Callsheets are, for the most part, self-explanatory. It gives you information like the call time, location address, and things of that sort. But a reader recently asked what the “status” column in the cast section meant, and I realized maybe it’s not all as self-explanatory as I thought.
The cast section of the callsheet generally has eight columns: No. (number), Cast, Character, Status, Make-Up, Reh. (rehearsal), On Set, and Remarks.
Each character is assigned a number; on a TV series, the regular cast members generally keep that number for the run of the show. The biggest star tends to be assigned the 1, the next biggest is 2, and so on. Occasionally, the most famous person isn’t the lead, and egos can be bruised depending on that numbering.1
For the guest cast, it’s really the AD’s preference as to whether a character is given a number throughout the season, or if the numbers are assigned on an episode-by-episode basis. In the latter case, a guy could be 13 one week, and 10 the next, which can be confusing for the actor.
“Cast” refers to the person’s actual name; “character” is the character’s name. Sometimes aliases are used. Callsheets are rather disposable, and people leave them lying around all the time. The mere presence of a certain character could be considered a spoiler, so the producers/studio/network may want that concealed.
“Status” is probably the most opaque of these columns. You’ll generally only see these acronyms: SW, W, WF, SWF, and H. Very rarely, you’ll also see R.
SW stands for “Start Work;” this is their first day of filming. W simply means “Work;” they’re shooting, but it is neither their first nor last day on the job. WF is “Work Finish,” the last day. SWF means this is their one and only day on set.
H stands for “Hold.” Generally speaking, unless there’s a large gap in time (I think the rule is ten shooting days), actors are on hold between shooting days. Technically, this means you can also call them in if need be, and they shouldn’t have booked any other jobs.
Budgetarily, a hold day is a complete waste, because the actors are paid for hold days. ADs try to avoid putting an actor on hold as much as possible, although sometimes it’s unavoidable.
R means “rehearsal.” This means the actor is given a call time and a place to show up, but they won’t actually appear on camera. You almost never see this on a TV series, because there’s no time. I have seen it for particularly tricky stunts, though.
Back to the call sheet itself. “Make-Up,” “Reh.,” and “On Set” are all specific times the actor is expected to be somewhere. Generally, they report to hair and make-up first. Rehearsal should start right at call time (assuming they’re first in), so the crew can see the blocking and start setting up the lights and cameras. “On set” means cameras should be rolling.
Speaking of call times, don’t forget to contribute to the Crew Call Kickstarter campaign. We really need your help to get season 2 off the ground!
- If you’re a PA, that’s well above your pay grade.↩