This article breaks down the role of the 2nd Assistant Director and how film call sheets are made. (A professional call sheet example is included as well.)The call sheet is a film’s master plan for every shooting day. Without it, a film crew would be shooting blindly, unable to correctly plan, and communicate with one another.
The call sheet is usually given to the crew the day before shooting begins (usually right after wrap the day before). On it is listed essential details such as a shooting schedule and contact numbers. Most importantly it lets everyone know when and where they are needed during production.
Film sets are often fast-moving and fluid environments: scripts and schedules can sometimes change daily. That is why updating call sheets is so vitally important if you want a well-organized film set. It’s the main task of the 2nd Assistant Director (2nd AD) to create, update, and distribute the call sheet. Below we are going to breakdown this important job role and then analyze a professional call sheet example.
What is a Call Sheet?
The call sheet, also known as the daily call sheet, is handed out to all crew and cast members at the end of every shooting day. It contains key information for the next day of filming such as the call times, location addresses, parking instructions, a brief schedule, and much much more. Simply put, a call sheet is the main point of communication for everyone working on set.
This document is traditionally a single piece of paper, printed on the front and back with the information. But these days, call sheets are also frequently sent out digitally via email or SMS text message as well as distributed in print. The printed call sheet will be handed out by a production assistant or by the 2nd assistant director themselves.
Because films are also very rarely shot in sequence, schedules can change instantly based on unpredictable factors. For example, the actor’s availability, the weather, a new scene added. Because of this a new call sheet is planned, prepared, and sent every day usually 12-24 hours before shooting begins. When the schedule changes after the call sheet has already been published, a new revision of the call sheets is made which is then printed on different colored paper according to the industry standard color revision list.
Who Makes the Call Sheet?
All of this creating and revising of the call sheet is done by the 2nd Assistant Director, and it’s one of their most important daily tasks. Next, we will breakdown the job role of a 2nd Assistant Director in greater detail.
The 2nd Assistant Director
The 2nd AD is the right-hand assistant to the 1st Assistant Director. Running a film set is a combined team effort between them both. The 2nd AD communicates information from the production office to the 1st AD on the set. The AD department is responsible for coordinating all of the production activities and supervising the cast and crew.
If there is one singular responsibility of the 2nd AD, it would be the call sheet. However, there are many other tasks and paperwork a 2nd AD needs to complete as well. Here is a brief breakdown of their main job responsibilities:
- Create the call sheet, daily production reports, sides, and other breakdowns.
- Update and communicate schedule changes on behalf of the 1st AD.
- Communicate to casting companies, actors and background extras
- Oversee the cast/talent to make sure they get through hair/makeup/wardrobe and arrive on set on time (or delegate to PA)
- Supervise the production assistants
- Distribute call sheets at the end of each working day
Alright, let’s step into the shoes of a 2nd AD for a typical day on set.
When your day begins, you will often oversee the actor prep process to ensure the talent is in hair and makeup on time. You want to ensure that all department heads have everything they need to do their jobs correctly and that the day has gotten off to a smooth start. Once the talent is on set and filming has begun, you can breathe a BIG sigh of relief.
After that, the main portion of your day as a 2nd AD will be spent in the production office prepping, organizing, and supervising paperwork and handling communication. It’s your job to ensure that all paperwork is accurate and to communicate with team members who have reached out with questions via phone call, email, or text. You are the main contact person for the crew, cast, and stand-ins, since YOU are the one with full knowledge of when and where these people are supposed to be throughout the shooting week.
At the end of each day, it’s your job to email and distribute the call sheet to all cast and crew. Ideally, you (or a designated PA) will be on set with printed copies of the next day’s call sheet ready to hand out as soon as “wrap” is called.
As a 2nd AD, it’s also your responsibility to confirm that everyone has received and read the call sheet. This is especially true for the talent (i.e. cast). The confirmation process generally involves calling all the cast members on the phone to confirm they read the call sheet and know their call time.
Recently, modern production management software has made this process easier by allowing you can see who has viewed the digital call sheet and who has clicked the “confirm” button. This saves you a lot of time at the end of the day and reduces the number of phone calls you need to make. (A tool like SetHero includes this feature for all users)
On smaller film sets, 2nd ADs will complete all of these tasks themselves. However, on larger film sets (especially those that are part of film unions), there might be several 2nd Assistant Directors (depending on the scale of the production). Out of these 2nd AD’s, there will be a Key 2nd Assistant Director who will be primarily responsible for call sheet creation; other tasks may be delegated to the remaining 2nd ADs or to production assistants.
How is a Call Sheet Created?
Before you create your call sheet you will need to complete a script breakdown. A script breakdown involves listing all of the scenes in your script and their elements. These elements cover every visual in the scene that you need to find before filming can begin. For example, locations, actors, costumes, props, and special effects.
Once these elements have been sourced, you can prepare an initial shooting schedule. This is typically created by the 1st AD and the assistant director team. When the shooting schedule has been approved, the first call sheet can be created. The 2nd AD will create the call sheet and have it approved by the 1st AD and other department heads. This will include approval by the director, director of photography, production manager and line producer.
A Call Sheet Example
The call sheet can be changed and customized for each production. The call sheet example given below was carefully crafted in collaboration with film professionals. On the front page of a call sheet are the most important details, the back lists additional information. Let’s breakdown the key elements of a typical call sheet’s front and back structure.
- General Crew Call – This is the time that most production crew are required on set. Some departments might have a pre-call, individual call times are listed on the back of the call sheet. For example, effects make-up might be needed to start earlier.
- Production Title – The Title of the production you are working on.
- Key People – This is a list of names and positions of the key heads of production. Including the director, producer, production manager, and 1st assistant director.
- Script and Schedule Versions – What version of the script/schedule you are working on. Generally, these are tracked in color form, see Script and Schedule Revision Colors.
- Key Locations – These are the addresses for any important locations. Such as the production office, nearest hospital, basecamp, and crew parking.
- Date and Day – The calendar date and the shooting day.
- Today’s Key Times – A bullet point timeline of the day ahead. Including the time for breakfast, crew call, shooting call, lunchtime, and estimated wrap time.
- Weather Forecast – A basic weather forecast of the day ahead. This is important, especially when shooting outside as weather changes can affect the schedule. It will also include the expected temperatures and sunrise/sunset times.
- Notes – included in the header are also any vital notes that apply for all crew.
- Reminders – Below the notes, you have the space to add any additional reminders.
- Today’s Schedule – The filming schedule for that day. The first row lists the scene number, followed by a scene/set description. The cast is also listed by their cast number and the number of extras if needed. Next is listed the page length of the scene (broken down into eights) and the physical address of the shooting location.
- Cast Calls – The cast call times might be different from the crew call time. Here each cast member’s call time is listed, as well as transportation details and special notes.
- Extras and Stand-Ins – This table lists background extras, stand-ins, or stunt doubles headcounts and schedules. The first column lists how many people are needed. Also included are a description and times for them to arrive, and when they need to be ready to film.
- Department Notes – Space for any extra notes for each specific department.
- Advanced Schedule – This lists the shooting schedule for the next shooting day. It’s formatted just like the “Today’s Schedule” section. Some call sheets even include two days’ worth of advanced schedules so that people can plan ahead even further.
- Crew Call Times – A detailed list of the entire crew and their call times. On some smaller film sets the phone number of each person may also be included.
- Meal Counts – Details for the catering department. It lists a headcount of the number of people expected to be fed during each meal and the meal break times.
- Additional Notes – A space to add any additional notes. Especially notes that apply solely to the crew. (For example, “shuttles leaving from the hotel every 15 minutes.”)
- Useful Contacts – A list of important phone numbers that people may need. Such as the production office, 1st AD, 2nd AD unit production manager, and location manager.
- Quote of the day – You can optionally include a fun quote of the day on your call sheet. This is a great way to make your call sheet more personal and engaging.
You can download a free call sheet template by completing the form below:
Advice For The 2nd AD
If you are an aspiring 2nd assistant director, the best way to learn is to get in the production office. Many 2nd AD’s simply worked their way up the production team ladder by starting as production assistants. The 2nd AD role is highly organized, so you will also need to develop strong leadership and interpersonal skills. To help create schedules, you might use scheduling programs such as Movie Magic Software or Think Crew.
Other skills that could be helpful to a 2nd AD are walkie talkie knowledge, on set experience, and first aid training (especially if the 2nd AD wishes to move to the 1st AD job role, although this is not a requirement.) You will also need to learn to delegate your responsibilities to production assistants and interns. On professional film sets, you will have a team of assistants but on smaller independent sets, you will likely be wearing many hats (you may even need to assist the 1st AD on set if they require the extra help!)
Being a 2nd Assistant Director involves organizing a lot of moving parts and working with many different people. It’s an exciting job that requires very high levels of both interpersonal communication skills as well as organizational and paperwork skills. When done well, the 2nd AD is often a beloved and indispensable member of the crew that everyone counts on to know the plan of action and keep the ball rolling forward.