ABOUT US:  An introduction into the role of the Script Supervisor

WHAT IS A SCRIPT SUPERVISOR?

The Script Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that every aspect of the film's continuity is meticulously transmitted from script to screen.  We do not create, revise, or supervise the written script per se, instead we are concerned with the images the Director extracts from the script and transmits onto film (or digital equivalent).  The Director interprets and converts the written words into a filmic product, while the Script Supervisor ensures that it all fits seamlessly together, in addition to monitoring and maintaining the scripted dialogue.  We are essentially the liaison between the Director and the Film Editor during the complex procedure involved in transforming the script into a motion picture or television drama.

Digital technology is changing the way films are made; visual effects, special effects, high definition formats all require expert knowledge.  A Script Supervisor's expertise is just as important now as it was in the days of traditional dramatic live action when there were few, if any, technical aids.  The myriad functions that this job covers cannot, as some mistakenly believe, be replaced by video/digital playback equipment.

The world recognised title Script Supervisor, sometimes described more accurately as Continuity Script Supervisor, has been adopted in recent years in place of the previous, somewhat gender preferenced, 'Continuity Girl'.  A frequently asked question is 'what is the difference between someone doing the job of Continuity and a Script Supervisor - Answer: nothing.  Same job, different title.  The supervisory capacity, which the job does indeed hold, is a requirement of HMRC in establishing self-employed status.  Angela Allen was our spokesperson in this respect and we have her to thank for detailing our many functions to the said authorities.

WHAT IS CONTINUITY?

Film continuity is the unique structure by which a story is dramatised on film (or digital equivalent).  Continuity errors can ruin the illusion of realism, and affect suspension of disbelief.  The Script Supervisor's job is to ensure that the continuity of story, action and dialogue is maintained, thereby allowing the viewer to enjoy the film uninterrupted.

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HOW DO WE DO IT?

Pre-Production

Every Script Supervisor will have their own way of working, but common to all is the requirement to be thoroughly familiar with the script. The Script Supervisor will be hired in pre-production, several weeks before shooting commences. During this time the Script Supervisor methodically breaks the script down, extracting relevant and vital information that will enable them to track the continuity throughout the film. This information is crucial to other departments; for example the number of story days within any given story will help to dictate the number of costumes required, and the time period covered by the story will determine how those costumes, make-up, props etc are broken down/aged. Each script is different and the story will dictate which elements must be carefully tracked. An experienced Script Supervisor will see any potential pitfalls and flag them up before they become problematic.

During prep, and sometimes pre-prep, the Script Supervisor will time the shooting script. There is an industry maxim that says one script page equals one minute. While this may be a useful guide initially, it is only when the Script Supervisor goes through the script scene by scene, carefully giving each scene a length in minutes and seconds, that the first realistic idea as to exactly how long the finished film might be, is aired. Directors, Producers, Executives, Insurers, Bond Companies all require this timing to be as accurate as an estimated script timing can be. During the shoot the Script Supervisor will use their estimated pre-timings to monitor the actual shot timings and in this way Directors and Producers are kept informed as to the current status of the film's running time; pre-knowledge of over-runs or under-runs is vital as either of those situations can have a bearing on the film's shooting schedule.

The shoot

During the shoot the Script Supervisor will work closely with the Director to ensure that each element within a scene is adequately covered, that scripted dialogue is monitored and amendments accurately noted. The film's continuity is carefully tracked and as scenes are shot certain elements will become established that will directly affect other scenes. Production and other departments will be kept informed of all scenes shot and scenes part shot, individual shots that are outstanding which may include various VFX details, page counts, running times, turn over times, and any other relevant information.

The Editor will receive detailed information from the Script Supervisor about every shot along with marked-up script pages. There can sometimes be numerous takes to choose from and the Script Supervisor's notes can help the Editor to make the most appropriate edits. Director's notes relating to takes and performances are also conveyed within these notes. The Editor will often be working in a cutting room away from the sets so the Script Supervisor's notes are an essential source of information.

Exactly how this is all done will depend on the individual. As mentioned before, Script Supervisors all have their own particular way of working. However the work is produced, computer aided or on paper, or most likely a combination of both, the aims are the same - to ensure that every aspect of the film's continuity is meticulously transmitted from script to screen.


Post Production

These days the Script Supervisor is rarely involved in the post production process. The Script Supervisor's notes however, will be used by, for example, the Dubbing Editor and will also form part of the Producer's delivery requirements.

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SUMMARY

As previously mentioned, the role of the Script Supervisor is complex and precise details of all work generated will vary from Script Supervisor to Script Supervisor, and from script to script. This description of the role is by no means definitive but aims to give the reader an introduction to the Script Supervisor's involvement within the intricate process of film making.


Writer, Director, Producer Bryan Forbes CBE on Script Supervisors:

"Here's a tip for all film producers, directors and production managers who want to avoid breaking their budgets through spending thousands on reshoots:  hire an experienced script supervisor and heed her advice, both before and during production."

This quote is part of an article published by BECTU's Stage Screen & Radio magazine. You can read the full article here.



 
LINKS to other sites containing definitions of the role of the Script Supervisor

Wikipedia

Skillset

GBCT