How to Read and Write a Call Sheet (with FREE template)
Note: Oh snap! We should have posted this about 3 months ago. We’ve been working really hard, so here it is now. Thanks for your patience.
The call sheet is the final step of the pre-production process. Here is where you share with the crew the specific schedule for each day of the shoot, in an easy to read format. Ideally, the call sheet will contain as much information as necessary and delivered to the crew for everyone to read. Don’t worry – most people won’t read it.
Clarity is king. Be detailed and don’t leave anything up to interpretation. Exact times, locations and every piece of information that anyone on the crew may need.
It’s as basic as this:
- Who is required on set?
- What are we shooting today?
- When are we starting and finishing?
- Where are we shooting?
- Why didn’t you read the call sheet?
Here’s a typical call sheet (well, half of the first page). You’ll see at the very top is a list of the closest Police, Fire and Hospital. In the event of an emergency, you won’t want to search through this document to find that information. Have it front and centre and hope you never need it.
If you’ve effectively planned your shoot, filling in the call sheet should be fairly straightforward. Start with everything you know: Title, Company, Director, Shoot date information. Add your location name and accurate address – if you’re shooting in more than one location on the day, add the other locations here too. Remember to specify where your crew need to meet – some crew or cast might not be needed til after lunch and they’ll meet you at the second or third location.
Unit location will usually be on set, but sometimes at a different location (maybe location #2). If you’re meeting the owner of the property (eg to unlock and let you in), put their contact under the location. Other contact numbers that are relevant include the 1st Assistant Director, Unit Manager or anyone else who will need to meet with a third party (eg caterers are delivering lunch – they need a number to call when they arrive).
Call times: you should have developed an accurate call time from your shooting schedule. If you haven’t check THIS out. It’s common for different departments to have different call times. Also add the estimated wrap time (so people can plan their way home). Add the weather for good measure, as well as sunrise and sunset times. These times may dictate when you are forced to start or finish shooting.
Above is a very basic schedule template from a simple film we shot recently – Please Do Not Feed The Ducks (you can check out the behind the scenes HERE.) It shows the crew which scenes we’re shooting today and you’ll see that the scene was broken into three sections. On more complex shoots, I would add in times that cast will be entering make-up, hair and wardrobe and when they’re expected on set. Your crew want to know what time is lunch and wrap time (remember, wrap is not when you have got the last shot – it’s when you’ve packed up ready to leave).
The following page lists any extra detail that each department needs:
- MAKE-UP & HAIR: Scenes and names of all actors needing make-up and hair.
- COSTUME: Scenes and actors names
- PROPS: Scenes and every single prop you will need
- ART DEPARTMENT: Set dressing notes etc.
- GRIPS: Additional equipment for the Grips Dept eg dolly.
- ELECTRICS: Information for anything electric eg power supply/generator.
- SOUND: Sound equipment and any notes eg next to train tracks.
- VFX/CGI: Notes and equipment for VFX Supervisor eg green screen.
- SPECIAL EFFECTS: Notes and equipment for Stunt Coordinator eg explosions.
- ADDITIONAL LABOUR: Any extra work that needs to be done eg removing existing furniture from space.
- UNIT/PRODUCTION: Notes and equipment for Unit Dept eg tables, chairs, marquee.
- EXTRAS: Names and call times of all extras. First AD should have extra’s phone numbers.
- CATERING: What time is catering, where and how many?
- RUSHES: Watching previous day’s footage if you have the chance.
- LOCATION/CREW NOTES: Eg. “Make sure you close the farm gate behind you”
- SAFETY NOTES: Eg. “Do not wander too far north – cliff 1km from shooting location.”
For Please Do Not Feed The Ducks, we shot at University of Queensland Lakes (with permission of course). Above is the map we sent to crew, detailing where they can park, where we are shooting and the closest bathrooms. Some crew had never been to this location, so this map is essential to help them to not get lost.
An accurate and detailed call sheet can help your shoot run very smoothly. It also clarifies all the work that you (as a First AD or Producer) has done and prepares you for the big day. For our template, please send us an email through THIS LINK.
We really hope you’ve gotten something out of these lessons. This pre-production work can help get the best out of your team and produce a better film. Thank you so much for reading and we wish you all the best on your filmmaking careers. As always, if you know anyone who would get some value from our lessons, be sure to let them know.
Tim & Pearce – Hired Goons