How to Create a Better Call Sheet (with Free Call Sheet Template)

How to Create a Better Call Sheet - The Definitive Call Sheet Guide and Call Sheet Template - StudioBinder

There’s a lot that goes into creating an accurate and thorough call sheet. In this article, we’ll not only review best practices, but also provide call sheet templates and free call sheet software to help you turn around a professional call sheet with ease.

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1. What to include in a call sheet template.

Watch as 1st AD, Alex Stein, explains the Anatomy of a Call Sheet Template.

VIP Contact Details

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Production Company and VIP Contacts - StudioBinder

Near the top of the call sheet, certain key crew members may have their phone numbers visible to answer questions. This list can include anyone, but it almost always includes the First Assistant Director (1st AD), Second Assistant Director (2nd AD), and Unit Production Manager (UPM).

Production Title and General Crew Call

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Project Title and General Crew Call Time - StudioBinder

Every call sheet needs to have the title of the production and the time most of your crew needs to be on-set (general call time). Individual call times often vary by recipient or department (e.g. art department may need to be on set earlier to prep a set before electric team can light it).

Many people also like to also include a logo of the project if available. If you are working on episodic television or a web series, include the show’s episode number and episode title.

Below the General Call, you can add any special announcements for day. It can be anything from safety notices, to parking details to radio channels. Here’s a useful guide on Walkie Talkie Etiquette.

Date, Day out of Days, and Weather

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Day of Days - Weather - Schedule - StudioBinder

Near the top, you’ll usually find the date and what day of the shoot you’re on (e.g. Day 1 of 3).

Weather details usually include the high temperature and the low temperature for the day, precipitation details, and sunrise / sunset information. StudioBinder automatically pulls the latest weather details automatically on every page load.

More robust feature film call sheets like this one include a mini-schedule for the day with key times like Shooting call, Meal Breaks, and Estimated Wrap.

Set Location 

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Locations - StudioBinder

The location you want your crew to meet once they park. Most of the time, this will be the location of your shoot. Sometimes this will refer to a nearby base camp, rather than the actual shooting location.

If there’s more than one location, label each with a number (i.e. “Location 1,” “Location 2,” “Location 3” etc.).

Parking Details

The location you want your crew to meet once they park. Most of the time, this will be the location of your shoot. Sometimes this will refer to a nearby base camp, rather than the actual shooting location.

Nearest Hospital (with 24h ER)

When seconds count, you need to know where the nearest 24-hour emergency room is located. What happens if you’re shooting out in the desert, out of cell range, and someone on set is seriously injured? Even with less extreme examples, the time to look up an emergency room is not once an emergency has already occurred.

Schedule

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Daily Call Sheet Schedule - StudioBinder

If your project is a narrative, this is where you list the scenes being shot that day.

A lightweight schedule will include the scene numbers, the set, which cast members are in those scenes, and a brief description.  More advanced schedules include other details such as load-in times, meal breaks, company moves, and additional details about each scene.

Cast List

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Talent Cast List - StudioBinder

This is a listing of the cast members who will be on set that day and at what time.

Your cast should be on the front page, listed prominently. Often cast members will need the most help getting to where they need to be at the right time. They are not always experienced with call sheets. Nor are they on set everyday like the rest of the crew.

Whenever possible, pad their call times a bit to give them some extra time.

Crew List

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Crew List - StudioBinder

The crew list is often grouped by department. It contains each crew person’s name, title, and call time. The arrangement of departments can vary. For a full breakdown of crew department and orders, check out our expanded post on The Anatomy of a Callsheet: How to Make a Call Sheet for Film and TV.

Again, if you want to save yourself some hassle, StudioBinder organizes your contact lists for you by department. It will personalize call times for every recipient, so there’s no confusion.

Or Just Automate It

Don’t want to scour weather details, hospitals, and map links every day of your shoot? StudioBinder automatically populates this info using Google’s API. That way, you can just focus on the schedule and send out call sheets much faster.

Create a Call Sheet for FREE with StudioBinder Here. 

2. Create a new call sheet template for every project.

Call Sheet Template Icon

Creating a call sheet via spreadsheet software is a repetitive task, and it can be a drain on your limited production hours.

Since there are call sheet details that don’t change much day to day (i.e. production name, company logo, certain cast/crew, etc), it’s a good idea to create a custom call sheet “template” tailored specifically for a given project.

After that, you can spin-off copies of it for every day of the shoot and add the missing details.

That way you don’t waste any time adding the same information over and over again.

3. Create new folders for every shoot day.

When using a traditional method to create call sheets, it is very easy to mix up your files and spend hours working on the wrong version. Or worse, you could send the wrong call sheet out, making your production look amateurish.  

For this reason, it is imperative to have good data sorting practices as you create them.

It all starts with folder structure.

First, create a folder with your Project Name and the word “Call Sheets.” For example:

TouringMan CallSheets

Within that folder, create dedicated folders for every shoot day, like this:

Call Sheet Filename and Folder Structure

Each shooting day folder will eventually contain its respective call sheet, and any supporting materials to attach when distributing the call sheet (i.e. maps, shot lists, etc.).

Lastly, save your project’s customized call sheet template (see section above) in a folder titled “Template.”

4. How to handle filenames for a call sheet.

Your call sheet template should include the word Template in the file name, and when it was last updated. Something like this:

TouringMan_CallSheetTemplate_Updated2016.09.28_0815.xls

 

Each day, when you go to create a new daily call sheet, create a new copy of your project’s call sheet template. Rename the template. Remove Template and Updated timestamps from the filename, then add the shoot day and version information, like this:

TouringMan_CallSheet_Day04_v1_2016.09.29_1352.xls

 

When you complete the call sheet, save it as a PDF in the same folder. The new PDF file should have the exact same name as the Excel file.

5. Create and store call sheets online.

It’s generally a good idea to create backups of all production documents in case something should happens to your computer. For cloud solutions, check out Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud.

If you prefer to avoid messy file management altogether, StudioBinder enables you to create your call sheet online, and organizes everything for you.

Since the latest call sheet revisions will always up-to-date online, you don’t need to worry about the wrong version being seen. 

It also generates call sheet PDFs for offline copies. Browse various call sheet templates here.

Backup Production Files and Call Sheet Online

6. Avoid sending call sheets for multiple shoot days at once.

Each call sheet PDF should consist of only one day. Multi-day call sheets are rarely made for two reasons:

  1. You don’t want to inundate your cast and crew with too much information at once.
  2. Shooting plans change constantly. You generally won’t know all the details to include on the next call sheet until the end of the current shoot day.

7. Include map links & be mobile-friendly.

Always include a map link URL for important addresses. That way, talent and crew can just tap the link on their smartphones to easily pull up driving directions. We recommend making only the parking location a map link. Otherwise people may drive to the set location and delay your shoot.

StudioBinder automatically searches Google Maps and Google Places API’s to auto-fill addresses and turns them into map links. All call sheets are personalized, easy to read, and display cleanly on a smartphone.

Mobile Call Sheet on Phone - StudioBinder - phone-min
Weather when viewing call sheet on mobile device

8. Double-check the weather.

Weather changes frequently. Always double-check weather information three days out. Then check it again the day before the shoot. Then check one more time the morning of the shoot to see if conditions have changed. 

Accuracy matters. This is why we made sure that Studiobinder would auto-check the weather on every page load.

PDF Blue

9. Export “read-only” PDFs.

Never send your call sheet to cast and crew in its native file format (.xls or .numbers). First, you don’t want anyone editing and circulating an unapproved version of the call sheet. Secondly, cast and crew may not have the appropriate software to view these formats. Instead, export and send a PDF version.

StudioBinder attaches a PDF version to every recipient email, and includes a link to view a the most recent call sheet version online.

10. How to proof your call sheet.

Your first draft of the call sheet is going to have errors. It just will. There are too many details to have everything perfect on the first try. Do everything you can to make sure you catch those errors before you send it out.

The first error check needs to be by you. You created the first version, and you want your work to reflect quality. Here are some recommendations for catching mistakes:

  • Stand up from the screen and take a walk for a minute. Detail-oriented computer work strains your eyes. You want a fresh perspective.
  • Print out the call sheet, if possible. It’s much easier to catch mistakes on a physical piece of paper than on a computer screen.
  • Proof-read top to bottom, left to right. Don’t skip around or you will miss something.
  • Use a ruler or another piece of paper to keep your eyes in the right place. It’s easy to let your eyes wander if you look at the whole page at once.

11. Get feedback on the call sheet from department heads.

Once you are confident in your work, get it approved by all affected departments. This is not always easy, because they are usually busy working. So be conscious of when you are interrupting.

You can save yourself some headache by consulting with department heads before you release a call sheet.

Say you have Scenes 1, 2, and 3 scheduled for the next day. But when you talk to the Art department, they tell you there was a mix-up at the prop house. A key prop for Scene 1 won’t be ready until after lunch. 

So you know you cannot schedule Scene 1 first.

If you had not made that check, you would have had to scramble at the last minute to rearrange your day and reschedule actors.

12. Who ultimately approves the call sheet?

Generally speaking, the 2nd AD creates the first version of the call sheet. But it is ultimately the 1st AD’s responsibility to make sure it is correct. And since the UPM handles everything on set, they will likely have a say in its approval as well.

So let’s say you’re the 2nd AD. You’ve gathered feedback from department heads and made your final adjustments. The next step would be to send it to the 1st AD for final approval.

The AD will likely run it by the director and the UPM, per their agreed upon workflow. If the director, UPM or 1st AD request changes, make them and let the department heads know of the changes.

Often when a call sheet is approved, the AD, UPM, and/or other stakeholders will sign off on the call sheet.

It is then ready for distribution.

pro-tip-studiobinder

Learn More about Call Sheet Approval Workflows.

Learn how productions go about proofing, approving, and distributing call sheets on short form projects and features and television (they’re a bit different).

Streamlining Team and Client Approvals

StudioBinder offers a built-in approval system to manage approvals and sign-offs digitally. You can send the call sheet to other department heads (or clients) for review. They can add their comments and/or approve it on the spot.

This timestamp of approval becomes your digital paper trail.

Call Sheet Software - Client Approval System - StudioBinder Video Film and TV Production Management Software

13. Managing Recipients with a Distro List

One of the most difficult parts of sending out call sheets is keeping track of who gets the call sheet each day, especially if you have different cast and crew for each day.

This is why it is important to maintain a distribution list, or just ‘distro’ for short.

A distro list is a list of who gets a call sheet each day. At a minimum, it has each person’s name, title, phone number, and email address. Ideally, it also has a schedule of which days each person will need a call sheet.

We find it easiest to create a simple XY spreadsheet, with the contacts along the left side of the chart and the shoot dates along the top. That way, you can put a 1 in the box on the days where each person will be on set and a 0 on the days they are not, like this:

Call Sheet Distro List

Distro List via Excel

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Call Sheet Distro List - StudioBinder

Distro List via StudioBinder. Includes confirmation metrics to track call sheet views and confirmations

Do not forget to include people in your distro list that need to be kept informed, even though they may not appear on the crew call sheet. For instance, an actor’s agent may request a copy of the call sheet each day their client is on set. It is easy to forget to send a call sheet to agents, since their name does not always appear on the call sheet.

This list is constantly changing, so the distribution list needs to be a living document.

Crew gets hired and fired. People call out sick. The schedule changes.

Maintain this list, and sending out call sheets becomes much easier.

14. When composing emails, put recipients in the BCC field.

To BCC or Not to BCC?

Always, always, always, always, always put all outgoing emails in the Blind Carbon Copy (“BCC”) box, NEVER the “To” box!

A quick way to get yourself in trouble is to distribute your celebrity actor’s personal email address to 100 crew members. Put your own email address in the To box, and everyone else gets BCC’ed.

15. What to include in the email body.

The body of your email should contain all the pertinent information your cast and crew will need:

  • Project Title
  • Shoot Day and Date
  • Call Time
  • Parking Location with a map link
  • Shooting Location if different
  • Any pertinent information about the shoot day
    • Inclement weather
    • Hazards on set
    • Location regulations
  • Sometimes you can include hospital information in the email. Use your judgement.

You should also attach a .pdf version of the crew call sheet and a map of the location.

How to Create a Better Call Sheet (with Free CallSheet Template)_Email_PDF

16. Send custom emails for unique call times and talent.

In most cases, the entire crew can get the same email. This especially makes sense if your entire crew is coming in at the general call time.

However, if some folks have unique call times, seeing a different “general” call time could lead to some confusion. In these cases you may want to send a separate email that clearly indicates when they should be on set.

The email should always be personalized for each cast member. If you send out a general call sheet to a rookie actor, they will almost certainly show up at the General Call Time, rather than their correct individual call time.

How to Create a Better Call Sheet (with Free CallSheet Template)_Custom Call Time
Personalized Call Time on Mobile Call Sheet - StudioBinder

As you’ve probably guessed, StudioBinder has streamlined call sheet distribution as well.

Because everyone gets their own custom email with only their call time prominently displayed, you don’t have to worry about creating different email versions or accidentally CC’ing the wrong people.

17. When do I send out a Call Sheet?

This varies, but we recommend sending a final, approved call sheet 12-14 hours in advance of the shoot day.

Optionally, a preliminary call sheet can be sent much earlier so your crew can get a sense of the next shoot day. Just make sure it is clearly watermarked with the words PRELIM, so everyone knows that things may still change.

Call sheet details are always changing up through the evening before the shoot. The shooting schedule, shooting order, weather, and equipment needs may need to be updated. You want to avoid bombarding your cast and crew with new versions of a call sheet every time something changes. Again, these are things you don’t need to worry about if you’re using film production software as it will always be updated with the latest changes.

Send Call Sheet 12 to 14 Hours Before the Shoot Day - Call Times - StudioBinder

18. How to confirm a call sheet was received.

No matter how much you mention in your call sheet email for people to confirm receipt (bold it, make it red, it won’t matter), the vast majority of recipients will simply not respond.

This is a major liability for the production. Depending on the cast or crew member, if someone important does not show up to set at the right time, the shoot day could be jeopardized or stalled. As you’d imagine, this could be very costly.

Call Sheet Confirmation - The Old Way

It’s the production unit’s responsibility to confirm that everyone has confirmed receipt of the call sheet.

How is that done?

This may sound a bit primitive (because it is), but traditionally this has been done by calling and texting every recipient, one by one, to get confirmation. 

As you can chasing down every recipient, every day gets old pretty fast.

Yet this is a requirement for peace of mind.

How StudioBinder Automates Call Sheet Confirmations

Recipients get personalized emails with prominent “Confirm” button (PDFs attached).

Call Sheet Template in Email Form - StudioBinder

At a glance, you can track a call sheet’s views and confirmations.

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Track Views and Confirmations  - StudioBinder

Drill deeper for more details. Follow-up with only those that need it.

Create a Better Call Sheet with Free Call Sheet Template - Call Sheet Distro List - StudioBinder

19. Handling call sheet changes and versioning.

Try as you might to avoid it, there will be times when you must make a change to a sent callsheet. If you work the traditional way, you need to update everyone with a new PDF via email and have printed copies ready on set before the next day’s call time.

When you revise the original PDF, it is important to update the filename with the current version, date, and time. This reduces the odds of the wrong version being circulated. A date and time stamp is better than just a version number:

TouringMan_CallSheet_Day04_v2_2016.12.1_1433.pdf

  • In this case, “TouringMan” is the title of the project,
  • They are on shoot Day 4,
  • This is the second update (v2),
  • This file was created on Dec 1st, 2016 at 2:33 PM (in 24-hour format).

Consistently naming your files this way allows them to be sorted easily for later reference.

20. Free Call Sheet Template and Examples Here

Need a call sheet template? We’ve got you covered.

 

View Sample Call Sheets and Templates Here

Browse call sheet templates used for features, episodic TV, and photoshoots.

 

Create and Send Unlimited Call Sheets Online

Powered by StudioBinder. Free and easy to create, send and track call sheets.

 

Download a Call Sheet Template for Excel

For fans of spreadsheets, check out Cast & Crew Call’s template.

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Up Next: Call Sheets for Features & Television

If you can master all of the things in this article, you will be a call sheet ninja in no time flat!

Want to dive deeper into the nuances of a call sheet? Learn how to handle multiple call times per talent, department hierarchies, special requirements, extras/stand-ins, advanced schedules and more. Check out Anatomy of a Call Sheet: How to Make a Call Sheet for Feature Films & Television.

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