Script Supervisor – The Brains of a Film

November 9, 2011

Most people never realize it, but when they watch a film, it’s not only the work of the screenwriter and the director that they are watching, but a conglomeration of many minds working together in precision to create the epic on the screen.  But sorely overlooked by those who do not understand the making of a movie is the script supervisor.  That extremely organized and talented individual is there to ensure that the film flows continuously without gaps, seams or illogical movements.  And if they’ve done their job well, you will never ask who they are and what they do because every scene is smooth and understandable in every aspect.

The first film I ever worked on was on location in New York.  It was during the wee hours of the morning that I realized how immensely important this woman was to everyone, especially the director.  She seemed to do everyone’s job, although I later realized that she was the one that made sure everyone else did theirs.  Many lovingly called her “mom” until she knew things were going awry then everyone jumped at every word she spoke.  You see, the script supervisor is the person who, on a breakdown chart, describes every scene, the props that are needed, where they are to be placed and to make sure that the actor’s hair on the 10th take is exactly as it was on the first.  By the way, did you ever notice during a film how the actress’s hair in the first cut was behind her ear then in the edit it’s in front of her ear?  Who’s responsible for that?  You are correct…it’s the script supervisor.

I understand that it doesn’t seem to be a huge accomplishment to do that, but let me break it down for you.  On day 10 of shooting a film, two people meet in a club.  They decide to leave together.  But it’s not until day 22 that they, on film, walk out of that club and get into their car.  It is the job of the script supervisor to make sure that the actors look exactly the same and every detail that appeared on day 10 is exactly the same on day 22. 

I remember watching this woman shaking my head in awe.  It’s 3:00 AM and everyone is barely awake, drinking coffee or taking 10 minute cat naps.  But not mom; she was running around, working with the hair and makeup people and complaining that the lighting director has the wrong lighting on the 2nd half of the scene about to be shot.  My head was spinning just watching her.

If you ever want to have the pulse of a film and you’re not interested in producing or directing, then consider becoming a script supervisor.  Is there a school for that?  Yes, the school of experience, getting on a set and doing whatever it takes to have one of these amazing people take you under their wing.  Honestly, there is no safer place.

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