- Sep 1, 2020
- BY: Zach Watson
How (And Why) to Use a Call Sheet Template
Time is the enemy of every filmmaker.
If only you could take as long as you wanted to create your film, then it would be a better chance of being perfect.
But film production is a complex, often-expensive process. Equipment must be rented. Sets must be staged and prepped. In some cases, a legion of cast and crew must be organized.
All of this works against the time constraints you have for a project. Just getting things done on time is impressive enough, let alone getting the film done on time the way you wanted it to be shot.
But everything in life happens by degrees, so to help mere mortals get closer to shooting your movie the exact way you imagined it, the filmmaking gods bequeathed unto humanity the call sheet.
Why Call Sheets Matter
Call sheets provide a single source of truth — that place where you can find everything you need to know about a film production. This is rare in both life and in film production, so call sheets are absolutely vital to ensuring things run as smoothly as possible.
There are a couple of ground rules for this document. First and foremost, only send it out once. You don’t want multiple versions of the call sheet floating around. That will only lead to chaos and gratuitous time wasting.
Second, only use the information that you need. Our call sheet template is pretty fancy, but if you don’t need all that information, don’t use it. You want the call sheet to be informative, not overwhelming.
This invariably leads to the question: “What should I put on a call sheet?” Well, that comes down to your production. To make it a little easier for you to figure out, here’s a walkthrough of everything that’s on our call sheet template (which can download here for the free here).
There’s a variety of information a call sheet can contain. The exact amount and complexity depends on what you need for your production.
In that sense, think of each section as a component you can keep or remove. Our call sheet template is pretty comprehensive, but if you don’t need some of the sections you’re free to leave them blank or cut them out entirely.
Here’s a rundown of what to put in each section and why it’s important.
From The Top
This is where the highlights live. Stuff like: what time things start, where stuff is happening, who to contact when you have a question.
Do I really need to elaborate here?
These are the head honchos, the people who are keeping the entire production on the rails. Typically, you’ll want to list the director, assistant director, producer, and production coordinator. The AD and production coordinator are there for the day-to-day stuff, but if someone needs the director or producer for a big call, they’ll know how to ring them.
This is a bit of a catch-all section, but the information is important. Posting the weather is important, because people need to know what to wear. (We can’t expect them to look up this information on their own.)
Likewise, letting everyone know when lunch is happening and how to get in touch with craft services (if that’s how you roll, that is).
Location(s) & Call Time
People gotta know where the set is, or else they can’t get there. If there’s multiple locations, be sure to list who needs to be there and at what time.
The huge call time in the middle may seem like overkill, but trust me, it’s not. Sometimes you just have to beat people over the head with critical information.
Nearest Medical Facility
Knowing the location of the nearest emergency hospital is film production 101. It’s human nature to think “we won’t need that; we’re not shooting anything dangerous.”
But you never know what will happen on set. And you owe it to your cast and crew to make sure you know where to go if something goes down.
The Daily Shooting Schedule
Now you’re in the weeds. These are the details people need to make each day of production happen — otherwise known as the daily shooting schedule.
This is where the shoot is broken down into as much detail as humanly possible. (Not really, but it’s pretty close.) Here’s what they each mean.
Choose one of the numbers from the options in the previous section.
Set and Description
This section describes exactly what will be shot and how long it’s expected to take. So in the first two, choose when shooting begins and ends for this part of the film. Below that, describe what types of shots you’ll be doing.
Each actor is assigned a character number, which you can find in the next section of this very sheet. But for the daily shoot schedule, using the numbers is an easy way to get an at-a-glance idea of who needs to be on set.
What day of the week is this happening? Type it here.
This section outlines what pages of the script will be covered in the shot. That way, the talent knows which lines they absolutely can’t forget, and the production crew has a better understanding of what’s going to happen in the scene.
I can’t say for sure, but it seems like this might be where the expression “getting on the same page” comes from.
Any additional notes about the location, like special parking instructions, if any special equipment needs to be brought, etc.
Cast and Crew Contact Info
The final part of the call sheet is dedicated to listing the talent and all the contact information for people in production, the camera department, SFX / makeup, and the art team. There’s also a place for important notes for the cast and crew.
Again, these are the default teams we have listed on our call sheet, but feel free to chop, change, or ignore these sections as you see fit. Here’s how this final part looks:
So that’s our version of a call sheet template. (Feel free to download it here.)
This sheet may be overkill for a lot of the indie filmmakers in the house, but it’s better to have a document you can cut down, rather than one you have to keep adding to.
And in the end, having too much organization is never a bad thing.
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