This post was written by J. Rick Castañeda.

And you’ll really never understand how much work it takes until many years later. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and other days you’ll want to crawl in a hole and howl about what you got yourself into. It’s a magical journey!

Given that our filmAll Sorts is about a data-entry worker in a depressing, Windows 98-era cubicle office, I thought it would be super cogent to write about all the 73 spreadsheets we needed to make our film a reality.

Our film launched on Amazon and AppleTV on Oct. 5, and it took many spreadsheets to get us here.

How It All Began

In the early 2000s, while I was attempting to break my way into the film industry, I worked in a lot of offices as a temp worker. These experiences served as the basis for All Sorts, a surreal comedy about the underground world of competitive folder filing. Most of it was data entry, and one of the gigs was at the Hollywood Reporter for a week, transcribing subscriber emails into a spreadsheet for days on end.

Never did I think that I would employ these fancy Excel skills following my dream of making feature films, but I really do. All the time.

Allsorts_image02_film-still'All Sorts'Credit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin

A Snapshot of Filmmaking

This list is not meant to be intimidating. If you’re thinking about making your own feature film, I’m hoping this gives you an abridged, table-of-contents-style sketch of all the different parts of filmmaking. So many articles and interviews are all about writing, working with actors, camera choice, and the other creative aspects of the film, I thought it might be useful to get into the actual nuts and bolts.

Things that you probably don’t have to learn:

Pivot tables.

Things that you wish were useful but probably aren’t:

Pie charts.

Things you’re most likely going to have to learn:


Allsorts_image03_film-still'All Sorts'Credit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin

Your Mileage May Vary

First off, the list you’re about to read has 27 items, far fewer than the 73 we needed for our film. That’s because these are all categories of spreadsheets, as the actual spreadsheets you’ll need will differ slightly. For example, I’ve listed a props spreadsheet here, but you may need one, or you may need several. In our film, the main character Diego finds a nonsensical daily calendar in his desk, where the days are completely out of order, some are made up, and each contains a ridiculous quote or piece of advice. We had to make a separate spreadsheet for this prop so that we could get it printed, but obviously, this isn’t something you’re going to need for your film.

Okay, let’s get to it.

Allsorts_image04_film-still'All Sorts'Credit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin


Possible Team

This one isn’t absolutely necessary, but I find it to be helpful as one of my very first steps to turning your script into reality. Who do you want on your team? Are they likely to join? Are they going to be available? My spreadsheet for All Sorts contains 26 people I was thinking about approaching to produce the movie. Looking back, two of them actually produced the film. One was an associate producer, and one was our co-producer. Sure, this could also be a text document, but I find it easier to swap them around, color-code them, and enter their contact info in a spreadsheet.


Are you going to look for investors for your film? If so, you’re going to need a good spreadsheet for who you’re going to ask, and for keeping track of their answers. If you’re successful, you’re going to need a running tally of who has committed and how much invested money you have so far.


Yeah, you’re probably going to need one of these. Some folks use special software like MovieMagic Budgeting, but I’ve often found a Google or Excel spreadsheet to be faster to create and more easily readable. Often my producer and I will start with a spreadsheet just to get a basic idea of cost, and then move to a more professional budget once we really start cooking. Here’s what a super basic budget spreadsheet might look like:

Allsorts_image05_budget-templateBudget template exampleCredit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin


You’re going to need a list of your possible locations, how much they cost, how many days you’ll need them, as well as basic information like address, contact info, website (if they have one), and other useful notes.


Just a list of your crew, location contacts, and other folks you’ll need to make the movie.


It’ll be helpful to keep track of all your casting sessions—both who you have coming in when, and also the director’s thoughts about each actor’s audition. We cast our film in LA, Seattle, and also in the small town of Granger, WA, so we had a spreadsheet for each one of those. Those could have all been separate tabs of one spreadsheet, but we’ve found that the more tabs a spreadsheet has, the more unwieldy it gets, and the less obvious which spreadsheet has the information you’re looking for.

We also had to build up different spreadsheets for our confirmed cast, as well as a couple of extra ones for our confirmed background actors (we had a lot of big crowd scenes, so it was easier to make this a separate spreadsheet).


You’ll need to be getting releases from on-camera talent as well as deal memos from crew. Often these spreadsheets contain more confidential information that can’t be shared as widely, so you’ll likely need a spreadsheet tracking personal info, as well as deal terms for cast and crew. This document will be started in pre-pro and likely run through final delivery of the film.

Allsorts_image06_stripboardShot of stripboard for 'All Sorts'Credit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin


For my first film, we printed out the breakdown boards and just moved around pieces of paper on a table until all the days’ schedules seemed to make sense.

For All Sorts, our producer Laura Reich created our schedule in Movie Magic Scheduling, which she used to tag our script into 1/8’s of pages so we’d know how long each scene was, where it took place, and which actors we’d need.

1/8’s of a page are the basic building blocks of movie scheduling, in that they’re the smallest meaningful units of a film. Sure, there are probably scenes that are only 1/16 of a page long, but they’re not necessarily going to be easier or harder to film than 1/8 of a page. And generally, it’s going to be easier to film a scene that is 1/8 of a page than 2/8 of a page.

The producers, director, and assistant director are all going to have to get on board with how many pages you’re planning to shoot each day, and what’s realistic. Measuring all the scenes you plan to shoot in a given day and adding them up is a great way of finding out if your schedule is ludicrous or not. And if you’re not using a spreadsheet for this, you’re probably using a tool that is very spreadsheet-like.

This schedule is called a stripboard, because of the old-fashioned method I mentioned above, of cutting the script into strips and moving them around to create the shooting order. Movie Magic Scheduling is the fancy version of this old-school method and is essentially a fancy spreadsheet that you could create on your own in Excel if you don’t have the budget for software.

Art Department/Props

As the producer, you may not have even one spreadsheet for props, but someone on the film probably has one, or at least a very extensive list. We had a whole spreadsheet just for filing cabinets because, before our art team came fully on board, we knew we needed a lot of them for this competitive filing movie. We had a spreadsheet for all the ones we found on sale on Craigslist, all the ones our friends found at Goodwill and yard sales.

Allsorts_image07_film-still'All Sorts'Credit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin


On my first feature, we were about an hour into the first day of filming when I realized I badly, badly needed both a costume person and a script supervisor. I’m sure many of you out there are laughing because it seems idiotic that I wouldn’t know this, but I was young! At the time, I had only made short films, and it’s easy on a short film to ask your actors to bring clothes, and it’s also easy to hold the whole film in your head, and know what clothes each character is wearing on each day of the film.

With Cement Suitcase, we filmed all the exterior scenes of the main character entering and exiting his house on the first day, because it would be easier to get them all at the same time. But somehow, I didn’t realize that meant we had to decide what he would be wearing in every single scene of the film, and keep track of it all.

Anyway, it’s very possible you need a spreadsheet for that!


That brings us to production! And what says production more than...

Call Sheets

Is there a more perfect distillation of the art of filmmaking into spreadsheet form? I don’t think so. Your call sheet holds the most important information of each day in an easily readable, easily distributable format. The call sheet has it all—contact info, schedule, emergency plans, and even the weather!

We built ours in Google Sheets and did a tab for each day. With an 18-day shoot, this could have been another 18 spreadsheets, but we combined them all into one document for principal production and then made two more for our pickup shoots.

Allsorts_image08_film-stillStill from 'All Sorts' credit sequenceCredit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin


Just for keeping track of all the lovely folks who participated on the film. I know you’re thinking this should be in the post-production section, but start this on day one and just add people as they start to come into the life of the film. It’s easier than sitting with a blank slate all the way at the end of the film.

If you’re flying by the seat of your pants, it’s likely that you won’t start some of your pre-pro spreadsheets until production starts, but let’s pretend everything got done on time. That brings us now to...


You might need a spreadsheet to keep track of your spreadsheets for post, because there are a lot.


For our film, we shot 1,280 takes, and almost 50 hours of footage. It took an awful lot of time, energy, and people for each one of those takes, and every minute of that footage get filmed. So it was important to me as an editor that I didn’t lose track of anything. It would be a real shame if a shot was filmed, but just got lost when everything was transcoded. This spreadsheet was also helpful for pairing each video clip with the sound that was recorded for it. There were many times when I was editing and I thought, Dang, didn’t we have another shot of this?

And I’d look at the grid, and sure enough, we did. It just got deleted from the project somewhere along the way.

Allsorts_image09_footage-logStill of 'All Sorts' footage logCredit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin


Once all the footage was transcoded and synced with the audio, the first thing I did was make a list of all 230 scenes of the movie, along with a description of each scene so I could remember what it was. Then I put a list of checkboxes: Synched; Transcoded; First Cut; Sound Pass. That became my mission—to fill in all those little checkboxes. This was also a list of which scenes needed VFX.

After I finished editing a first pass on every scene, I created a new spreadsheet, where I listed all the scenes and color-coded them. This was really helpful to get a bird’s eye view of the edit and figure out where all the romantic scenes were located... where all the competition scenes were getting placed. I had a pretty good notion of how this looked at the script phase, but in the edit, it’s a whole new ballgame. Everything got shuffled around and staring at this grid of all the sequences really helped me get a grasp on why our test audiences were reacting to the edit in certain ways.

As I edited away, I added another tab to this spreadsheet: Pickup Shot Wishlist. For example, our movie begins in a park, and I wished I had more B-roll of trees and other details of the park to edit with. So eventually, we went out and got that too.


We had about 98 VFX shots in All Sorts, and this spreadsheet was good for keeping track of all of them. This one included adventurous and exciting columns like Scene, Day, Timecode, Filename, Description, Needs, and Next Step. It was color-coded to show progress, and we loved it dearly.

Master Rights Grid

There may come a point where you realize you don’t need to create absolutely everything in your film from scratch. Maybe you want to license a piece of music. Maybe you need a really cool stock shot of the moon. This is a great way to keep track of all that, and you’re probably going to need this in order to get E&O insurance.

It’s important that this spreadsheet contain the following information: Rights holder, Contact, Terms, Territory, and Licensing Fee. It’s also a really good idea to include a thumbnail of the image or footage and the filename of the item with a brief description.

Music Cue Sheet

There is a magical way that musicians get paid for performances of their work, and honestly, I don’t know entirely how it works, but the gist is that everybody pools money together for performances, and the cue sheet is how everybody keeps track of who gets paid what.

There are lots of sample Music Cue Sheets out there and any of them will get you started on the right track.

QC Notes/Fixes

After your movie is done, you will have to watch it about a billion times in order to catch all the mistakes that your mother’s uncle’s second cousin will point out loudly on opening night if you decide to leave them in. Some people are really good at this—catching a few flashing pixels on just one frame that are out of order. Find these people. Cultivate them. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of their wisdom.

Now the movie is finished! Hurrah! Only you have totally run out of money making the film, so now you need to...


Keep a spreadsheet of who you’re going to ask for money. Keep another for all the content and to-do items you need to make your crowdfunding campaign successful. And if you are successful, you’re going to need another one to keep track of all the rewards.

Now the movie is finished! Your work is done!

Oh, wait, you want people to see it!

Distribution and Marketing


Somehow we had seven different distribution spreadsheets, and I’m not sure exactly how. One was full of all the different distribution contacts we had. One was for comparing all the distributors who made us offers. Another for our strategic distribution timeline. And then probably a few more when our strategic distribution timeline got blown to shit.

Allsorts_image10_laliff-red-carpetStill of Director J. Rick Castañeda and producer Laura Reich on the red carpet at the Los Angeles Latino International Film FestivalCredit: Courtesy of LALIFF


We put together spreadsheets for test screenings and premieres so that we’d know who we were inviting, who we were buying tickets for, and keeping track of their replies.

Film Festivals

To keep track of which ones to submit to, submission dates, contacts, and responses! Somehow we still lost track of a few film festivals, but what can you do? We’re a small team and we’re doing the best we can here!

Social Media

We had one master social media spreadsheet to keep track of all our hashtags, all the media that we planned to create, and another one for scheduled posts.

Press Contacts

We’ve been building our own spreadsheet of press contacts so that we could continue to let them know about news for the film (theatrical premiere, awards, distribution, streaming launch date, etc.). Our film was made in the state of Washington, so that’s been a big area of our focus. We’ve found that hiring a PR firm or agent will really help, but there are lots of times when you can create a personal connection on your own.

Email Lists

Your film should probably have a newsletter.

Published Articles

We’ve been trying to keep track of all the newspaper articles, web posts, and other media that have been written or created about our film. So far that list is up to 90! When we break 100, we’ll break out the champagne, pour it into tiny plastic glasses, and then forget to drink it because there’s so much damn work to do.


As your film heads out into the world, it’s likely that someone somewhere will pay you money for it, even if it wasn’t as much as you might have hoped. Our friends Liz Manashil and Naomi McDougall Jones have been putting together a survey to find out what exactly is happening out there in indie film distribution and where there is still money for small films without blockbuster stars.

As of right now, it looks like our sources of income for All Sorts will look like this:

  • Blu-ray sales (we plan on putting it on Amazon ourselves)
  • Theatrical (we’ve been calling up movie theaters and asking them to play our film, which has been somewhat successful for us)
  • Airline rights
  • Hotel and hospitality rights (although this is looking to be more of a marketing tool than a moneymaker)
  • TVOD
  • AVOD

Anyway, as these numbers start to come in, you’ll want to keep track of them! May I suggest, possibly, a spreadsheet, or maybe Quickbooks? You can always input them into Quickbooks and then export a spreadsheet too, if that lights your fire.

You Made It to the End of This List!

The good news is that these spreadsheets don’t need to be created all at once, and hopefully you’ll have a lot of help from your team. Filmmaking is hard, I’m not going to lie. A lot of motivation comes from little wins—like getting that location you really wanted or finding one new person who really enjoyed watching the movie.

All Sortspremiered at the Seattle International Film Festival, and also screened at Raindance in London and the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Now it’s coming out on Amazon, Apple TV, and GooglePlay on Oct. 5. We’ll have a lot of joys, challenges, and probably a lot more spreadsheets over the next year as we try to get our film to audiences. As I finish writing this, Laura just sent me another spreadsheet about how to spend our limited advertising funds! For us, the journey is totally worth it. We absolutely loved making this film. All these spreadsheets helped us to get there.

Let’s be honest—we live in an ocean of data and keeping it organized and searchable is the key to staying afloat. So as you go out there to make the best film ever seen by mankind, pay homage to the mighty, mighty spreadsheet. Nobody ever frames a spreadsheet and hangs it on the wall... but... well, maybe we should.

Allsorts_image11_film-still'All Sorts'Credit: Courtesy of Vibrant Penguin

TL;DR List of All Our Spreadsheets

PR/Marketing Spreadsheets (12)

  • Social Media
  • Marketing
  • Email lists
  • Film Festivals
  • Published Articles

Pre-Production Spreadsheets (20 total)

  • Budget spreadsheets
  • Team spreadsheets (possible producers)
  • Location spreadsheets
  • Contact spreadsheets
  • Casting spreadsheets (7)
    • Background
    • Auditions
    • Confirmed Cast
  • Scheduling spreadsheets
  • Art/props spreadsheets (4)
    • June’s Diego vs Anthony spreadsheet
    • Calendar spreadsheet
    • “Go June” signs spreadsheet
  • Costume spreadsheets
  • Investor Spreadsheets

Production Spreadsheets

  • Call sheets (3)

Post Spreadsheets (16)

  • Footage spreadsheets
  • Editing spreadsheets
  • VFX spreadsheets
  • Credits spreadsheet (3)
  • Master Rights Grid
  • Music Cue Sheet (2)
  • QC Notes/Fixes

Crowdfunding Spreadsheets (3)

  • Targets/contacts
  • Reward lists

Distribution Spreadsheets

  • Distributors (7)
  • Deliverables spreadsheets
  • Screening invitees/attendees

PR/Marketing Spreadsheets (12)

  • Social Media
  • Marketing
  • Email lists
  • Film Festivals
  • Published Articles

Are there any that were missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

J.Rick Castañeda is the founder of Vibrant Penguin, and the writer and director of All Sorts, which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival.

From Your Site Articles