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When Do I Get a Call Sheet?

Elle writes in:

I’m doing my non-paid, freelance internship as an Art Dept. PA. This one is a web-based, Emmy-nominated series.

I’m asking the 2nd AD for a call sheet (or any information at all, like ‘Hey, yes, we need you tomorrow’) at 8 pm and getting the emailed call sheet at 2 a.m. with, surprise! A location with a two-hour drive and a noon call time.

Here are my questions:

  1. What’s a reasonable time to wait for a call sheet/call time for the next day? (Paid or not.)
  2. When should you start asking for the info you need to be proactive but not annoying?

The thing about non-union productions is, there ain’t no rules. They don’t have to give you your call time at a reasonable hour, or maintain a responsible turnaround, or shoot in the studio zone.

Working on a union show protects you, even if you yourself are non-union.

Less pretentious than the COEXIST bumper stickers.
Hey, a bumper sticker that’s true!

That being said, the professionalism of a non-union show is measured by how closely it adheres to union rules.

Here’s the basics (if there are any ADs out there, please correct me on any of these points)–

First, they must give you a callsheet at wrap. If you’re not on set, they have to deliver it to you electronically.

Calltime is, in part, determined by the longest turn around, which is typically the actors (they get twelve hours’ worth). If no actor in the last shot today is also in the first shot tomorrow, the next longest turn around is the camera department (eleven hours).

So, if you had a noon calltime, it’s not crazy for you to get a call sheet at 1:00AM.1

That being said, by lunch time, the ADs should have an idea of what tomorrow’s call will be. Again, big shows have “prelim callsheets,” which are preliminary (obviously), and therefore non-binding. Still, they give everybody an idea of what’s happening the next day, instead of surprising them at the end of today’s shoot.

Prelims are also helpful for those of us in the office who work normal business hours. If I leave at 7:00pm, but the crew doesn’t wrap until 2:00am, the prelim is all I have to go on when I wrap out for the day.

Now, a small show may not have the time or budget to run off prelims, but they should still give you a head’s up if you’re starting at an unusual hour the next day. I mean, the difference between a 7:00am and an 8:00am call is minimal, but shooting a split day really affects the rest of your week.

If they haven’t given you a call time by 8:00pm, and they’re not paying you, it’s time to give them a call. Try again every half hour or so. If they don’t respond by the time you hit the hay, fuck ’em.

When you’re getting a paycheck, you’re on the production’s clock, whatever that may be. But if you’re working for free, they at least owe you some courtesy. There’s a difference between paying your dues and being abused.

On the subject of abuse, the location is two hours away? Unless you live in Valencia and they’re shooting at Knott’s Berry Farm, there is no way they’re shooting within the zone.2

Again, if it’s non-union, they’re not obligated to film within the studio zone, but they’re assholes if they make some poor college student drive out to the middle of nowhere on her own dime. At the very least, this should have been something they warned you about in advance.

You’re supposed to learn as an intern. That’s why you get college credit instead of being paid. But on a show that’s being run unprofessionally? You’re learning all the wrong things.

Don’t stick around a shitty production like this. If they can’t get basic things like call sheets right, I can’t imagine what else they’re doing wrong on this show.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Or slightly later, since the ADs have a bunch of shit to do before they can sit down and fire off an email. That’s why it’s the production office’s responsibility on a big show; small shows often don’t have a production office.
  2. A thirty mile circle, from the corner of Beverly and La Cienega. It’s where the show TMZ gets its name.
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4 Responses

  1. I agree a lot of these non-union gigs straight up screw there crew. This poor girl is being jerked around by this production because she’s simply one of those that want to get in. I hate this kind of stuff, where the shows (typical non union, unpaid, credit is your payment) treat people, it’s abhorrent and wrong. I agree with your advice, this girl should definitely leave this shit show.

  2. one note…the location shouldn’t have been a surprise as they (production) would know exactly where they’re shooting. your dept key would also know this. if you’re a PA with a key, always take the questions to them – they’ll have a word with the 1st AD and let you know, regardless of prelim not being done. art dept would most likely have feet on the ground prepping the location for the shoot prior to crew getting there. if this isn’t one of those shoots and “pa” to this crew means you ARE the key well, like Anon said, its not worth it. you’ll learn things the wrong way. AND you should be getting paid.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. To be honest, I just assumed it was the kind of show where she didn’t have a key overseeing her work, but it’s definitely worth clarifying this.

  3. There’s at least one thing to be said for slaving on such poorly-run, confused, and unprofessional gigs — the experience really makes you appreciate working on a well-run, professional production. And once you get there, you never want to go back…

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