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What is a Film Call Sheet? Understanding the Daily Production Document

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Making a call sheet for your film production is an essential step in ensuring that everything runs smoothly on the day of the shoot. A call sheet lists all of the crew and cast members and their contact information, what time they are expected to arrive on set, and what scenes they are working on. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps of creating a call sheet that will help ensure a smooth shoot!

What is a call sheet, and why is it important?

Call sheets are a daily document that lists all of the crew and cast members working on a film production and their contact information, what time they are expected to arrive on set, and what scenes they are working on. It is important to create a call sheet because it helps keep the production organized and ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and when they are expected to arrive on set. This helps to avoid confusion and last-minute changes on the day of the shoot.

Reasons for a Call Sheet

In the film industry, call sheets are one of the most important production records. On a daily basis, it summarizes who, what, where, and when each production phase took place. The primary aims of a call sheet are as follows:

  1. Ensure that all cast and crew members understand the time and place of the next day of production.
  2. To let cast and crew know who is working and who is not. A call sheet lists everyone who is needed on the film set that day.
  3. To maintain a shooting schedule, everyday matters on set, and delays can be costly.
  4. To give the cast and crew an overview of the day. A call sheet communicates what scenes will be filmed that day and can help set the tone for the entire cast and crew.

Who makes the call sheet?

The call sheet is the responsibility of the 2nd Assistant Director, with input from the 1st Assistant Director, producer, and production coordinator.

How do I read a call sheet?

Now that you know what a call sheet is and why it is important, let’s walk through the assorted sections! A call sheet’s purpose is to notify your cast and crew of their destinations and timings, but in order to do so, it must include a variety of components.

Components of a Call Sheet

Call Times

This includes the general crew call time when everyone is expected to arrive on set. The shooting call time is the intended time to begin filming. Lunchtime is also generally included. Individuals or departments can have a unique call time listed elsewhere in the document.

Date and Day-of-Days

This is both the date on the calendar and the day of production; for example, shoot day 45 of 60.

Production Title

The name of the production.

Production Company Name

The name of the production company.

Contact Info

The names and contact info for the producer, first assistant director, director, and any other key points of contact.

Cast

The list of actors working that day, their contact information, and each person’s unique pickup time, call time, and expected onset time.

Extras & Stand-Ins

This category lists the number of extras needed and the general category they will fulfill, for example, soldiers, patrons, townsfolk, etc.

Crew List

The list of crew members working that day and their contact information. This information can be broken down individually for each person or by the department.

Daily Shooting Schedule

The schedule for the day is a table of the scenes that are scheduled to be filmed that day. This includes scene number, description, day/night, cast, location, number of pages, and estimated time to film.

Advanced Schedule

This is similar to the daily shooting schedule but instead outlines the upcoming schedule for the following day.

Weather Forecast

This is not always necessary, but if you have advance warning of inclement weather, you can plan accordingly.

Walkie Talkie Channels

If your production is using walkie-talkies, list the channels here.

Special Instructions

Any last-minute instructions or changes for the cast and crew. This is also a good place to list as a reminder important items such as props, special equipment, costumes, etc.

Location

The physical address of the location where filming is taking place.

Nearest Hospital

For use in case of an emergency, list the name and address of the nearest hospital here.

Parking Info

If there is a specific place where the cast and crew should park, list the info here.

General Notes

This is a catch-all for any information that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

Example Call Sheets

Call sheets have evolved and grown more complex over the decades of film history. Modern computers have allowed for a more streamlined approach that can be customized for each production and each shooting day.

As can be seen in the images below, call sheets in the 1970s and 80s were fairly simple handwritten documents.

Jaws production Call Sheet
Call sheet from Jaws (c/o natedsanders.com)

This call sheet from Jaws has just one slug line, “EXT. Orca at Sea”, and the crew list is minimal. It also lists the times of low tide and high tide at the bottom of the document as a perfect example of notes that are specific to a particular production.


The next call sheet is from Back to the Future II, and the first thing you’ll note is that the film is titled “Paradox,” which was the working title. Sometimes, this is done to allow the production to operate in relative anonymity, avoiding unwanted publicity or paparazzi, but sometimes, it’s simply a case where the title is changed after production.

A couple of interesting tidbits about this call sheet are that the location is simply listed as “Backlot,” and no further information was needed as this was clearly the middle of the shoot. Also, a note about the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is listed in the notes at the bottom of the page.

Back to the Future II - Production Call Sheet
Back to the Future II call sheet (c/o heroprop.com)

In the 1990s, with the rising popularity of computer spreadsheets, call sheets transitioned from handwritten documents to something that was made with Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet applications. Later, with the advent of specialized software such as Movie Magic Scheduling, it became possible to craft call sheets faster and easier than ever before.

Today, we have more options available than ever before. One of the more popular and cost-effective solutions is StudioBinder which offers an online call sheet tool that is both easy to use and packed full of features.

Downloadable Call Sheet Template

We have made a couple of call sheet templates available for download. The Google Docs template is the best option to start with.

Wrap up

Understanding a call sheet can seem daunting at first, but with a little patience, it becomes second nature. By ensuring that your cast and crew have all the necessary information in one place, you can avoid costly delays and ensure that your production runs smoothly.

A call sheet is an important document that should be created for every day of production on a film production. It ensures that everyone involved knows their responsibilities and when they are expected to arrive on set.

Up Next: How to Make a Call Sheet

In our next installment, we’ll take a closer look at the specific step-by-step process of how to create a call sheet either via one of our free call sheet templates or via specialized software that can streamline the entire process.

FAQs

What does SWF mean on a call sheet?

SW = Start Work. This will be the first day of work on a production.
W = Work. The actor has begun shooting.
WF = Work Finish. This signifies that it is the actors’ final day of production, their last day on set.
H = Hold. The actor is not being used that day but has not completed their work on the project.
SWF = Start Work Finish. The actor is a day player, which means that work starts and ends the same day.

What are some of the common abbreviations in a call sheet?

H/M/W = Hair/Makeup/Wardrobe
BG = Background
D/N = Day/Night
I/E = Interior/Exterior

How many call sheets are there for a film?

There is a call sheet for each day of production.

Who gets a call sheet?

Every cast and crew member receives a call sheet.

How are call sheets distributed?

Call sheets will often be distributed both in paper form and via email. The paper version of a call sheet will be printed and made available to cast and crew members on set before the end of the day. An email version will also go out so that anyone not onset can access a copy.

How do you make a call sheet?

A call sheet can be created with specialized software, with a simple word processor such as Google Docs, or it can be done by hand with a piece of paper. Whatever method you choose the thing of primary importance is that the call sheet contains all of the expected important information.

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