Top Tips for Creating a Film or TV Call Sheet
On any film or TV set, one document does more to ensure the smooth running of the production than any other: the call sheet.
The call sheet informs the cast and production crew of where they need to be for the following day’s shoot, as well as other necessary information like the shooting schedule, expected weather conditions, personelle contact details and parking regulations (which seem like a minor detail, but could easily derail a shoot!)
A well put-together call sheet is the crux of a successful shoot day, so it’s important to get it right. Let's take a look at what goes into a call sheet and how to build one for your production.
Who creates the call sheet?
The call sheet is usually curated by the Assistant Director (AD) and will be different for every production, though it is important for production managers, coordinators and others to understand the mechanics behind creating one.
When should you send a call sheet?
The call sheet is usually sent to all cast and production crew the evening before the shoot. The timing can be tricky, as talent and crew need enough time to prepare, but sending out multiple revisions if plans change at the last moment can lead to disruptive confusion. To minimize this, a call sheet should only be sent once.
What should you include in a call sheet?
Depending on the shoot, some call sheets may be more detailed than others, but most will contain the following information:
Call sheets include details of what is going to be shot that day. This information can be collated from the production’s shooting schedule and shot list. The call sheet may include a breakdown of scenes, including timings, locations and who will appear in them. It should also include how many pages of script each scene requires to help production plan the amount of time needed to shoot.
2. Call times
Naturally, a call sheet will contain call times (i.e., the time that each member of the cast and crew is expected on set), but you will usually need to include more detail than just the time they should show up. For the cast, these timings might also include their pick-up time (if they are going to be transported from their hotel or other accomodations) and their on-set time (i.e., the time they need to be finished with hair and make-up and ready for cameras to roll).
Other crew members will usually have one time to be aware of, but their call times may differ depending on which department they belong to. For instance, the lighting department may have an earlier call time if it’s a particularly complicated lighting rig.
3. Map, directions and parking
Something as simple as including a map and directions can make the difference between a shoot starting on time and costly delays. Including details of where to park and any parking restrictions can also save time and hassle.
4. Weather forecast
Providing an up-to-date weather forecast on the call sheet does more than make sure actors and crew are dressed appropriately. It can also be invaluable for making sure equipment is properly protected, and may impact what can be shot and when. It’s also worth including accurate sunrise and sunset times as these can affect when the shoot needs to wrap.
5. Department notes
Your call sheet should also include notes for specific departments – for example, if there are factors that complicate the lighting or camera set up; the number of background actors expected on set that day for hair and make-up and catering to accommodate; props needed in the scene; and reminders to bring paperwork. These won’t apply to everyone but should still be included where relevant.
6. Safety information
As well as details of who to notify in an emergency, all call sheets should contain the details of the nearest hospital. If the production is filming on location in a remote or unfamiliar area, details of nearby medical centres are essential for making sure help can be reached quickly in an emergency. You may also want to include reminders of any safety or protective equipment needed on the shoot and details of who on set is trained in first aid.
7. Contact information
If talent or crew need to get in touch with somebody quickly, the call sheet will be the first place they look – so it’s important to include the contact details of the production office and phone numbers for key crew members, such as the AD, director and department heads.
Most call sheets also contain a list of cast and crew members, with details of who will be on set and which role they’ll be performing. Some will include contact details for everyone on set, but this can present problems when it comes to data security.
Paper call sheets pose a particular risk, as it’s hard to control who sees the document if it is left around on set unattended. Digital solutions like EP’s Scenecronize or Production Portal allow you to distribute call sheets quickly and securely, helping you to limit unauthorized access and protect sensitive information – no spoilers here!
Just a humble call sheet?
Properly creating and circulating a call sheet is an essential practice for any production hoping to run without disasters or delays. Everyone from talent to crew will refer to the call sheet throughout the shoot, so making sure the information is clear and accurate is crucial.
It might seem like a big task for a humble piece of paper, but an effective call sheet can be the difference between a production that runs smoothly and one that runs quickly off track.