Assistant Script Supervisor
Most film and television productions will employ only one script supervisor, but large projects can require an assistant to help shoulder some of the responsibilities of that position. This person is hired by the script supervisor and will support him or her in maintaining records and processing script changes during principal photography. Usually considered part of the camera department, script supervisors are occasionally work independently as a separate department.
The assistant script supervisor (script assistant) will not oversee filming but shall work under the direction of the script supervisor to complete numerous related tasks during production. Among the responsibilities of this position are collecting and transcribing script revisions, disseminating those changes to department heads, as well as transferring continuity notes to the corresponding page colors. Each new revision of the shooting script is printed on a different color of paper, in order to identify old versions from the current shooting script. In connection with revisions, the assistant script supervisor must recalculate the scene totals and one-eighth breakdown, which is a measurement of inches of the page used to determine scene length. As filming proceeds, this person is responsible for checking prints with the sound and camera department to ensure accurate labeling and corresponding notes for the editor. The assistant is most often delegated the task of preparing the editor’s lined script from the supervisor’s pages and must transcribe dialogue changes. On a daily basis, he or she will file all pertinent information in the master editing script.
While on set, the assistant will participate in taking photos for the purpose of ensuring continuity of each scene for pick-up shots or retakes and is responsible for maintaining the catalogues of those photographs in an organized manner. If deemed appropriate, the assistant script supervisor may run lines (rehearse dialogue) with the actors in preparation for filming. This person is charged with maintaining forms and supplies of the department and may be delegated the typical office tasks such as making copies, procuring materials, and similar duties. If the assistant is required to work on a second unit production team, he or she is upgraded to a department head.
Skills & Education
The position of an assistant script supervisor requires an individual with an obsessive attention to detail that is capable of meticulous note taking amidst numerous distractions. Most important will be this person’s capacity to accurately transcribe information quickly and to ensure exact consistency. A college degree in film and television production is recommended, as this person must be knowledgeable about the filming process and able to communicate with the sound and camera departments concerning continuity. Understanding how to break down a script for the preparation of editors’ notes requires specific training that can be gained as part of a degree program or through mentorship under a veteran script supervisor.
What to Expect
Time will be split between working on set to cover continuity photographs and completing notes and script revisions in the production office. This is most often a freelance career. You should anticipate irregular hours based on the shooting schedule, and travel may be necessary when working on location. This position is a natural steppingstone toward work as a script supervisor, and prior experience as a production assistant within the production office is useful. Some films and television series offer work for script trainees who are allowed to serve under the direction of the script assistant and will receive dedicated training and mentorship toward promotion. Most trades within film and television are learned through apprenticeship, as this has been the practice since the inception of the industry. Script supervisors and assistants are eligible for membership in IATSE, the union that represents artists and technicians working in entertainment production.
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