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The Lifecycle of a Call Sheet

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Every call sheet starts it’s life as part of a “one-liner” schedule. This is the most basic production schedule that is created by the 1st Assistant Director or the AD team during pre-production. A “one liner” basically means that every scene in the script has been broken down and listed as an individual “line”. Once all scenes have been detailed as “lines” the 1st AD is able to take them and decide what “lines” to shoot when based who’s involved, what location is needed, whether or not it’s day or night, and other factors. Once all the “lines” are arranged, the basic schedule for the shoot is complete and we now know generally who and what is needed when, but this just scratches the surface.

At this point the actually call sheet begins to take shape. Every shooting day has its own call sheet. It’s created by the 2nd Assistant Director who starts by taking the “lines” or scenes scheduled for the next shooting day and inserting them into the call sheet. This generally only happens one day in advance. Film schedules are always fluctuating, so it’s pointless to create a call sheet too early. Once the scenes are inserted in shooting order the rest of the details, all the blank boxes on the call sheet, can be filled in. This includes call times (general and individual), meal breaks, department notes, and much more. Once every blank space has been addressed, the call sheet is fully formed, however, it’s still only halfway through its journey.

Now the call sheet heads into a vigorous round of approvals. Although the 2nd AD makes the physical call sheet, they do not have the authority to approve it. The call sheet is actually the 1st AD’s document, they just don’t have time to make it because they’re on set running the shoot. It’s important that the AD team stays in close communication, and the 1st AD is usually the first person to review the call sheet. Then a draft is given to each department head (Director of Photography, Gaffer, Production Designer, etc). The department heads are expected to review specifically what relates to their role, approve whether or not it’s achievable, and insert any specific notes they have. Once this round of approvals is complete, the call sheet goes back to the 1st AD and then on to the Producer for final approval. A call sheet is fully formed when it has been signed by the 1st AD and the Producer.

Once the call sheet is all grown up, it’s ready to be published and shared with the whole cast & crew. This usually means that it’s printed, hung in common areas on set, passed out by hand, and also e-mailed out.

The next morning as the set comes to life, that call sheet slowly dies as each scene is shot, and, back in the production office, the cycle continues as a new call sheet is being formed.

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