Understanding the Callsheet

All productions, whether it’s a feature film, TV programme or commercial, will send out a call sheet prior to any and all shoot days.

Call sheets are wonderful documents that hold all the key information for the upcoming shoot day. There’s a new call sheet for each day and they’re typically distributed amongst the cast and crew the day before.

If you’re not used to reading call sheets, at first glance they can look quite confusing and overwhelming as there’s a lot of information to take in. The call sheet will vary depending from production to production, and day by day, but it should always have the following key information:

   Production company name, production title.
   Date, shoot day number (E.g, day 1 of 10) and brief weather synopsis.
   Cast and crew call times.
   Key crew contact details.
   Breakfast, lunch and wrap times.
   Location address, map and parking information.

And that’s just the absolute basics... 

You may also see:

   Production head office address and phone number
   Details of Executive Producers
   Shot list or Set / Synopsis
   Cast pick up times and travel arrangements
   Details of crowd / supporting artists
   Details of animals and animal wrangler
   Details of vehicles and action vehicle company
   Details of stunt performers
   Notes or reminders for individual departments
   Details of additional or daily crew
   Additional kit requirements
   Details of any expected deliveries
   Information regarding set visitors
   Health and safety information or advice
   Additional information regarding the location or unit base
   Radio channels and which department is on which channel
   Catering details
   Advance schedule of the next shoot day or upcoming days
   Production insurance information

And anything else that’s vital for the cast and crew to know!

It’s important to read the call sheet fully and not just the parts that you might like are the most relevant to you. As a Runner, whether that’s in the AD or production department, you need to be aware of everything that is happening on and off camera, at all times. It’s a good idea to have a printed copy of the call sheet, so you can quickly refer to it and make notes if necessary. For example, you might like to tick off the talent as they arrive and highlight the time they’re due in make up, so you can make sure they’re “in the chair” at the right time.

Below I’ve created 2 fictitious call sheets, one for a commercial and another for a film. This will give you an idea of what a call sheet may look like, how the information is displayed and the different between production size and scale.

Commercial example:

Film example:

Note: I've created these fictitious call sheets for illustrative purposes by only. Any resemblance to any productions is simply coincidence and not related to the example I've given here.

If there's something on the callsheet that you don't know what it means, ask someone in the AD or Production department. My first day on set I asked where I could find the toilet and was very confused when told "the honey wagon is at unit base." Luckily the lovely 3rd AD was nearby, overheard and on seeing my confused expression quietly explained to me what that meant!

On a side note: I have another blog post which explains lots of on set language. You can read it here.

The final thing to remember is that call sheets are highly confidential. It’s not just the personal contact details but all the other information too. For example, the scene synopsis could reveal plot twists (drama) or details of a product (commercial) that are not yet known to the public. Confidentially is so important that some productions even use a fake name on the call sheet; Broadchurch, Poldark and Starwars are recent examples. At the end of the day you should return the call sheets to production or destroy them.


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