What does a script supervisor do?
Film and TV dramas are usually shot entirely out of sequence. Shooting is organised according to the practicalities of location and availability of cast rather than the unfolding of the story. It’s the job of the script supervisor to check each filmed scene can be edited so it will make sense in the end.
During pre-production script supervisors prepare a continuity breakdown; this is a document which analyses the script in terms of cast, actions, wardrobe and props in scenes and story days. Then they time the script, which is quite a skill in itself.
Once filming starts, they closely monitor what’s happening to check no dialogue is overlooked and the actions and eye-lines of the actors match. They keep detailed written and photographic records of dialogue, action, costumes and props. All camera and lens details are noted along with the slate and scene number information.
They keep a progress report of each day’s filming which goes to production and the visual effects (VFX) supervisor in the case of VFX shots. These records are invaluable. They mean directors and editors can find what’s been shot and what the options are for each scene. They mean that when different takes are edited together, the film is consistent and makes sense.
What’s a script supervisor good at?
- Analysis: break down, time and itemise scenes in terms of set, costumes, make-up, props and dialogue according to where they are in the story
- Filmmaking: understand the art of storytelling through a lens, know what this means in terms of required shots and crossing the line
- Observation: have an eagle eye and good memory, have the stamina to remain observant during long filming days
- Attention to detail: be meticulous and methodical in taking precise notes quickly and efficiently
- Communication: let the director, actors, crew, hair, make-up and production know about continuity issues