Script Supervisors work as part of the Camera Department on Feature Films and Television Dramas. They ensure that, despite the fact that films are shot entirely out of script sequence, they eventually make continuous verbal and visual sense. This entails checking on and keeping detailed records of dialogue, action, costumes, props and set design, so that when different takes and scenes are finally edited together, the fictional world of the film is not disrupted by continuity errors which may distract the audience. Script Supervisors closely observe every shot filmed, and take extremely precise and detailed notes, in order to provide an authoritative reference point should any doubt arise about how a previous take or scene was filmed. These reports provide an invaluable resource for Directors and Editors enabling them to assess the coverage, including how many shot options there are for each scene of the script, and exactly how each shot was filmed. Script Supervisors are involved during pre–production and principal photography. Hours are long (12–14 hours a day), and some foreign travel may be required, involving long periods spent away from base.
What is the job?
Script Supervisors' overall responsibility is to monitor whether it is possible for each shot scene to be edited into a verbally and visually coherent sequence. During pre–production they check the script for any errors and/or inconsistencies, prepare estimated running times, and break down the script according to production requirements. They develop story synopses and character breakdowns, and check the shooting schedule to ensure that all the required scenes are shot and adequately covered from all required angles, distances, etc. They attend recces and pre–production meetings to feedback any identified issues, and during rehearsals they record detailed timings which inform the shooting schedule. They work closely with Directors to anticipate and solve any potential problems.
On each day of principal photography, Script Supervisors file reports and photographic records for the previous day's shoot, and prepare all paperwork for post production. They check continuity requirements for each scene to be shot. During filming they closely monitor the script to check that no dialogue is overlooked, and cue actors where necessary. They keep detailed continuity notes and photographs or sketches of each actor and camera position for each shot. They keep detailed records of: all shot timings and camera movements, including jibs, pans, zooms, etc; whether the scene is shot during the day or at night; any scene changes, and their implications; all slate and scene number information; any inconsistencies, errors or other comments; all camera details including lenses, focal distances, filters, etc.
They liaise closely about continuity with other departments including Costume, Make–up and Hair, Props and Lighting. Where pick up shots are required, Script Supervisors provide actors with dialogue start points, and exact continuity details. They also ensure that other departments are aware of the status of each shot, and that clapper boards are marked up accordingly. Where more than one camera is used, they ensure that each camera's output is accurately identified. They confirm Directors' take preferences and note these for post production. They often assist Sound Mixers in taking additional notes of any recorded wild tracks or voice–overs. Script Supervisors re–type scripts to reflect any major dialogue changes, and mark up scripts with slate numbers, cut points, and other relevant details for post production. They prepare detailed Daily Continuity Reports, Editors' Daily Log Sheets and Daily Production Reports. They also provide production with records of the requirements for any outstanding shots or inserts.
Typical career routes
Script Supervisors may begin their careers as Assistant Production Co–ordinators, or as Production Assistants in television, acquiring valuable on set work experience. After working as Assistants to experienced Script Supervisors for a minimum of 30 weeks, they may progress to Script Supervision on 2nd camera shoots, and 2nd unit work, eventually becoming recognised Script Supervisors. Script Supervisors may also move into other areas of production, including Producing, Writing, Directing, Editing, Script Editing.
Essential knowledge and skills
Directors rely heavily on Script Supervisors' keen observation during filming in order to ensure that each scene is shot accurately, both technically and creatively. Because filming is extremely intensive, and shooting days are usually long, Script Supervisors require stamina and must be dedicated to their work. The ability to keep precise and detailed notes quickly and efficiently is vital. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are also necessary in order to explain any continuity errors, and to liaise effectively with Directors, Actors, Assistant Directors, Production Office, and other technical departments during production.
Key Skills include:
- A meticulous and methodical attention to detail
- A good sense of visual composition, perspective and movement
- Ability to collaborate, and to work as part of a team
- Diplomacy and sensitivity when working with artists and crew
- Ability to trouble shoot and respond quickly to changing circumstances
- Good organisational skills
- Ability to be amiable and calm in difficult situations
- A practical approach to work
- Knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
Training and qualifications
Although no formal qualifications are required to become a Script Supervisor, some film schools and training courses offer a good basic grounding in the skills and knowledge required. The National Film and Television School offers an industry recognised 6 day short course for Script Supervisors. Knowledge of the theory and grammar of filmmaking and, in particular, of editing, is essential in order to understand the craft of constructing scenes out of individual shots. Relevant industry experience is essential. A full driving licence is useful.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset's and the UK Film Council's Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive CreativeSkillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit http://www.creativeskillset.org/careers/.
- BECTU, the trade union represents camera personnel BECTU
- The Guild of British Camera Technicians aims to further the professional interests of technicians working with motion picture cameras The Guild of British Camera Technicians
- National Film and Television School NFTS
- BKSTS (the moving image society) organises events, courses, and demonstrations of new equipment, and publishes Image Technology BKSTS
Publications (if applicable)
- Supervisor's Script Book – Raymond Dreyfack ISBN–13: 978–0134760520
- The Role of Script Supervision in Film and Television: A Career Guide (Communication Arts Books) – Shirley Ulmer, C.R. Sevilla, and Robert Zentis ISBN–13: 978–0803863668
- Script Supervising & Film Continuity – Pat P. Miller ISBN–13: 978–0240517445
- The Five C's of Cinematography – Joseph V. Mascelli ASC ISBN–13: 978–1879505414
- In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing – Walter Murch ISBN–13: 978–1879505629
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