Fact: Call sheets are annoying.
They’re annoying to make, read, send, hand out, and get. They don’t tell you the whole story of the shoot, and yet a lot of time and energy is put into them. Plus they contain all kinds of information nobody ever needs or uses.
Call sheets kinda suck. But call sheets are also completely necessary.
I’ve made countless call sheets, and, when I was first figuring out what the hell I was doing, when I didn’t have a call sheet, the more seasoned people in my cast and crew were immediately tipped off to my being something of an amateur.
Call sheets are how people know the things they need to know. Where to be. What time. What they’re going to be doing.
So the fact of the matter is on a project of a certain scale, with players at a certain level, you 100 percent need to make a call sheet. We’ll help you out there by directing you to a few great FREE call sheet templates AND free call sheet software options. (Please, whatever you do, do not pay to make a call sheet)
BUT let’s say you’re working on something a little smaller and there isn’t anyone involved that truly requires a call sheet. For those projects, we’re going to go over what alternates you have to the big old fashioned ugly time suck of traditional call sheets.
Because look, we get it. If you’re trying to do a shoot with, like, five people -- and you want to spend the day before prepping in meaningful and impactful ways -- you don’t want to make a call sheet.
Let’s talk about what you can do instead that will accomplish the same goals.
What is a call sheet
A call sheet is a daily document that outlines the schedule for a shoot on a production, including when and where cast and crew members should report. It is created by the assistant director and the assistant director’s department based on the plans and a shot list from the director.
But a call sheet includes so much more info. The weather. The time the sun will come up. The nearest hospital. Parking details. Phone numbers. The meaning of life.
On a big shoot, there is an AD who spends the better part of their day making the next day’s call sheet. That just seems like such a massive waste of resources and yet for a really big project, it’s necessary. Then again, Hollywood isn’t exactly known for spending money super economically.
But we’re not here to talk about Hollywood accounting today! We’re here to help you figure out what kind of call sheet you need, and how to make it.
The great thing about a call sheet template is that it’ll give you the fields you need to fill out and you just have to go gather the necessary info.
Here is a free call sheet template download, courtesy of Howtofilmschool
Recreate it in Google sheets or docs, or just use it as a plain text file.
Another option: You can always ask anyone in the AD department from any production you worked on if they can send you their call sheet template. They might say no, but they might also let you have access to one in a file format you want to use and then you’re off to the races. The truth is, as we said before, there is just no reason to pay for the creation of a call sheet. They’re everywhere, they’re free, and you can invest that money somewhere else.
But, what if you want more than just a one-off template? Say you want call sheet software that can work for your entire shoot, and maybe interact with your crew list and some other information.
There is still a way to do this! It’s called G-Casper!
This is a call sheet template in google docs, it’ll work with your existing d-drive or g-suite and it’ll help you integrate.
We've covered G-Casper before in greater depth. It's a free, robust one-stop-shop for production planning created by an actual production company. Who better to trust!
Ok, so you have access to some options for call sheet templates. Let’s talk about how you fill the thing out.
How to make a call sheet
Making a call sheet isn’t rocket science. But mistakes can snowball and become pretty costly.
Success here depends on having good communication with the rest of the team so you can do it effectively and efficiently. Be specific, double-check everything, and get an extra set of eyes on it as well.
Let’s go section by section and break down what you need for each.
Put the movie title here.
Put the call time for the general crew up top. You can give people individual call times down below, but this is the standard average regular old be there at this time.
Ok, maybe we don’t need to go through everything.
DAY _ OF_
This one is important because some members of your crew will have lost all sense of reality outside the job, and this lets them know how long it’ll be until they can interact with the outside world again. Are we near the end? Right in the middle? What’s my name? How did I get here? This is not my beautiful C-stand.
It’s nice to put a few key times on the call sheet. It at least indicates that these are goals you want to hit and you won’t forget to feed everyone. Or keep them on set forever. Put in a wrap time, and even "tail lights" (which is how you let everyone know that's not when the last shot is up but when they can literally DRIVE away from the set and cry in their cars and wonder why they went into production in the first place. Sorry. That got dark.
You should have this in your call sheet because while you hope you never have to use it, it’s probably the single most important thing to include. Let’s face it life on set can be dangerous and everyone can lose sight of this. If injuries happen you need to know what the nearest emergency medical facility is. Don’t make the mistake of just grabbing the address of a nearby doctor’s office from google maps. You could end up driving someone seriously injured to a closed dentist’s office.
List all locations for the day here, along with the address, and the contact info for anyone repping the location. Also mention...
Every location will have to have parking options spelled out for the cast and crew. Don’t lose time because someone couldn’t find a place to park. Don’t spend time helping someone FIND a place to park. Don’t spend money paying for a parking ticket the Key Grip got. Plan this out in advance.
SCENE AND DESCRIPTION
It can be very helpful to have a mini-breakdown here so everyone can take a look the night before (haha) and see what the day will require. Hey, you never know. Someone just might do this one day.
Including cast required and the total number of pages helps everyone get a sense of the day.
List cast here is helpful because each cast member may have a different call time, you can stagger their calls. If they need time in hair and make-up and you only have one chair, staggering will be necessary. Or maybe you have a character who needs to do some intense make-up and arrive very early for that. Either way, this is where you can list those details, also specifying what time you'd like them on set ready to shoot.
This section gives people an idea of what comes on the next few days so they can prepare/ have something to cry about on the drive home.
INDIVIDUAL CALL TIMES
Call sheets often will list everyone from each department at the end, and what time they need to be called to set. If you have a big crew with many moving parts individual call times in this section can be really helpful. If your crew is small and everyone is showing up at the same time, you might not need to bother with all of this.
Oftentimes call sheets will also list contact info for various members of the crew here.
You should confirm with anyone that they are comfortable having their number listed on the call sheet. In theory, you would have contact info for 'keys' from various departments listed, and certainly someone from production, but do not put the star’s phone number on the call sheet.
That just about covers the broad strokes of your typical call sheet. Now let's talk about how to do away with most of that.
The Quick and Dirty Call Sheet Alternative
Let’s talk about time savers; You’ve got a shoot with less than ten people, and you don’t want to put your time, or anyone else's into the call sheet creation and management process.
The first thing you should do is confirm that everyone in the cast and crew is comfortable working without a formal call sheet. They may not be. In which case… sigh… you have to do the whole thing.
BUT assuming everyone is down to do it down and dirty, you need to quickly prioritize the information you will send everyone and draft it up to be sent as both an email and text.
We suggest you include the following details in the following order:
Scenes being shot.
That’s it. List all those six things in big bold letters. Send it as an email AND send it as a text. Simple, easy, fast, and covers the big issues.
Best part? With the normal call sheet process there is a standard procedure of “following up” with everyone via text or phone call. Just to confirm people got it, maybe you can have them hit confirm once it’s received and then you get a notification.
But this is much simpler for them and for you. Because all they have to do is “like” your text. Or say “got it” to your email.
Modern tech makes things easy. Why do we need to add extra steps? Don’t you want to start thinking about the shoot, or maybe get some rest?
Of course you do. This might all seem like a no brainer on some level but here is why we’re spelling it out.
On a big shoot, you really need the big call sheet. It’s the one document that houses all the relevant info to the day.
On a small shoot, you still need to convey this basic and critical information, but it’s actually a time-saver to do it individually and cherry-pick the KEY things.
How to read a call sheet
This video is super helpful in parsing all that out!
Call sheet wallet
Say you’re a UPM, AD, or line producer, and call sheets are a big part of your day and job. In that case, you might be interested in obtaining a call sheet wallet.
Pretty cool, huh? When the holidays approach, it could be the PERFECT gift for the UPM or 1st AD in your life.
JK JK LOL. 1st ADs don't celebrate holidays.
A call sheet wallet folds up and can also contain other important info. Some people keep pictures of their kids in their wallets. Others keep call sheets.
Call sheet generator
If you’re looking for a good call sheet generator, i.e. you want to plug in production details like the shooting schedule, cast and crew and then get call sheets for each day, again we’d direct you over toe G-Casper where you can generate professional call sheets for free all through google drive.
While we’re talking about the nuts and bolts behind a day of production, head on over to this post and get more information on how to schedule a shoot. There are a lot of things to juggle and factor into this process!