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Call Sheets

You’ve secured your location and scheduled your shoot day. Now it’s time to share that information with everyone else, which means it’s time to create a call sheet.

Typically prepared by the assistant director, a call sheet contains all the details pertaining to a particular day of production. It informs the crew where they need to go and what time they are expected to arrive (their call time). In addition to listing the day’s scheduled scenes, a call sheet also includes useful information such as a weather forecast, times for sunrise and sunset, crew contact details, safety warnings for pyrotechnics and stunts, and the address of the nearest hospital.

For years, call sheets have remained largely unchanged, as have the methods for their distribution: faxing, e-mailing, and being handed out on set. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the work of several innovative app developers, call sheets are getting an iOS makeover.

DoddlePRO

I’ve mentioned doddle, the free production directory that should already be gracing your iPhone’s home screen. Doddle’s big brother, doddlePRO, has a bit of a split personality. Not only does this ten-dollar app offer the same production directory, but it also grabs paper-based call sheets by the collar and drags them kicking and screaming into the digital era.

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DoddlePRO greatly simplifies the process of call sheet creation and even automates a few of the steps (FIGURE 4.20). For instance, when adding a new shooting location, you can type in the address manually, copy it from a list of recent locations, or import it straight from your address book or doddle’s own production directory. With your location entered, a map will indicate all the nearby hospitals and police stations. Just tap one, and it’s added to your call sheet. Some items are added without any interaction at all, such as the location’s sunrise and sunset times (FIGURE 4.21).

Figure 4.20

Figure 4.20. When creating call sheets in doddlePRO, save time by importing information directly from your address book and the doddle online directory.

Figure 4.21

Figure 4.21. DoddlePRO auto-matically fetches the weather forecast for your call sheets, as well as sunrise and sunset times.

This simplicity is mirrored throughout the app. For example, when entering contact information for a cast or crew member, you are presented with time-saving buttons that quickly indicate if that person is meant to report to the location, wait for a pick-up, or simply be on call. It’s just as easy to dial in unique call times for each person on the sheet (if you don’t assign a custom time, the general call time will be inserted).

When you’re ready to share your completed call sheet, you can e-mail it to your entire cast and crew, individual departments, or just a few select people. Only call sheet creators need to spend money on doddlePRO. The free version of the app also functions as a doddle call sheet reader.

Wait! What happens when members of your cast or crew don’t have doddle or, worse yet, don’t own an iOS device? Are they left out in the cold? Of course not! DoddlePRO automatically generates and e-mails a PDF version of your call sheet along with a link to the doddle version, ensuring that everyone gets the necessary information. What happens if members of your cast and crew don’t have an e-mail account and insist you fax them the call sheet? Fire them. I’m sure they could use the extra time to feed their dinosaurs.

Cast and crew members savvy enough to own the free doddle app can view and interact with your virtual call sheets right on their iPhones. They can tap the weather icon to see the updated forecast (FIGURE 4.22) or the map icon to get instant driving directions. They can even tap another crew member to view that person’s details and initiate a phone call or text message.

Figure 4.22

Figure 4.22. Anyone with the free doddle app can view and interact with doddle’s online call sheets.

Yes, this is all well and good, but what about a one-line review that doddle’s marketing department can stick on a T-shirt? Completely logical question! Here you go: “DoddlePRO is the smart way to create smarter call sheets, smarterly!” Dear doddle marketing department, I wear an XL.

Pocket Call Sheet

After reading all the lovely things I had to say about doddlePRO, you might be wondering why I’d bother recommending another call sheet app. There are two reasons: doddlePRO isn’t for everyone, and Pocket Call Sheet is super cool.

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DoddlePRO’s unique interface comes with a (small) learning curve. I’m sure there are plenty of assistant directors out there who’d rather keep things simple and not spend any time providing tech support for crew members frustrated by doddle’s newfangled interactive call sheet (filmmakers can be a stubborn bunch).

Pocket Call Sheet is a deceptively simple app with a super-clean interface and surprisingly few controls. It works well on iPhone but is a joy to use on an iPad. Its output looks, feels, and smells like industry-standard call sheets (FIGURE 4.23)—the kind that won’t trigger cold sweats from crew members who “like things the way they are, damn it!” (filmmakers can be a grumpy bunch).

Figure 4.23

Figure 4.23. Pocket Call Sheet makes call sheets that look just like any other call sheets—and that’s a very good thing!

With Pocket Call Sheet launched, tapping the pocketcallsheet_plus.jpg in the upper-right corner will open the Production page. After entering all of your project’s general information (title, studio, shooting days, producers, assistant directors, production office info, and so on; FIGURE 4.24), you can move on to your shoot day’s particulars (cast and crew call times, locations, and more).

Figure 4.24

Figure 4.24. Don’t let the minimal interface fool you. Pocket Call Sheet gets the job done, and then some.

There’s no automatic lookup for things like sunrise time, sunset time, and the weather, so you’ll have to enter those things yourself. The same is true for emergency contact information such as local hospitals, police stations, and firehouses.

Once all the details are entered, tap Produce Email to generate your finished call sheet. You have the option of sending it to everyone listed on the call sheet, as well as any additional contacts. The call sheet can appear as an HTML-formatted document (the same coding language used to create web pages) and can be attached to the e-mail as a PDF file. There’s even an option to add a signature with your finger or a stylus.

When it’s time to create the next day’s call sheet, the app is smart enough to copy everything over from the previous day’s sheet, while advancing the shoot date by one. Naturally, everything is editable in the new call sheet.

Before you start using the app, you should be aware of two things. First, in order to add someone to your call sheet, that person must first exist in your iOS device’s address book. There’s no way to manually enter a name. Second, while the app is smart enough to replicate a previous day’s call sheet information into a new call sheet, it doesn’t “remember” things. In other words, if I have Jada, Nick, and Andre all on the call sheet for Monday but then remove Nick on Tuesday because I caught him jumping his skateboard off some tanks marked Nitroglycerin, there’s no shortcut for putting him back on the call sheet for Wednesday (once I realized the nitro tanks were props). If I wanted him back, I’d have to reenter his details. Neither issue is a deal-breaker, but they are inconvenient.

Minor annoyances aside, Pocket Call Sheet is a well-designed, professional tool that takes call sheets as seriously as you do, maybe more so.

FilmTouch

I can’t tell you how this app has changed my life because I just learned about it a few days ago. I can’t praise its ease of operation, because I’m still figuring it out. I can’t even point out how useful it is, because I haven’t used it long enough.

So, why am I bothering to mention a tool I barely know? Because FilmTouch is a very interesting app. Very interesting, indeed.

Rather than create call sheets, FilmTouch imports your existing PDF call sheets, extracts all the crew member names and their positions as well as company names, and then stores that data in a massive shared, searchable database. Sadly, the system does not support feature film call sheets, but it works quite nicely with commercial and music video call sheets. Furthermore, it works only with text-based PDF files. Scanned call sheets are a no-go.

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You begin using FilmTouch by importing a call sheet. The easiest way to do this is as an e-mail attachment. The app will upload your call sheet to its server for processing, and a few minutes later, a new, properly named project magically appears on the My Jobs tab. If you upload multiple call sheets, the app organizes the resulting projects by year. If you tap a project, you are presented with a scrolling list of all crew members associated with that project or, more specifically, its originating call sheet (FIGURE 4.25). By tapping a crew member’s name, you get their contact information (as it existed on the call sheet). In other words, you now have a complete record of everyone you’ve worked with! How sick is that? Wait, it gets sicker.

Figure 4.25

Figure 4.25. FilmTouch doesn’t create call sheets. It reads call sheets, extracts their information, and adds the data to its master database. I’d say that ranks about 80 percent awesome and 20 percent disturbing.

If you tap the filmtouch_arrow.jpg next to any crew member’s name, you’ll be taken to a list of every project they’re associated with, even if it originated from someone else’s call sheet. It’s like having your very own IMDB...for a price.

The app will run you six buckaroos, but if you want to keep uploading call sheets after the initial two-month free trial, you’ll have to purchase a subscription extension. They range in price from $2.99 a month to $19.99 a year. Is it worth it? Don’t know. But, like I said, FilmTouch is a very interesting app. Very interesting, indeed.

Lua

OK, fine. One more.

Lua is not officially available as of this writing, but I thought it was worth sneaking into the chapter. Put simply, Lua lets you set up a private online digital community for your production crew. It invites discussion, streamlines communications, and can even broadcast important crew-wide text messages. With an intuitive web interface that feels like it snuck out of Apple’s underground laboratories, Lua is more of a service than an application, although its forthcoming iPhone app is the reason it’s on my radar.

I’ve included Lua in this chapter because it provides a powerful document distribution system, perfect for daily call sheets. In its initial public release, Lua will not help you generate your call sheets. However, during a recent demo, I was told that an assisted call sheet creation tool is certainly in the works.

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