The Importance Of Call Sheets

Whether you are working on a Hollywood blockbuster or student documentary, you need to make sure that everyone involved in the production knows what they are doing, where they are doing it and when they are doing it — or else you will run into problems. If you are working with a small crew you might think a call sheet isn’t necessary, but mistakes and misunderstandings about who was bringing what equipment and what time they were needed on set are all too common and can lead to delays or even the loss of a day’s filming.
There are lots of free call sheet templates available online, so have a look around and find one that suits your needs — which might vary from shoot to shoot —  but as you get more confident don’t be afraid to customize the forms or even design your own. 
Whether you are working with a pre-designed call sheet or creating your own, there are a number of essential elements which should be prominent at the top of the first page of your call sheet.
  • The date: It’s one of the most important parts of the call sheet, so make sure it’s prominent and near the top. Include the day of the week as well to avoid any confusion. It’s good practice to include sunrise and sunset times and the predicted weather.
  • The call time: Again this should be bold and clear so there are no misunderstandings. If there are different call times for cast and crew, again, make sure it is clear which is which. For longer shoots include the time for scheduled lunch or meal breaks.
  • The title of the production: Some of your cast and crew may be working on more than one project at a time, so make sure they know which one yours is!
  • The production office contact details: name, address, telephone and email. If you are putting the shoot together on your own, then this is you!
  • The names of the producer, director and first AD.
  • An emergency contact who can be the first point of call for anyone who is lost or running late on the day of the shoot.
  • The details of the nearest hospital to the location: You may need to include details of more than one hospital if the days’ filming involves multiple locations. If you have a qualified first aider or a first aid kit on set, make sure they are indentified here too. If the locations have any specific health and safety requirements or risks, again these must be highlighted.
The above elements should be standard on any call sheet you produce. Next you need to include the details specific to the day’s shooting.
  • The location or locations: Make sure you include details of parking or public transport and, if possible, a map or link to an online map for each location.
  • A list of the scenes to be filmed that day: Include a brief description of each scene and the cast members involved. It is useful to reference the pages from the script for fiction productions as well other details such as whether the scenes are internal or external, day or night, etc.
  • A list detailing what props and costumes are to be used and for which scenes/locations you need them: It’s a good idea to put together your call sheet as early as possible to focus your mind and ensure you are properly prepared well in advance. 
  • A full list of the cast including their character names: If any cast members have different call times to the regular cast call time this can be specified here. Film production etiquette suggests that cast contact details should not be included on a call sheet, but for smaller productions you might want to ensure that everyone involved can help track down your errant talent if they fail to show up on time!
  • A full list of the crew including their roles, email addresses and phone numbers: Again you can set out variations from the standard crew call time if needed. Crew contact details are very useful as some crew members may not have worked together previously and may wish to discuss technical issues with each other in advance of the day of shooting. 
  • A list of equipment needed and who is responsible for it: This can be linked to crew list if crew members are providing their own cameras and lighting etc.
On larger productions call sheets will include details of catering and craft services, transportation such as cast or crew shuttle buses and communication channels for walkie talkies to be used on set. If there is something important about the day’s schedule that you want your cast and crew to know then include it on your call sheet!
Everyone involved in the production for that day should get a copy of the call sheet: cast, crew and production team. Make sure they call sheets go out as early as possible to forewarn your cast and crew as well as to give ample opportunity for any snags or issues to be highlighted and resolved. Producing call sheets is a good practice to adopt even on the smallest of film productions to ensure everyone and everything will be in place to give you shoot the best chance to succeed.
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.

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