particular production. For some productions Director, Producer, Assistant Director, and other key production members phone numbers will be listed in this section if people need to get in touch. Other productions only list the Emergency Cell Numbers for Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, or a Producer. Consider how you want encourage communication to flow for your production. It can be an additional stress on your Director if suddenly they’re the one getting texted by people about a traffic jam or subway stalled that is causing people to be late. Sometimes keeping the focus on contact information for Assistant Directors or Unit Production Managers or whoever is tracking the schedule for the day can help to keep your Director focused on directing while you put out the fires.
Vital Day and Location Information
Beyond contact information you also need to provide information on the time and place people need to show up. First of these elements is top of the page next to the production’s title, the Crew Call. This should be the earliest time that crew is expected. In addition you need to provide the exact date of the shoot and the day of the week. Below the information on the day and date provide the sunrise and sunset times as well as the weather expected for the day. You should also provide the address of the set–or the meeting point’s address if the set is somewhere outside without an explicit address like the middle of a public park–and parking and public transit information. Finally provide the location for the nearest hospital in case of emergency.
The Crew Call at the top of the sheet should be the earliest crew call time. Not necessarily when all Talent and Crew are expected. You may need certain vital crew much earlier than others. That’s the time you put at the top of the page. You’ll provide individual times for everyone later on the sheet.
Weather and Travel Information
Providing the sunrise, sunset, and weather information is important even if you’re planning to shoot entirely indoors. Give talent the information they need to get to and from set without potentially getting soaked or sunburned. Also, you’re letting them know if they’ll be heading to or from set in the dark.
While most people can easily look up their own way to set with an app on their phone, don’t risk mistakes and wasted time when they take the wrong train or bus or can’t find nearby parking. If shooting on the weekend or a holiday, make sure to note if public transit or parking is different in the area than the normal schedule. Do the research so they don’t have to.
Quote of the Day
This is just fun and a nice way to help get people in the right mood for the shoot day. Adding a Quote of the Day to the Call Sheet can help liven it up. Try using a quote from another relevant project. For example if you’re making something about vampires you could use:
“One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach all the damn vampires.” – Grandpa, The Lost Boys
You could also look up some inspirational quotes to use on a site like BrainyQuote. Be relevant to the day or if you can make it a reference the Talent and Crew can all share a chuckle at.
Below the header is where you provide the day’s schedule and let Talent and Crew know exactly what is going to be shot for the day. In some cases you’ll list a specific time that you’ll be shooting each scene–or interview, or B-Roll, in the case of documentary pieces. Our call sheet template doesn’t include that specific. Still, the Schedule provided should be in order of what you are planning to shoot for the day.
Our template features 8 columns for the Schedule: Day/Night, Interior/Exterior, Set, Description, Scenes, Talent, Pages, and Location.
The initial columns are drawn directly from the scene header in the script. In the Day/Night column you should indicate if the scene is intended to be day or night based on the script. This lets your Crew know how to setup the scene. The Interior/Exterior column lets everyone know if this is going to be shot inside or outside. Set is the location indicated in the script: the kitchen, the living room, the cockpit, the lifeboat, or wherever the scene is set.
The next set of columns helps people quickly understand the action and where to find the full scene for reference. Description is a quick one sentence indication of what is happening in the scene: talking on the couch, digging a grave and arguing about clowns, writing a blog post about Call Sheets, or saving the world from cyborg meerkats. Scenes indicates the scene numbers being shot. You can shoot more than one scene in a schedule block. Sometimes continuous action is broken up by flashbacks or other scenes. If there’s not going to be a significant shift in the way the scenes are going to be shot, list them together.
The last three columns help identify who is in the scene, how long the scene is expected to be, and where people will need to be to shoot the scene. For the Talent column list the number assigned to the actors on the Call Sheet, which we’ll discuss below. This lets Talent know what they’ll be needed for soe they can prepare. For Pages list how many pages you’ll be shooting, using eights of a pages as a measure. This gives everyone a sense of how long the scene is meant to go. For the Location column specify the real world location the scene is shot in. Sometimes you have multiple locations in a day and this is very important to reference.
These columns are generally geared towards a scripted narrative but with a little adjustment you can adapt this to your documentary shoots. Merge the Interior/Exterior column with the Set column, the Scenes column with the Talent column, and the Pages column with the Location column to quickly eliminate Set, Scenes, and Pages if they aren’t relevant to your production. Or just leave those columns blank if they’re not relevant.
A good rule of thumb even for a small shoot is to call Talent at least thirty minutes after crew.
The Talent List
Your Talent list is for the people who will be appearing in front of the camera. Depending on your production who this is may be different. You may list actors or subjects here. The Talent List has five columns: Name and Number, Phone, Role, Call, and Report To.
The first column for Name and Number may show as #. Actor or #. Talent. Here you should list all Talent called for the day in order. The order for Cast starts with primary cast and then continues down through supporting, day players, and so on. Even if most of your day a supporting actor will be in every scene and one of your primary cast will only be in a scene, list your primary cast first. Number the cast from top to bottom. If you’re working on a documentary production, then the order is a little less important but you may consider making sure anyone who is more central to your film’s story being at the top of the list. These numbers are what you list under the Talent column on the schedule.
The Phone column can be a tricky matter. It is very helpful for your Production team to be able to quickly see the contact number for Talent, but sometimes you have a VIP and publishing their number for everyone on to see can be looked down upon. Be sensitive as needed and keep that contact information off the sheet if asked or if it just seems like it would be best for the situation.
Information for Talent
The final columns are helpful information for Talent and Crew. The Role column is hopefully not a surprise for the Talent but it’s still nice to help identify it. It also helps Crew have a sense of where the Talent fits in with the production. The Call column lets your Talent know when they’re expected. The final column for Report To tells the Talent who they need to go to when they arrive at the location. This could be Hair and Makeup. They may need to report immediately to the Director or Assistant Director to be told what needs to come next. It all depends on your individual production.
When to Call
Call time for Talent is almost always different from the Crew Call. The most common exception is when the Talent is also part of the production or Crew. A good rule of thumb even for a small shoot is to call Talent at least thirty minutes after crew. This minimizes waiting around time for Talent. In general, don’t call Talent until close to when they’re needed on camera. If they only have one scene at the end of your schedule for the day, don’t give them a Call time at the beginning of the day.
The Crew List
The Final Section of the Call Sheet is the Crew List. This section will likely be consistent no matter what kind of production you’re working on. This section includes five columns for Crew, Phone, Position, Call, and Report To.
Crew column is for your crew’s names. You can number this or not. Numbering can help you keep count of how many people will be on set just for logistical purposes but isn’t quite as necessary as numbering for Talent. Phone again is for listing phone numbers so you can easily have that available for necessary outreach. Position is what the Crew member’s position is whether it is Director or Production Assistant. Call is when the Crew member is expected on set. Report To is who the Crew member is expected to report to on arrival. In cases of some on the Crew list like the Director, you can leave this blank or simply list “Self.”
When to Call
When you Call what members of the crew is solely dependent on the needs of your production. The earliest of these call times should be what’s shown on the header of the Call Sheet. After that you should consider when different crew are needed. You may need everyone right away, or you may have a considerable setup for camera and lighting but minimal Hair and Makeup needs. So, have a later time for Hair and Makeup.
While it can be appealing just to have everyone show up at the same time, remember that someone who doesn’t have anything to do may inadvertently slow down work just because they’re standing in the wrong spot. Think through the schedule for the day carefully before you set the call times.
A good rule of thumb for when to send the Call Sheet is at least 12 hours before Call Time.
Distributing the Call Sheet
Now that you have the Call Sheet, you have to get it out to everyone. Make sure you have an email for everyone in the production. An email they will actually be checking before the production. Then save your Call Sheet as a PDF so it is easy for anyone to open regardless of platform and send it as an email attachment. In general, it’s not a bad idea to include some of the basics in the email. Include the Crew Call and location information for quick reference for your team.
When you send the Call Sheet is also important. If you’re on the ball and everything is set on Monday for your Saturday shoot, don’t send it out yet. Bear in mind that anything could change in those days from location or Crew availability and almost certainly the weather. A good rule of thumb for when to send the Call Sheet is at least 12 hours before Call Time. This should give everyone plenty of time to receive it, plan their travel to set, and contact you if there are issues.
A last note on distributing the Call Sheet: you want to avoid sending the Call Sheet more than once. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and a corrected Call Sheet needs to go out. Do everything you can to make sure that doesn’t happen, though. Sending a correction could lead to confusion and depending on the changes cause schedule delays because someone was working off the wrong information.
Who is Responsible for the Call Sheet
The Call Sheet needs to be created and distributed by the Production. Depending on the size of your Production Team there are any number of people who could be put in charge of this task. It may be a Producer or Unit Production Manager. On many small shoots the Assistant Director is responsible for creating and distributing the Call Sheet. Whoever is doing it make sure they have all of the information they need to put it together and distribute it.
A Call Sheet is a vital communication tool for a production. It shares the schedule for the day and vital information on where and when Crew and Talent are to report for the shoot. A good Call Sheet has all team members on the same page. Dropping the ball on the Call Sheet can cause delays and a lot of stress. Take the time to put yours together and distribute it to everyone so the whole team can be on the same page.