Tech Talk – Call Sheets. Why I love them, and why you should too

Call sheets, not just great props for on set portraits

Recently, I was inadvertently not included on the call sheet. It very rarely happens but when you don’t get it your job is even harder than it needs to be. This got me thinking about why this simple document is so important to me as a stills photographer beyond the basic information you need and all of that other information that’s always there, but not necessarily of interest to most of the crew.

1. Names! I’m pretty good with names, but not amazing. Establishing relationships with your fellow crew members is key to gaining their cooperation in the photographer getting their shot. All those names are listed along with the job role. The call sheet is a quick and easy look up table at those vital moments when your memory escapes you or when you’re keyword tagging images from a day’s work and you have a bunch of crew portraits to work through.

2. Who’s visiting set. Some important crew are rarely on set. Knowing when they’re likely to be around means you might just get a useful publicity photo of the elusive executive producer, editor or even celebrity guest. These images can be invaluable for a publicist who wants to capitalise on the high profile interest or participation the project has achieved.

3. What scenes are being shot and when. It’s one (very enjoyable) thing to opportunistically shoot what the film crew is shooting but to strategically plan publicity images based on key concepts from the script is entirely more exciting and useful approach. Often when I read the call sheet I can use the information contained to establish the logistics already in place for me to make the images I’ve planned from the script.

Please feel free to hit me with any comments or questions, I welcome your input (as well as any web traffic you can send my way!).