Script Supervisor

  • Script Supervisor

A lack of continuity in a film or TV episode can be incredibly distracting to the audience. If you have a keen eye, you may notice certain inconsistencies. For example, in Dark Knight the banner on the building that is the scene of Batman and Joker’s final standoff first reads “DAVIS,” then in a later shot has changed to “BOVIS.” Some mistakes are more obvious, like when an actor is wearing glasses in one shot and then the glasses mysteriously disappear in the next. These flubs happen because separate takes of a scene may be shot and re-shot days or weeks apart. If copious notes are not taken to ensure each take matches perfectly, you end up with a character wearing a digital watch in Spartacus. It is the job of a script supervisor to monitor everything the camera sees to keep those distracting continuity problems to a minimum. 


Duties

The script supervisor is part of the camera department and works closely with the director of photography (DP) and director. This person is brought in during pre-production to create continuity reports that detail any inconsistencies in the script, estimate run times, and break down the script in terms of production requirements like wardrobe and props. During principal filming the script supervisor is always at the director’s side, keeping detailed logs of each scene as it is shot. The log is used to track shots both for the benefit of the director during filming and for the editor’s easy reference during post-production. The log must detail camera angles, f-stops, lenses, costuming, hair and make-up, and scene slate, as well as audio information, lighting, and notes on the actor’s blocking and lines. Typically the script supervisor will keep a photo record of each scene so that pick-up shots can be easily matched later. It’s not all keeping track of popped collars: If the camera is panning left to follow the escaping fugitive, the script supervisor needs to ensure that the camera is panning left to follow the bad guy’s pursuer when the two scenes are shot on different days. This is called monitoring the 180° line.

Where pickup shots are required, the script supervisor communicates with crew heads to place the correct wardrobe and props, set decoration, and lighting. The script supervisor will also advise the director and DP on camera details and advise actors on pickup lines and blocking. When changes are made to the script, this person will input them and deliver updated copies to the appropriate cast and crew. (Each new version is color-coded to track the changes, which is how scripts end up with white, pink, green, yellow, etc., page inserts.) At the end of principal photography the script supervisor will deliver his or her daily continuity reports and editor’s logs to the editor for use during post-production. These logs contain detailed scene information—where each scene is located on the film—and notes on the director’s take preference.

Skills & Education

An extensive knowledge of film and television production is a necessity. Most script supervisors have begun their careers as production assistants and learned on the job. You must be knowledgeable about digital and film cameras, lighting for film and television, and audio mixing and recording. An education in technical entertainment production can provide you with the necessary hands-on experience. A script supervisor should be detail-oriented and fastidiously, excruciatingly organized. Clear note-taking and excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must. If you’ve got a photographic visual memory, this job may be a perfect fit. 

What to Expect

The script supervisor is the director’s shadow, always hovering with log and pencil in hand. You will need to master the art of always being around when needed and invisible when not. Your primary task is to observe, not interject. However, when you spot a continuity error waiting to happen it is your responsibility to speak up. Sometimes this may mean contradicting the director or other crew head, so will have to be diplomatic and respectful, but in the end those mistakes are your job to fix. (Script supervisors will rarely be praised for catching a major mistake before it happens—that’s just their job—but they will be blamed if the leading lady is embarrassed on screen because her diamond necklace becomes a pearl pendant is scene 48.) After working successfully as a script supervisor with the right people and on the right projects, you may grow into a career as a line producer or unit production manager

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