Call sheets are given to your cast and crew in advance of a day’s shoot. For an example of how they look, check out our call sheet template. Call sheets are professional documents, and therefore contain a lot of unusual industry-specific jargon. This article will guide you through the most common examples.
Common Call Sheet Abbreviations
- SW: Start Work
- W: Work
- WF: Work Finish
- SWF: Start Work Finish
- PU: Pick Up
- H/M/W: Hair/Makeup/Wardrobe
- BG: Background
- D/N: Day/Night
- I/E: Interior/Exterior
Common Terminology includes:
- Crew Call
- Set Call
- Talent Status
- 1/8 (or 2/8, 11/8, etc.)
- Dramatic Day
Why is a call sheet important?
Call sheets serve as daily briefings for your cast and crew. They let people know where they need to be, when, they need to be there, what to expect, and what to prepare for. Properly managed and distributed call sheets are vital to ensuring your shoot runs as smoothly as possible.
What does it mean to be first on the call sheet?
If you’re the first actor listed on a call sheet, congratulations – you’re a star. You are the highest-billed actor for the day’s shoot, and various people will refer to the sheet to make sure you’re on schedule, such as:
- your driver
- makeup and costume personnel
- the director / A.D.s (in case they want to talk to you in advance of a scene).
Everyone will count on you being where you’re supposed to be. As a consequence, you need to keep your call sheet on you at all times and follow it religiously.
Call Sheet Terminology
Call sheets use a variety of standard terms and abbreviations to save space. Here’s a guide to make sure you’re reading your sheet correctly.
The time the crew needs to be ready on set. Typically, crew will arrive earlier to unpack and prepare gear, eat breakfast, and so on.
The time an actor has to be on set, in makeup and wardrobe, finished blocking, and ready for filming.
The talent status column will be marked as SW, W, or WF.
- SW means “Start Work”—it’s the actor’s first day on the job.
- W means “Work”—the actor is in the middle of their work on the production.
- WF means “Work Finish”—it’s the actor’s last day.
- SWF means “Start Work Finish”—this day will be the actor’s fist, last, and only day on set.
The talent chart has headings for different times when an actor should be at a certain place. They are:
- PU: Pickup time. If the production has arranged for a driver to take the actor to set, this is the time the actor needs to be ready.
- H: Hairstylists begin work on the actor’s hair.
- M: The time the actor needs to be in Makeup.
- W: The time the actor reports to the Wardrobe department.
- C: Costume; this is an alternate abbreviation for Wardrobe.
- H/M, M/C, H/MW, etc…: Most productions use the same time slot for hair, makeup, and wardrobe and group them together on the call sheet.
BG, for “Background,” refers to background actors (sometimes referred to as “extras”), who will appear in, but not be the focus of, the day’s scenes.
Refers to if a scene takes place indoors (interior) or outdoors (exterior). Interior scenes are much less dependent on weather and daylight conditions, which means they can be scheduled with more flexibility. This column also serves as a guide to the cast and crew to determine how much of the day they will spend in ambient weather conditions; this is important especially when it’s cold or stormy.
This column header means “Day/Night” and refers to the ambient lighting conditions that must be set up for each scene.
1/8 (or 2/8, 11/8, etc.)
In the Pages column of the shooting schedule, the amount of script covered is conventionally given in eighths of a page. The industry uses eighths because they’re easy to eyeball—an eighth is almost exactly 1 inch, and contains 6 lines of text. Eighths are a generalized shorthand for how long a scene should take to shoot, but this is highly dependant on the script content.
Dramatic days are refer to the internal chronology of the film narrative. These days are listed in the call sheet because they’re important for hair, makeup, wardrobe, props, set dressing, and more. For example, characters shouldn’t be wearing the same clothes every day (unless it’s a scenario in which the clothes should at least get more dirty and worn). Assigning dramatic days will allow wardrobe to associate specific outfits with specific scenes.
These terms are all the information you need to read a call sheet. However, if you want to write one, you might want to check out our article “What Goes on a Call Sheet.” Happy filming!