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How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, part 6

bleedingthornfilmsWritten by: Ryan Walters

Part 6: How To Create a Shooting Schedule & Call Sheet

Welcome to part 6 of this ten part series on how to bring a cinematic look to a small budget commercial. In this series I am sharing with you the behind the scenes process of how we at Bleeding Thorn Films make a project happen– warts and all, from script to screen. In Part 5, I covered how to create a lighting diagram, and here in part 06 I’ll cover how to create a shooting schedule.

Creating a Schedule

Creating a schedule and a call sheet may seem like a tedious step to take during the pre-production process, but without them it is difficult to make informed choices on set when you fall behind, or if the miraculous happens and you get ahead of schedule. Creating a schedule can seem daunting when you first begin your filmmaking endeavors, but the more you do it, the easier it will get. Over time you will develop a sense of how long it takes to get different tasks done. If you are not doing it already, I highly recommend that you start developing a schedule for each of your productions.

When I create a schedule for a production, I typically work backwards from when the shoot needs to end (if there is a specified time). If there are no time restraints, then I will pick an end time that I prefer. This end time will usually be before rush hour or after rush hour, as there is nothing worse than having to sit in traffic after a long day of physical labor. From the end time, I subtract 10.5 hours to give me my call time (10 hours of work, and ½ hour for lunch). According to the industry standards lunch needs to happen no sooner than 4 hours after call, and no later than 6 hours after call. I will usually plug this number in at the 5 hour mark and then adjust where it falls according to the needs of the shoot. Now that I have a framework to work within, I’ll build in some time at the end of the schedule to pack up gear and wrap the location. The amount of time I allow for wrap directly correlates to how much gear we will be using, and how many hands we’ll have on set. Next I continue to work backwards through the schedule, placing rough times for each shot, and building in a bit of a buffer. When filming a scene, standard practice is to shoot the wide shot first, and then work your way in to the close up. This is where having a shot list, storyboard, and lighting diagram are invaluable. By knowing what each shot entails, it is easier to allow for the appropriate amount of time. For example, a dolly shot is going to take more time to execute than a locked off tripod shot. By the time I have scheduled all of the shots for the shoot, I should be left with a block of time for setup. If there isn’t enough time, I know that something else in the schedule needs to give. If there happens to be too much time to setup, then I’ll add extra time to a difficult shot, to the cleanup, or I’ll add room at the end of the schedule to get additional shots. However, realistically, having too much time is rarely an issue.

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Above: Our Schedule for the Shoot

When it came time to create a schedule for this commercial, I knew that I needed to schedule the exterior shot for after sunset. By scheduling it then, I would not have to completely tent the front porch, only part of it. This requirement meant that our last shot would be up at 4:30 pm, and we would need to start to wrap by 5 pm so that we could be leaving the location at 6:30-7 pm. Subtracting 10.5 hours means that call time would be at 8:30 am. According to the storyboards, we needed to get 9 shots to tell our story. I allotted 30 minutes per shot to allow us enough time to get what we needed with a small crew. While I knew that this amount of time would be overkill, I also knew that this was going to be our first time working together as a small crew so the buffer was helpful. With 9 shots to complete by 5 pm, our first shot needed to be up by 12:30 pm. Still working backwards, that meant call time for talent and our makeup artist would be at 12 pm. Since I wanted to be available for the makeup artist and talent when they arrived, that pushed lunch to 11:30 am. If you are following along and doing the math, 11:30 is only 3 hours after call, which is not in keeping with industry standards. If you are going to do something like this, it is important to make sure that everyone is on board, surprises like this on the day of usually do not go over well. So that meant I had 3 hours to setup and tent the house, which should be plenty of time for our small crew.

Create a Call Sheet

Creating the call sheet is the last step of the scheduling process. Call sheets are critical for a production. It is the one place that everyone can go to get all the pertinent information they need about a production. Think Crew has provided some very impressive and in depth call sheets you can download for free. The layout and formatting of the call sheet is not as important as making sure that it has the following information (at a minimum):

  • Production Company Information
  • Client Information
  • Production/Crew Information & call times
  • Client Information & call time
  • Call time, First shot up, First shot after lunch, Wrap time.
  • Location address
  • Notes about parking
  • Weather Forecast
  • Production Cell
  • Hospital address and phone number
  • Not all emergencies are medical.
  • Talent information and call time

With everyone’s contact info in one place, it is easy to get a hold of anyone at a moment’s notice. This allows people to prepare accordingly. With one central phone number, people can also call to get a hold of someone in production. It is helpful to have the contact info for the nearest hospital, police address and phone number on hand in case of an emergency.

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To left: Example from Think Crew’s Casper

Once the call sheet is finalized, I send it out to everyone listed on it, and I ask for a confirmation of receipt. Asking for a confirmation of receipt gives me the piece of mind that I have typed in everyone’s email address correctly, and that everyone has the information they need for the shoot.

Stay tuned for part 7 where I’ll be covering the next phase of pre-production, camera testing. And Keep an eye on our blogtwitter or Vimeo Channel to follow us on our latest storytelling adventures.

This is part 6 of a 10 part series, click the links below to view the entire series.

Part 1: Landing The Client and Creative Ideation

Part 2: Budgeting and Creating The Proposal

Part 3: How to Location Scout

Part 4: Story-boarding On A Small Budget

Part 5: How To Create a Lighting Diagram

Part 7: How To Conduct A Camera Test

Part 8: How To Build a Rain Bar

Part 9: How To Approach Data Management On A Budget

Part 10: How To Black Out A House On A Budget

Join the conversation

2 Responses to “How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, part 6”

  1. How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial | wolfcrow on August 15th, 2013 11:56 pm

    […] Part 2: Budgeting Part 3: Location Scouting Part 4: Storyboarding Part 5: Lighting Diagrams Part 6: Creating a Schedule Part 7: Conducting Camera Tests Part 8: Coming […]

  2. Achim on September 12th, 2013 1:21 pm

    Great article! I have a technique to get cinematic shots(no editing). It’s all in the depth of the image, which can be done as you film, so it saves some cash on the editing part. Wrote an article about it a while ago http://thevrincent.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-to-get-cinematic-shots-on-regular.html

About the Author


Born in 1980 in Seattle, Washington, Ryan has had a love and passion for the visual arts since a young child when his grandmother, an avid photographer, took him along on photo expeditions. As he grew up, his parents furthered that passion by enrolling him in various art programs and lessons. While he enjoyed painting and drawing, something was always missing - the ability to capture motion. Once introduced to the art of cinematography in high school he never looked back.Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer Since that time, Ryan has developed this passion and turned it into his career. As an award-winning cinematographer his work has allowed him the opportunity to travel worldwide in the pursuit of telling stories that are visually compelling. Ryan's distinct experience includes feature films, documentaries, commercials, and shooting for Comcast, TLC, Oxygen, and the Discovery Channel. Not only does Ryan seek to deliver cinematic images for his clients, but his commitment, organization, and professionalism means he constantly goes the extra mile to ensure that the results he delivers exceed his clients expectations.

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