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February 2, 2023

What is a Call Sheet in Film?

As a screenwriter generally, your day-to-day is spent in front of your screen, thinking about your ideas, and grinding hard on those words. 

But if you’re going to make it in the industry it’s important to understand the language of film with terms such as call sheet.

As a writer, you’re unlikely to be spending much time, if any time on set. But there are many great reasons to familiarize yourself with the language of film. Firstly, it makes you look professional when you’re pitching to agents and executives. You can seem intelligent and invaluable when you get asked your opinion on something by a member of the crew later in the process. 

But secondly understanding how films are made and how you fit in can help you write better screenplays as you understand what information and who is going to need that information at different parts of the process. This can make you stand out.

And in this ultra-competitive industry, you need to stand out. Talent is not enough.

So let’s dive into what is a call sheet in film.

What is a call sheet in film?

 A call sheet is basically like an agenda or schedule for when scenes get shot. It has all the information about who needs to be there and when they need to be there—plus any other details that might affect the shoot.

A lot of people are involved with making sure everything goes smoothly during filming, so it's important for everyone involved in the project to know what their role is on set as well as how long they'll spend working each day.

A call sheet also includes a list of things that need to be done on a film set. It's used to keep track of the shoot schedule and budget, as well as who's showing up for work. The production department uses it to plan out how much time needs to be spent on each scene, and when each actor needs to arrive on set for their day's work.

While this list can vary between productions, here are some basic things you'll see on every call sheet:

  • The name of the film
  • Start time and end time of the shooting
  • Location information (name of a parking lot or street)
  • Date of filming (if applicable)
  • A crew list 

On some call sheets, you might see some additional information. That can include:

  • Contact info for anyone else who might have questions, etc
  • Meal schedules
  • Weather outside if it’s an outdoor shoot 
  • Nearby hospitals and medical centers
  • special requirements for the shoot (like which assistant director will be available)

When are call sheets available?

Usually, a call sheet is delivered to an actor or crew member’s hotel room or home at least 24 hours before the first day of filming so that they know what to expect and how to prepare.

The call sheet is usually written by the 1st assistant director, the director’s right-hand man (or woman!), and is their responsibility.

How to create a call sheet?

In the past creating a call sheet would generally involve typing up a template, printing it off, and photocopying it.

Today writing a call sheet has never been easier. Software exists specifically for this purpose. It allows the first assistant director to automate much of the process from their overall workflow. 

With the touch of a few buttons, the first assistant director can prepare a call sheet based on information already inputted into the program and linked to individual scenes in a script. 

On smaller productions such as independent films, the call sheet can be created on a word template or even on specialist productivity software programs like Notion which are free. They can then be turned into a PDF and emailed to the relevant parties. 

Will you need a call sheet as a writer? 

The short answer is probably not. As a writer, especially if this is your first film or series you are unlikely to be needed on set and so you would not need a call sheet.

Your main port of call is going to probably be one-on-one email queries when needed with the cinematographer, producer, or director, depending on how close you are working with them.

However, every film and production is different. You may receive a call sheet checklist automatically simply because you are listed as a writer or because you have an executive producer credit and are on the daily mailing list by default. They are certainly not vital for a writer.

There might be times when a director wants you on set to discuss your opinion on a particular scene or to advise on a promotional shoot day if you have executive producer status.

Learning what a call sheet is can be important 

The call sheet is a document that is used by the cast and crew of a film. It contains information about filming, such as when they will be filming, what they are supposed to bring with them, and where they need to be at certain times for everything to run smoothly. 

You’ll probably never need one or lay eyes on one as a writer working in big production companies. But knowing what one is will make you seem professional. It’s also great if you ever want to try your hand at another skill in the film and TV world. 

The world of film and TV is changing and independent films with smaller crews where a writer also takes on other roles are also becoming more common and more lucrative. 

For more tips, tricks, and advice on the TV industry be sure to take a look at the rest of the Arc Studio blog!


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What is a Call Sheet in Film?
Harry Verity

Harry is a professional writer. His first novel The Talk Show was published in the U.S and the U.K by Bloodhound Books in 2021 and he is currently working on adapting it for screen using Arc Studio. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies. His journalism has appeared in The Guardian, Readers' Digest and Newsweek, amongst many other publications. He has just finished his second novel for young adults, set in a boarding school. He holds a BA in English from Loughborough University.

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