You get to set, check in the 2nd AD/studio teacher/Child Labor Coordinator and then what? You get the CALL SHEET.
A call sheet is an actual piece of paper that created daily by production staff (usually the assistant director) on a film, commercial, show or sometimes, even theater. It contains the schedule for they day, all all of the important details names, work call times (thus the term call sheet), phone numbers, locations and scene by scene plans. Every department relies on the call sheet to work quickly and efficiently. The call sheet is CONFIDENTIAL information and you should never share it outside the set.
Why do I need it?
For a parent, a call sheet is especially important because it helps you make sure your child is where they need to be, get their correct wardrobe, it helps you pace your day (you can figure out the best time to get chunks of schooling done, or when it is safe to go get a snack), and it clarifies who the people in charge actually are by name. It also helps after the shoot, so don’t throw it away. Some reasons you might need a call sheet after the schoot include: to track down the maker of a student film maker to get a copy, you need to find production in 6 months to get an IMDB credit changed, to file a complaint or membership evidence with SAG, or to the ad agency production for a copy of a commercial. The call sheet gives you valuable names and numbers of the people you worked with and is evidence that you were on set that day.
Sounds Important. Where do I get a call sheet?
For principal actors, the call sheet will be emailed to you late the night before, handed to you when you arrive, or left in your dressing area for your arrival. For background actors, you might need to seek it out. Sometimes they have them in a tray outside the production trailer, but you might need to ask. Heads up: production may resist giving a call sheet to background actors because it contains confidential production info and phone numbers. Ask nicely.
Do all call sheets look the same?
Pretty much. They look like an Excel sheet grid. Film production software gives film makers a template, but they vary slightly. In general, from the top down:
- Block one: Contacts for the film makers, the date and call times and emergency information (the nearest emergency hospital address),and very importantly…parking info
- Block two: Schedule for the day: scene numbers, the set info for each scene (is it interior or exterior, what major pieces need to be set up), which cast are in each scene, what pages of the script it falls on, and the actual location address of each scene (sound stage or an address), what the meal times are. This section often includes the weather as well. Codes that matter here are
–D/N plus a number: Day or Night. The number tells them what day in the story it is, so they can maintain continuity
–Company Move means the entire crew is moving to a new location during the shoot day.
–Closed Set means there are no extra people allowed, no guests, no press. They mean it!
–Meal Breaks are closely timed because union contracts for the various teams dictate this. Crew meal times are almost always 6 hours from the general crew call time.
- Block three: Cast info: They are numbered by priority — the star is generally #1, and Background Actors are listed separately. It lists their real name, their character name, and important times for each person. Codes that matter here are
-Status: W = Work , SWF = Start/Work/Finish means an actor who is only working one day, SW = Start/Work means this is the actor’s first day, but they will return again, W/F = Work/Finish means it is the actor’s last day, H = hold means the actor is not working that day
–RPT: Report to set time (your arrival)
–Rehearsal: actors would be here, along with doubles.
–HMU: Hair and Make Up Time
–SET/RDY: On Set Ready to Film
–Pumpkin: this is a term specific to child actors. Like Cinderella, child actors turn into a “pumpkin” when their legally mandated work hours are over. This is a “hard out”. Your day is over.
- Block 4: Crew List and Elements: This area will list things like vehicles, costumes, set pieces, props, special effects, etc. Sometime this block is so large that the names of the department heads and the crew goes on the back of the sheet. This is where your studio teacher will be listed, along with other important crew members like the set medic.
- Block 5: Advance Schedule. Usually this is just the schedule for the next day so you can see what is coming up (and study lines!). This often changes though!
Once I get it, what do I do?
You first action should be to look it over as a whole. Look for your child’s name and make sure you are on time, and what your child’s next time is (probably HMU). Double check that you are working with the correct script (this info is usually in Block 1 above), and ask for a current one if yours isn’t the right color. If you get a new script, make sure your child is aware of the lines they will be shooting that day. Scripts are ordered chronologically by color as they are written/edited. This color system exists whether you get a script in paper form, or electronically.
Scripts colors: white, blue, pink, yellow, green, goldenrod, buff, salmon, cherry. Then they circle back to Double White or 2nd White, etc.
Next, find the studio teacher/Child Labor Coordinator or 2nd Assistant Directors’ name and physically find them on set to check in, if you haven’t done so already. Clarify who your crew contact should be for the day and learn their names. Ask any questions you might have such as where your holding area/trailer is, where the school area is, etc.
It is a great idea to go over the callsheet with your child in a casual way. Make sure they know what is going to be expected of them during the day, and make sure they know that many people are working together as a team to get this job done. Call sheets are a great learning opportunity to remind your child that they are not the center of the universe, and that there are many valuable professions in this industry.
Be professional and make their jobs easy!
Your call sheet is the key to being a low-maintenance parent. Crew members like wranglers and 2nd ADs are extremely busy, and often the child actors are just a part of their job for the day. If you can keep an eye on your child, have your child where they need to be and ready to go, the crew will appreciate it. Assume that things are running on time, but accept that they are behind.
Resources about Call Sheets
Anatomy of a Call Sheet VIDEO (4 min) by Studio Binder
Crafting a Call Sheet by Wrapbook
How to Make a Simple Call Sheet: Step by Step Guide by MasterClass
Common Call Sheet Abbreviations and Terminology by Celtx Blog
We love these screen shots from Film Neighbor Network (Buffalo NY area):