How To Make (And Use) A Call Sheet

pre-production

(Bri Castellini) #1

A call sheet, or “daily call sheet,” is a schedule based on your daily shot lists, given to cast and crew to let them know when and where they should report for a particular day of filming. You should have a call sheet for every single day of filming, and while it might seem like unnecessary extra work, it’s not. In fact, done correctly, making call sheets will actually SAVE you time, in addition to making your set look way more professional than it actually is.

I use this call sheet template, because it does the layout for you and you can repurpose it infinitely. Even though said template pretty clearly lays out what should go on each call sheet, I wanted to go through one of my old ones to show you the ways in which I’ve tweaked it slightly for smaller productions.

Section 1: header

Aside from the basic info, there are a few things of note here:

  1. This is usually where the “day x of y” goes, but because we were shooting 20 episodes over the course of about four months, that didn’t make sense, so instead I just wrote which episodes we were shooting scenes from.
  2. These were the three highest-ranking people on set in our case: our dedicated producer, our lead director/fellow producer, and me. If anyone had questions or problems getting to or from set, these were the only numbers they’d really need.
  3. This is usually where the nearest hospital details would go, but because we were shooting on a college campus with a nurse’s office and we were down the street from the emergency room, I instead replaced that section with “location notes.” In this case, the location notes dictated how non-students were to get onto the campus which was technically restricted to students and faculty only. By “wait for someone to come get you,” I meant “wait for someone with two student ID cards to come out and give you one so we can sneak you on to campus because getting guest passes was inconvenient at BEST and sometimes wasn’t possible on the weekend.” In retrospect, I should have kept the hospital stuff in this section and put location details underneath in the first notes section, which I’ve started doing since.
  4. These are the first two production note sections, which for this production I used to list out items we needed to bring to set. These sections were honestly just for me and my DP, the only member of our production team who I didn’t live with at the time.
  5. Should be self-explanatory, but weather details and what food will be provided must not be overlooked! It allows people to plan ahead, especially if there’s rain. You can find sunrise/sunset times at this website (which will help if you’re planning on shooting outside and need to plan for light)
  6. The call time here at the top should be the EARLIEST call time on the sheet. You’ll notice in one of the notes in #4 that “individual call times may vary” because (as you’ll see venturing further down the sheet) rarely should you call everyone to set at the same time. However, putting the earliest call at the top (rather than the average) puts people in the mindset of this being an all-day affair. Also, if they get confused, it’s better if everyone’s there early versus everyone arriving mid-shoot.

Section 2: the shot schedule

All but the final column of this section were pre-set. Because Brains was found footage, we didn’t really have a need for the “scenes” column, but that’s where you’d put your scene number (something most script software will do for you automatically if you so choose).

Next to that, you’ll have sections for the location and description of each scene you’re filming. You don’t need to put in every planned shot, but you do need to put every planned scene down, so everyone knows generally what to expect and in which order to expect it. Plus, people can easily tell which scenes they’re in via the character numbers (which we’ll go over in section 3) and what time of day the scene takes place with the D/N (day/night) column.

Page numbers should be pretty self-explanatory, as well as the location notes. If not, feel free to ask me questions in the comments!

Section 3: Cast call times and other notes

A few rules of thumb for how to order cast members in your call sheets:

  • List the lead actors first, even if they have fewer lines or scenes than other people
  • Amongst lead actors, list from highest to lowest billing.
  • After that, list people in order of either continuing billing order (if you have an order for your supporting cast), in order of most to least scenes/lines on that particular day, or in order of call time

A few rules of thumb for assigning call times:

  • Cast members should always be called half an hour to an hour after crew is called, so they aren’t sitting around waiting for lights and camera to be set up. They’ll end up waiting around at some point, but they shouldn’t be waiting longer than they have to.
    • Bri Castellini (me!) and Andrew Williams were called to set earlier than everyone because we were, respectively, the creator/producer and the director/producer, so we were being called first as crew, then as cast.
  • Factor in time for hair/makeup, even if they’re doing it for themselves. Not everyone will come to set ready to film.
  • Also factor in a few minutes of breakfast if it’s an early call time, so actors have a chance to grab a coffee and bagel before launching into it.
  • Schedule the big, multi-character scenes early so you can end the day with fewer people around. It’ll keep you from having to coordinate with tons of people getting to set in the middle of the day and make things feel less hectic the longer you’re there, which is always preferred.
  • Talk to your director and DP about how long each individual scene is going to take and then schedule the next set of actors to get to set about 15-20 minutes after that estimate. At best, you’ll get a bit of a break to set up for the next scene before they arrive, and at worst, they’ll arrive around the time you’re finishing up the preceding scene.

In the usual call sheet template, the final column of this section is for “special instructions” but on every call sheet I’ve ever made I’ve changed it to “wardrobe instructions” because I’ve unfortunately always had actors provide their own costumes. For recurring characters, I usually make a wardrobe spreadsheet (see below) so we can easily refer to it for what episodes said outfits will be seen in and what those outfits include.

So here, Andrew’s wardrobe note (Outfit 1) corresponds with the above spreadsheet indicating that he’ll be wearing his argyle sweater vest. Furthermore, you’ll see that for myself I had no wardrobe notes because, completely by accident, we’d scheduled a day where my character was always holding the camera rather than being on camera herself (again, found footage) and let me tell you, I have never been more excited to show up to set in my life.

To keep things as easy as possible, I link that wardrobe spreadsheet in every email I sent the call sheets out with, so people could easily refer to everything they needed in the same place.

There are more notes sections here where you can add anything else pertinent. On this day, for us, I added a reminder to get room tone (we didn’t) and an acknowledgment of an actress wrapping her scenes for the full season. I’ve also used this section to explain the social media policy on set (including rules about spoilers, preferred project hashtags, etc) or to remind people we’ll be doing our poster photoshoot during a break.

Section 4: Crew call

The final section of your call sheet is also fairly straightforward, but some notes:

  • Even if someone’s contact is elsewhere in the document (in this case, my name and the director’s name were at the very top), you still need to include them here.
  • I also like to put contact info into the call sheet for crew members not on set (in this case, the production designer and wardrobe person in particular) so that if we need to get ahold of them, we don’t have to find their phone number in a different document or somewhere else in our sprawling Google Drive folder. Art department folks won’t always be on set (in fact, our production designer had moved across the country after season 1) but sometimes you’ll still need their opinion for an unforeseen change or complication.
  • For our project, our crew was small enough (or literally lived together) that we were all called at relatively the same time. However, if you’re going to stagger, you should call folks who need the most setup first: DP, gaffer, grip, set dressers, and PAs. Next, call hair and makeup, wardrobe, and sound. The directors and producers will likely be called first on smaller projects, but on larger ones, because they’re the big cheeses, they might not get called to set until after the actors are set and ready, after all the other work has been completed.

My name is on this section of the call sheet a few times, and honestly, it shouldn’t be. It should be at the top of the sheet (as it was) and once as either producer or 1st AD. No one needs to know (and no one cares) that I was also the sound person and set dresser. The only time your name, especially as the creator, should be on a call sheet more than once is to indicate a chain of communication or command. It was important to note I was AD because the AD is usually who people contact with scheduling questions, and I was that person, but who needed to know from the call sheet that I would be set decorating or running sound? No one. Let me be clear: I listed it out of passive aggression to prove to someone else how much work I was doing. THAT IS NOT A GOOD REASON TO PUT SOMETHING ON A CALL SHEET. Just in case you were wondering.


And that’s how you make a call sheet! Did I miss something, or do you have your own unique sections on call sheets you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!


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(hannaeh) #2

Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to bookmark this for sure!