3 Production Documents You Need to Make for Your Film ShootTools to help you set expectations and keep your team on track.
DOODs and One-Liners and Call Sheets, Oh My!
The first time I worked anywhere near a professional film production, I was an intern for the script department at a relatively well-known women’s television network in Los Angeles. By happenstance, my cubicle was located next to the department that worked closely with production. Although they didn’t manage the minutia of each shoot, the department was privy to everything the producers oversaw, including the review of production scheduling documents.
Someone in that department asked me if, in addition to reading screenplays for my script-centric internship, I’d like to know what, precisely, it was that she did. Eager to learn, I agreed, and within seconds, she handed me a pile of papers. “Great, here you go,” she said. “Read these over and then we can talk about them.”
I realized later that what she had handed me were very common, standardized documents. In the moment, though, they looked like gobbledygook! The pages were filled with codes I didn’t recognize, indecipherable charts, and a plethora of information that made my eyes glaze over.
If you find yourself on a professional film shoot – or, like me, in an office that deals with production – then there are three scheduling documents you’re likely to encounter on a fairly regular basis: the day out of days report (often abbreviated to DOOD), the one-liner, and the call sheet.
I know. It already sounds like jargon! My hope is that our discussion will help demystify these documents, so that if and when you’re handed any one of them, you won’t be confused like I was that day at my internship.
It’s also my hope that you’ll apply the concepts underpinning the documents to your own productions… But I’m getting ahead of myself. Don’t worry about that just yet. For now, let’s figure out what these documents look like and what information they contain. Follow
the yellow brick road along, and you’ll be well on your way to leveraging their organizational powers!
Why You Should Standardize Your Production Scheduling Documents
I’ve encountered a lot of DOODs, one-liners, and call sheets since that fateful day at my internship, and for the most part, they’ve all looked pretty much the same.
As with many norms in filmmaking, there are some compelling logistical reasons.
A movie shoot may last a few months out of the year. Television shows tend to take more time, but it’s rare for a scripted series to shoot year round. Of course, most people who work in production – cinematographers, gaffers, production designers, location managers, actors – need to make a living throughout the year. So it’s common for people to work on several film shoots a year, or in the case of a TV show, on a film shoot between seasons. With such high turnover, it’s no wonder that the film and television industry has developed a system to manage personnel.
More generally, if every production had its own unique way of managing scheduling and other essential information, there would be a learning curve for each and every shoot, causing frustration and confusion and possibly driving up costs. Standardized production documents excel at communicating essential logistics efficiently and effectively, across projects and departments.
Once you understand how to read a DOOD, one-liner, and call sheet, you can pretty quickly glance at them and pick out the details that are relevant to you. For example, when I worked as an assistant in talent management, I juggled the schedules of actors in films and television shows. Sometimes I needed to slot in a meeting for a busy actor so that they could nab their next project while still in production on something else.
So, let’s imagine that Big Producer calls me and says he’d like to meet with Big Actor next week; when is Big Actor free? I could pull up a DOOD and, no matter what film shoot or TV show Big Actor is on, easily find the information Big Producer needs while they’re still on the phone.
Simply put, the standardized nature of day out of days reports, one-liners, and call sheets is one of the things that keeps the Hollywood machine running smoothly.
Who Makes These Things, Anyway?
The assistant director is responsible for scheduling a film or television shoot. Either the assistant director or their assistant(s) creates the appropriate production scheduling documents.
Many productions use software to help create each document, which tends to ensure a smooth, cohesive user experience and final product. For example, StudioBinder offers a killer solution that will help you develop everything you need to keep everyone on track.
Now, let’s break down each of these three documents – the DOOD, one-liner, and call sheet – in greater detail.
I. The Day Out of Days Report (DOOD)
A day out of days report, or DOOD, is quite simply a chart.
On one axis, the chart shows the names of all of the characters in the film, sometimes with a note about which actor is playing which character. Each character is numbered, and they’re usually listed in order of importance to the story – for example, the protagonist is “#1”. The numbers in this scheduling document correlate to the numbers in all other documents.
On the chart’s other axis, you’ll find all of the days in the film shoot. Here, in each box, you’ll find a notation that indicates whether an actor is working on the day represented by that box.
Furthermore, codes in the boxes are used to indicate a range of things. Some of the most common codes are:
- SW: “Start Work”, which indicates an actor’s first day on set.
- W: “Work”, which means that the actor is working that day.
- H: “Hold”, which means that the actor is not currently scheduled to work, but production is requiring them to remain available in case the shooting schedule changes. Remember Big Actor from my example above? I wouldn’t schedule a meeting with Big Producer on a date noted “H” unless I let Big Producer know that their plans could change at any time. An actor is paid for hold days even when they don’t end up working.
- WF: “Work Finish”, which indicates an actor’s last day on set.
- SWF: “Start-Work-Finish”, which means an actor started, worked, and finished their job all in one day. This code also can be “PWF”, which stands for “Pickup-Work-Finish” and means the same thing.
Here’s what a DOOD looks like:
StudioBinder lists a few additional codes in their handy post about DOODs:
- I: “Idle”. It functions just like “Hold” but is not paid.
- T: “Travel”, indicating an actor is traveling.
- R: “Rehearsal.” Use this when an actor is called to rehearse, but not shoot.
- WD: “Work-Drop.” Use this on your actor’s last day before a seven or more day hiatus.
- PW: “Pickup-Work.” Use this when an actor comes back from a seven or more day hiatus.
- SR: “Start-Rehearsal.” Use this when your actor is rehearsing, and it’s his or her first day.
As with all production scheduling documents, the DOOD facilitates clear communication by detailing the days you expect to work with each actor. As Shane Burley explains:
“The DOOD is just another part of communication between you and the cast and crew. Once they understand what is required of them it will be easier to get things done once you enter the chaotic shooting schedule.”
The Script Breakdown
This isn’t a scheduling document so much as a process that leads to other documents being created. The script breakdown sets the stage, so to speak, for the rest of what we’ll be discussing today.
Before you can create a scheduling document, you need to break the script down into its constituent parts and, if you’re using scheduling software, enter those parts into the system. For example, StudioBinder details their process here.
Even if you’re not using software, you can break a script down. Here’s what you need to do:
- Assign each scene a number. This is a very simple process. Start at the beginning of your script and number each scene in the order in which it occurs (for the record, most screenwriting software has a numbered scenes feature built in). These numbers will be used to reference scenes in all of your scheduling documents.
- Ensure that all of your slug lines match, location to location. For example, if you wrote “INT. BOB’S DINER” once and then wrote “INT. DINER” another time, make it consistent – either “INT. BOB’S DINER” or “INT. DINER”. You want everyone to immediately understand that it’s the same location.
- Proofread your script for typos, grammatical errors, spelling consistency in characters’ names, etc.
- Measure each scene in increments of eighths. So if a scene takes up half the page, note it as “4/8”. As StudioBinder puts it: “Marking 1/8s of a page is exactly like it sounds. Divide every page into eight, 1 inch parts. This measurement is used to estimate the screen time and shooting time for a scene. On a typical dialogue-heavy indie production, you can expect to shoot roughly 5 pages per day where one page equals one minute of screen time.”
II. The One-Liner
A one-liner is essentially an abbreviated shooting schedule.
Most productions also create a more detailed shooting schedule that breaks down each day by scene and includes the equipment, location, talent, and other relevant information, but in my experience, it’s rare for this to get widely distributed. The one-liner, however, is a scheduling document that will be distributed to most people involved with the production. The Anonymous Production Assistant explains all of this well:
“Not everyone gets a shooting schedule because not everyone needs them, and they use a massive amount of paper.
Besides containing all of the information included in the one-liner, the shooting schedule also details every important aspect of a scene: props; special grip, lighting, camera equipment; costumes specified in the script; special effects; visual effects; the number of extras; probably a whole bunch of stuff I can’t even think of.
Most of the crew doesn’t need this kind of detail. Department heads certainly do, but for most of the crew, you show up on the day and do what needs to be done. Which is most likely why they’ll refer to the one-liner as the ‘Shooting Schedule.’ They never get a Shooting Schedule, and don’t ever think about its existence.”
A one-liner takes the most important details from a full-on shooting schedule and boils them down. Here’s an example from Ivan Matsumoto, a production assistant on The Bourne Legacy:
Let’s break this down.
If you look at the leftmost column, you’ll see a number. This number is the scene number that was created during the script breakdown process.
In the next column over, we have a slug line for the scene. In this case, the topmost slug line reads:
INT. HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM D3
Of course, this slug line tells us that the scene is an interior (INT.) and that the location is a hospital waiting room. The “D3” here refers to the third story day. So, let’s imagine that the story starts on a Monday. Stuff happens on Monday, stuff happens on Tuesday, and now it’s Wednesday and we’re in a hospital waiting room. The notation “D3” tells our entire crew that it’s Wednesday in the world of the film, dictating to the hair, makeup, and wardrobe teams what each character should look like, among other things.
If instead this line indicated “N3”, we’d know that it’s night three. “D” stands for “day”, and “N” stands for “night”.
Beneath the slug line, we have a one-line description of what happens in the scene.
In the third column from the left, we have our page measurement. In this case, the scene is 1 5/8 pages, so a little more than one and a half pages.
Next, we have a column with a bunch of numbers. The numbers correlate to the character numbers on the DOOD, as already discussed.
Finally, the rightmost column tells us the physical location in which were shooting the scene; in this case, the fourth floor of Humber Hospital.
The one-liner is typically organized by day, and within that day, according to the order in which the scenes will be shot.
Like the DOOD, the one-liner is intended to be a very clear, very approachable communication tool for everyone involved in the production. It provides practical information that can be used to set and align team expectations for each shooting day.
III. The Call Sheet (AKA, The Master Plan)
The most detailed, day-to-day document on a professional film shoot is the call sheet. A call sheet exists for each and every day of a film or television shoot and is distributed to cast and crew at least twelve hours before the day is scheduled to begin.
The main feature of the call sheet is the call time; meaning, the time that any given individual associated with the production is expected to be on set. The crew call time, which applies to most of the people who work on the film who are not actors, is featured front and center on the call sheet.
The call sheet includes individual call times for each actor (more on this in a moment) along with a myriad of other specifics, including a breakdown of the scenes to be shot that day (similar to the one-liner) and additional information about equipment, personnel, and props.
Because of its detail, the call sheet is often thought of as the biggest and most important production scheduling document. In the words of assistant director Luke DeBoer:
“At the summit of the mountain of production documents lies the call sheet. The call sheet is the master plan for each day of shooting – every person working on the production receives a call sheet, meaning every detail is seen and (hopefully) obeyed.”
In his blog post, Luke shares a call sheet made with Set Hero – an app that helps create call sheets – and diagrams it, illustrating the call sheet’s constituent parts:
Looking at a call sheet for the first time can be overwhelming, and Luke’s diagram helps make everything more accessible. Let’s dive in.
At the top of the digram, we have the production title, general crew call time, and other pertinent details, both about the production – such as key personnel – and about that particular day of shooting – such as the weather, sunrise, and sunset.
Below is where we get into our production scheduling notes. In “Today’s Shooting Schedule”, we have something that more or less looks like the one-liner. It includes each scene, and the information is laid out just like it was in the one-liner. Scene numbers, a slug line, relevant cast by number, the number of shooting pages, and the physical location.
Below this, we have a box dedicated to the cast. The numbers here correlate to the numbers on the one-liner and the day out of days. Here, we have individual call times for each cast member. Cast member arrivals are typically timed with when they’re needed on set, allowing time for hair, makeup, and wardrobe before the shoot begins.
Next we have special notes, such as whether extras – additional actors with non-speaking roles, present to make the world of the film feel more realistic – will be on set, and if any special equipment is necessary.
And lastly, we have the advance schedule, which gives everyone a preview of what will happen on set the day after all of this is accomplished.
As with all of the production scheduling documents we’ve discussed today, the call sheet is fundamentally a communication tool. It clearly conveys the expectations of the day, including who needs to be where and when, what will be shot, and what everyone can expect once they arrive.
Here’s another take on the call sheet from our friends at StudioBinder, with even more details:
It’s incredible how many logistics there are to keep track of when making a movie, right?
How You Can Use Scheduling Documents on You Own Indie Film Shoots
Again, there are some great software solutions out there for indie filmmakers, including StudioBinder (Lights Film School students even receive an exclusive discount). If you decide that you don’t want to use software or that software’s financially out of reach right now, it’s a great idea to simply step back and review what these scheduling documents actually offer a production. Then, you can cover the information they provide in your own way.
Nine times out of ten, it’s worth creating these communication tools, even if your versions deviate from the established norms of the industry. Ultimately, the point is utility. You’re not going to frame a call sheet and hang it on your wall.
To help you identify what’s worth covering in your scheduling documents, let’s review the information covered by each of the three.
The Day Out of Days Report (DOOD):
- The name of each actor and/or character in the film.
- The date of each shooting day on the film.
- Which of those days each actor is starting work, working, on hold, or finishing working.
- Which scenes are being shot on each shooting day.
- The order the scenes are being shot in.
- How many pages each scene is.
- Which actors are in each scene.
- What physical location each scene takes place at.
The Call Sheet:
- What time you expect each crew member to be on set and ready to work.
- The physical location where you want everyone to arrive.
- What scenes are being shot that day.
- What order the scenes are being shot in.
- How many pages each scene is.
- Which actors are in each scene.
- What time you need each actor to arrive (if different than when you want everyone else to arrive).
Of course, it’s great if you can make your formatting match the industry norms as much as possible. But even if you can’t, finding a way to communicate the above details on paper is a great way to ensure that you’re organized and setting clear expectations for cast and crew. There’s more than one way to do it.
I’ve never been on a set where people weren’t appreciative of having as much relevant information as possible. It makes everyone’s lives easier and gives the production an overall sense of confidence and ease.
– By Lauren McGrail
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