The Job of a Script Supervisor

Film Connection student Rachel Svatos on The Great Alaskan Race (2019)

The script supervisor has many responsibilities, the most important being to insure that there is continuity between each shot. This requires a great deal of multi-tasking, as traditionally, the script supervisor has no assistants. Continuity requires making sure that wardrobe, props, set dressing, hair, makeup and actions of the actors in each shot can be cut together.

The script supervisor is responsible for creating numerous reports. In pre-production they create a report, based on the script, which provides basic information about each scene: time of day the scene takes place, where in the timeline of the film does a scene take place, a brief synopsis of the scene and duration of scene. This information is used by production, wardrobe, art department, hair and makeup, director and producer.

During production, the script supervisor is responsible for a multitude of things including continuity, axis and sightlines, slating, script updates and production notes.

• Continuity: The script supervisor works with camera, lighting, sound, wardrobe, makeup, prop and set department to make sure there are no errors in continuity. This entails detailed notes that encompass the number and length of the take, the action during the take including positions of the actors, screen direction of their movements and eyes, type of lens being used, and the directors comments as to which takes are no good, ok, or good (print take). These notes help the director in case there’s a need to reshoot a scene later and help the editor to which takes the director favors and any continuity problems he may have to deal with in post.

• Axis and Sightlines: The script supervisor needs to notate the axis of each scene and where the actors are looking in each scene. Those way different shots, like reverse angles, don’t cross the line when edited together.

• Slating: The script supervisor ensures the slates are correct for each take and match up with the notes they are taking. This makes it easy for the editor can locate and use the correct takes.

• Script Updates: The script supervisor is the one who makes sure they always have the most up-to-date script. They keep the lined script (indicating the start and end of a scene, shot description and whether or not there was any dialogue in the scene. Additionally, the script supervisor notes any changes that are made from the script during filming. If any of these changes will affect scenes that will be shot later, the script supervisor provides these changes to the assistant director. These notes help the editor determine which scenes cover which portion of dialogue or action.

• Production Reports: These are prepared daily by the script supervisor and include the start and stop times for shooting and breaks, a synopsis of the pages, scenes and minutes that were shot, and how many scenes have now been covered and the number of scenes that need to be reshot.

The script supervisor needs to be documenting all of these things as they happen. This means the script supervisor must be able to focus on what’s happening, think about what’s going to happen next, while making sure nothing drops through the cracks. On multi-camera shoots, all of this is multiplied by how many cameras a scene is being shot by.

The script supervisor position is a great one to break into the film industry. It’s a gateway position—it is not quite an entry level position, but is the next step up the ladder from being a production assistant, which is an entry level position. Since the script supervisor position interacts with everyone on the set, they are well positioned for “catching an important person’s eye” and continuing to advance up the film career hierarchy.

You can require many of the basic skills required by reverse-engineering and breaking down shot of movies you watch. The next step forward can be finding a way to be a production assistant on a film production. There you can observe first-hand how things really work on film shoots and get the opportunity to see how the script supervisor interacts with the various production departments on a daily basis.

Many of today’s top script supervisors worked on one or more films for free to gain experience and reputation. Be prepared to do the same. The script supervisor is part of the director’s “team” and is thought of as a technical rather than a creative position. That being said, it’s a great path to directing and screen writing as it provides a great technical understanding of how a script is broken down and shot as well as the elements a good script needs to work.
Another great way to gain the experience and skills necessary to become a script supervisor is to study at the Film Connection. The school has many production-based film programs that are taught on a mentor/externship educational model. This model puts the student/extern inside a film production company near where they live and where they can participate on real film shoots. This will allow you to observe and interact with the shoot’s script supervisor and gain film industry contacts. If you play your cards right, this can lead to becoming a production assistant on upcoming shoots which can be parlayed into a script supervisor position given time.

The job of a Key Grip.

Learn more about Rachel Svatos’ (pictured) experiences in Film Connection.

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