Creating Professional Call Sheets (Free Excel Template Download)
When I first started in the film industry as a 2nd Assistant Director (2nd AD), I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the process: call sheets, production reports, timelogs, travel movements. The amount of paperwork was staggering, and knowing what each document should contain was elusive and stressful.
At the summit of this mountain of production documents lies the call sheet. The call sheet is the master plan for each day of shooting — every person working on the production receives a call sheet, meaning every detail is seen and (hopefully) obeyed. A bad call sheet can literally de-rail your production, a 2nd AD’s nightmare.
Today, I’m here to help you cut through the confusion so you too can create awesome call sheets.
Breaking Down the Structure
Here is an image breaking down the structure of a call sheet produced by SetHero, an online call sheet builder. This template was carefully crafted in collaboration with graphic designers and film professionals, and we think it’s one of the best templates out there. ????
- General Crew Call: Arguably the most important piece of information on the call sheet, this is the time when most crew members need to arrive on set to start work for the day. Sometimes however, specific departments will have a pre-call, which means they need to come in early. (individual call times are on the back of the call sheet)
- Production Title: This is title of the film you are working on.
- Key People: This section lists all of the key heads of production. This often includes producers, directors, production managers and the 1st AD. You should also include the name and phone number of the designated set medic, so that they can be easily contacted in an emergency.
- Script and Schedule Versions: Most productions keep track of script / schedule changes by versioning them. Often these versions will be in the form of colors, such as “Blue” or “Salmon”. There is a standard method for revisions that you can find here: Script & Schedule Revision Colors.
- Key Locations: Addresses for any key locations of the day should be listed in this section. This includes locations like: production office, nearest hospital, basecamp, & crew parking. Other locations that might be included are things like truck parking, catering staging, etc.
- Date & Day: Almost as simple as the title, this just lists the calendar date and which day of the total shooting schedule this call sheet is for.
- Today’s Key Times: This is a summarized timeline of the day. It lists all key times for the day, including meals, general crew call, shooting call, and estimated wrap.
- Weather Forecast: Includes the forecast for the day at the specified shooting location. Always be sure to include high and low temps, sunrise and sunset times, and wind direction / speeds. You should also note any potential for severe weather, include extreme UV / heat and extreme cold.
- Notes: The main notes section of the call sheet. This should include any important messages that need to be communicated to the cast / crew. These notes should generally apply to everyone, such as “Wear sun protection as we will be shooting outside all day.”, or “Please bring completed start paperwork”.
- Reminders: This section contains standard “reminders”. These generally shouldn’t change from day-to-day. Example: Wear closed-toed shoes when on set.
- Today’s Schedule: This is probably the most used section of the call sheet since it outlines what is actually being shot that day. Each row represents a scene or other schedule block and should contain all of the details from the breakdown including: the scene number, scene title, scene description, cast members needed, number of extras needed, how many pages the scene is (down to eighths of a page), and the location of the scene. The location(s) where those scenes are going to be filmed is listed in the far right hand column. If there is a company move to a new location it will be detailed and given its own row.
Usually the scenes will be listed in shooting order, however schedules are subject to change and the 1st AD always has the freedom to shift this list around. For that reason it is always good to triple check this section before publishing your call sheet. Lastly, it’s important to note that some projects will include times for each item on the shooting schedule, where as other projects will not. Generally, larger shoots with scripted content will not list times for elements on the schedule because the plan will often end up changing as the day progresses.
- Cast Calls: This is the important section for anyone who deals with cast. At the beginning of production, all characters in the film are given a character number that is used to reference them on the call sheet. This is listed in the ID column. These are the numbers referenced in the Cast column of Today’s Schedule. The Status column references where cast member is in their overall schedule of the film. If it is their first day it will say SW for “Start Work” the first day on set, W stands for “Work” a normal day, WF “Work Finished” for the last day, etc (More info: Work Status codes cheat sheet). Information is also provided for when they are supposed to be picked up for transportation, their personal call time, when they need to meet to block the film, entering wardrobe and makeup, and when they should arrive on set ready to film. There’s also a section for special notes or reminders. This information is not only helpful the the actors, but also the hair and makeup teams, and anyone else who works directly with the actors.
- Extras & Stand-Ins: Ah yes, extras. Sometimes a lot of work, yet essential to creating the atmosphere of the story. The Extras table lists the background extras, stand-ins, or stunt doubles scheduled for that day by group. The size of the group is listed in the quantity column. Also included are a description and times for them to arrive, and when they need to be ready to film.
- Department Notes: Here we list any special notes that need to be communicated to a specific department. Some examples a specific makeup look may be needed for a day, or giving details about where to pick up the actors.
- Advance Schedule: Formatted identically to Today’s schedule, except it’s the schedule for the next filming day.
Pro Tip – Advance Schedule
Sometimes people get confused about the advanced schedule because they think it’s more of the same filming day, so make sure you include the date the advance schedule is for.
Great! That’s the front of the call sheet. Now, let’s look at the back:
- Crew Call Times: The entire crew list will be detailed on the back of the call sheet and grouped by department. On smaller productions, you may also list phone numbers for the crew members, but this is almost never included on projects with more than 20-30 crew members, for privacy reasons.
- Meal Counts – This section goes in the catering department’s box. It lists the head count estimates for each meal that will be served and what time those meals should be ready.
- Additional Notes: This is a section for additional notes, especially notes that pertain to just the crew. Example: Shuttles begin leaving from the hotel at 9:00am departing every 15 minutes until 11am.
- Useful Contacts: This is a section to list some key phone numbers that people may need. Only list people who you want to crew to be able to contact directly, such as the 1st AD, 2nd AD or the UPM. You will most likely not want to include contact information for “key creatives” like the director or director of photography.
- Quote of the day: A call sheet without a quote of the day is like a hive without honey. Seriously, I’ve seen people ask for a call sheet just so they can look at the quote of the day. Quotes can be funny, serious, or inspirational.
Pro Tip – Quote of the Day
I often like to have PAs or other crew members write down funny things that were said through-out the day by crew / cast members. Featuring funny sayings made by the cast and crew as the quote of the day encourages everyone to check the call sheet to see who was “chosen” to be quoted. It builds team camaraderie and helps keep spirits on set running high.
Call Sheet Template Downloads
There are also a ton of great resources on castandcrewcall.com; they have a great call sheet template for Excel or Numbers.
There are a number of programs out there for creating call sheets. One such option is Koala call sheets. This is a software that is a one-time purchase that you download and use from your computer. There are a few drawbacks to software like this, but none-the-less, has its place and is still used by a certain segment of filmmakers.
Modern Web App
Using a web-based tool that allows you to build, publish, and track call sheets from a single place is a great solution for almost any production. The amount of time and headache that can be saved by using a tool like this is often well worth the cost. For a tool like this, check out SetHero or Yamdu. Just to be transparent, SetHero is the group that brought you this article, but we still think our call sheet tool is the best option out there. Give it a try and let us know your thoughts!
Happy call sheet-ing! (I don’t think that’s a real word, but whateves)