A Side Order of Sides

“Sides” can mean to a couple of different things. I’m not sure how either of them are a side of anything, but whatever. When I found out that ADs are assistant directors but ACs are camera assistants, I stopped trying to make sense out of movie terms.

During casting, actors are given a scene or two to audition with. These are called “sides.”

During production, “sides” also refers to a fraction of the script. This time, though, it’s the scenes (or fractions thereof) that will be shot today.

Sides are usually little booklets, cut half the size of a regular 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. The cover is a shrunken version of the call sheet. Inside, the scenes that aren’t shooting that day are crossed out.

The set PAs pass sides out first thing in the morning. That way, everyone knows today is a big dialogue day, or we’re shooting a lot of action, or whatever. Sides always seemed like a waste of paper to me; I figure the call sheet has more than enough information, but what do I know?

The office PAs are responsible for making the sides. It’s not a complicated process, but it is time consuming, and a little boring. The combination of an iPod and the hallucinogenic fumes from the copier toner tend to pass the time, though.

Here’s how you do it.

As soon as the office gets a call sheet, you pull script pages that include the scenes scheduled for tomorrow. Most offices have a clean white copy (as opposed to the colored pages for each draft) for just this purpose.

You then copy just those pages, and return the original to the script binder. As I said, you’ll be crossing out scenes that aren’t shooting tomorrow, but those scenes might be shooting tomorrow or next week. You should never write on the original sides script.

So, you take the copied pages, circle the scene numbers for scenes you will be shooting, and carefully (with a ruler and sharpie) cross out the scenes you’re not. That way, there is absolutely no confusion over what scenes are to be shot.

The exact way of crossing them out varies from one coordinator (or AD) to the next. Some people make you do big Z’s; others want an X across the whole scene. Most people want the slug lines crossed out, but not everyone. These seem like minor details, but I’ve seen ADs treat these issues as matters of national security. Not sure why. You’d think they’d have more important things to worry about, like shooting the goddamn scenes.

But I digress.

When crossing out scenes, new PAs often miss something important, like a prelap. That’s when someone starts talking in one scene before the previous scene has finished on-screen. This is an audio bridge that’s sometimes done in editing, but is often written straight into scripts nowadays. If it is in the script, it needs to be recorded during the filming of the second scene. Make sense?

It’s like this:


Bob stares at a severed hand on the floor.

You found a hand on the floor?


Bob nods at Jim.

Yes, sir.

Well, ain’t that a kick in the head?

See? Jim’s first line needs to be filmed at the police station.

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to show your work to the AD (or 2nd AD, depending), especially if you’re working on a show with a lot of intercutting and phone conversations.

The next step is to reduce the approved sides to the appropriate size. Luckily, most production office copy machines have a lot of fancy features that help you out here. The specifics vary from copier to copier, but here’s the gist–

First, copy the call sheet to letter-sized paper (call sheets are almost always legal size). The best way to do this is not to reduce it, but to let the copier cut off the bottom of the call sheet. That information isn’t necessary for the sides; besides, it’s available on the regular call sheets that the set PAs will hand out. (Did I mention TV shows use a lot of paper?)

So, now you’ve got a complete set of sides (call sheet and scenes) on letter. Now, you make two copies of this, uncollated. This means, when the stack of paper comes out of the machine, you should have two copies of the call sheet on top, then two copies of page one, two pages two’s, two page three’s, etc.

Here, you’ll probably have to stop for a few hours. You should never, ever run the sides (or call sheets), until wrap, unless told otherwise. Today’s shooting may run long, and they’ll have to add a scene to tomorrow’s shooting. Or, they may get ahead of schedule and shoot some of tomorrow’s work today. Who knows? The point is, the call sheets and sides aren’t final until wrap. You don’t want to make sixty or seventy sides, and then find out they’re wrong.

Once wrap is called, you can finally make the sides. Again, the exact steps depend on your copy machine, but I trust you’ll be able to figure this out. Put your double stack in the feeder and punch in the number of copies you need. Most productions want fifty to seventy-five sides. Whatever the number is, cut it in half.

Here’s why– somewhere in the copier menu, there’s the option to put two pages from the original on one page of the copy. The copier will figure out how to rotate each page ninety degrees, and slap it together with the next page. You’ll also want to turn the stapler on, now, if that’s an option.

What ends up happening is this– each sheet will have two identical, and small, pages on it. The first sheet will have two call sheets on it, the next sheet will have two page one’s, and so on. That’s why we doubled the pages earlier, and why we made half the number of copies.

Here comes the tedious part. (Yes, surprisingly, you haven’t seen the tedious part, yet.) If you set the copier correctly, the upper left corner of one set of sides has been stapled. You’ll need to grab the nearest stapler and prepare for some Repetitive Stress Syndrome. Staple the middle of the page, which is the left side of the second booklet.

Finally, cut each booklet in half. I hope you have a good paper cutter.

Some productions also like to have a few full size sides on hand, for the near sighted, or people with giant hands that will crush the tiny sides. Go back to your original copy (does that even make sense?), and just do a straight staple/copy for however many the production needs.

If you’re fast and organized, you might be able to get out of there before the set PAs do. But probably not. Get some sleep, because if your brain hasn’t melted from sheer boredom, you’re doing it again tomorrow.

So, now you know how to make sides. Now give me $285.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

11 Responses

  1. PA BOOTCAMP RULEZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I, too, miss your stories, Mr. Anonymous. However, I thoroughly enjoy your responses to the PA Bootcamp staff. They’re almost as funny as the actual bootcamp replies!

  2. They have actual production sides, and a Production Coordinator who hands out a document explaining the process.
    …since you asked.

  3. I’m dying here. Love the last line.

    About half way through reading this, I realized that my own personal copy machine incompetence means that I still have no idea how to actually make sides (not that I have to), and I was wondering if the Bootcamp has a copy machine in the park for demonstration purposes.

    (They’re going to kill me now…aren’t they?)

  4. oh and PS I love reading your blog, but lately I have been missing all your on set adventures. I appreciate how you are answering emails/questions from everyone, but I want to read about the dramz!

  5. Here is my question: Why are call sheets, PRs, ExGs, etc almost always legal size? Whenever I make call sheets I like to scale them down to Letter when I email it to crew…yet still some of my ADs will request the Legal version. Is this protocol? History? I feel as though Legal is so clunky and hard to deal with….

  6. I had the opportunity to work with a 1st A.D. that insisted on adding the director’s hallowed Shooting List to every set of sides and call sheets. For beginners this was a dream, to see the director’s intent behind all the madness of the daily paperwork.

Comments are closed.