During my time at Full Sail, I’ve grown to really like the position of Script Supervisor. For both our 16mm film and 35mm film projects, I have really embraced this job. Most people outside of the film industry aren’t aware of what exactly it is that I do in this position. I wrote a paper for our Final Project class talking about just that, so I thought that would be an interesting thing to post here to explain it to anyone who cares to read it! 🙂
Oscar Isaac, who most recently starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ex Machina, said, “A movie set is like a petri dish for neuroses, you know? It’s just, like, egos and weird personalities and, more than anything, fear.” As an actor, he sees movie sets from their most vulnerable and true state. Taking a step back, the entire production of movies is often fantasized by the general public as being a beautiful, extravagant and glamorous event. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Moviemaking is filled to the absolute brim with crazy, creative, and strange people. When the multitude of styles and behaviors are combined into one group, things can get ugly; especially when there’s a hierarchy and guideline on how to make a film (that each person has somewhat of a different opinion about) to follow.
Film production is split into five main categories. Development, Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production, and Distribution. The names are rather self explanatory, and follow the order as listed. In the first category, an idea is born; a script is written, and the key positions such as Director, Production Designer, and Director of Photography are filled. In Pre-Production, the crew is formed, the budget is laid out, scripts are finalized, a shot list is made, and catering, transportation, equipment, locations, and schedules are created. Production is the actual shooting of the film. This is the part where everyone imagines Meryl Streep walking by as you grab your coffee. (Or is that just me…?) In Post Production, the film is put together and colored. Lastly, Distribution is when the movie is commercialized and advertised. Each of these categories also houses multiple departments with positions in each, that all have a specific job. (Film Jobs Hierarchy)
On Final Project, my position is Script Supervisor, also known as “Scripty.” Scripty falls into the production team, and works closely with VTR, the Director, 1st AD, and on occasion, the actors. Scripty is the liaison between the set and and the producers. As Scripty, I maintain continuity, watch the lines of the script closely and make note when the actor changes something, and also keep track of coverage. In Pre-Production, I am in charge of creating a pre-lined script by utilizing the Director of Photography’s shot list. Lines are drawn either with a ruler or by computer to show where a shot will physically fall on the page. By doing this, the Director of Photography and the Director can determine how much little or extra coverage the film will have. The 1st AD can also make a schedule based on the Pre-Lined script because it gives a general idea as to how long each shot will take to set up. While on set, I create a new Lined Script to compare to the original Pre-Lined script while the crew is shooting. By doing this, I can see what we wanted to get for coverage compared to what we actually got. At the end of production, I hand over my paper work and Lined Script, which will then be utilized by the post production team in editing the final film.
Mary Cybulski, a Script Supervisor of many amazing films, such as Life of Pi and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, writes about her chaotic but awesome life in her book, Beyond Continuity: Script Supervision for the Modern Filmmaker. She explains that even though Script Supervisor doesn’t really fall into a department, it is a position which involves working very intimately with the Director. She says, “We sit next to the director all day. We understand how he or she wants the story to flow. We articulate and influence that flow. We manage and facilitate the information necessary to make that happen. We pass this information on to the rest of the crew. This is the best thing about being a script supervisor: Our specialty is storytelling. It is our job to understand the bones and the spirit of the story. We imagine all the little bits of the movie we are making. What they look like and sound like, how they move and how they impact each other when they are put together. We carry around a living, growing movie in our imagination. This is continuity, and a whole lot more.” I found her information and tips about her position to be very helpful and even inspiring. (Cybulski)
Some of the earliest films back in the 1900’s were based off of simple scenario scripts. Only partial ideas were described, and then a movie was just shot as the crew went. Scripts were not nearly as detailed as they are today. In the 1910’s, films were getting increasingly more complex. Movies had more shots to each sequence and therefore a position was born. A “script clerk,” was someone who had to carefully record information about each shot for continuity purposes. More complete stories were being told which called for someone to be entirely responsible of just that, the story. (Script Supervisors UK)
Today, a Script Supervisor should be equipped with the script, a pencil, a ruler, a stopwatch, a clipboard or a table, and the necessary paperwork, such as the Daily Wrap Report. I’ve found that using my laptop in replace of a paper script has yielded quite successful. I see the future of this position also going this route, by doing everything digitally. Through Photoshop, I can import the script and create lines and notes electronically. In doing this, it is a much faster and neater process; and if I make a mistake, I can simply delete and start over. Personally, I create my Lined Script on top of the Pre-Lined file, in a different color. That way I can identify errors or missing shots immediately.
A good production team works like a well oiled machine. Each person does their job, and assists others when necessary. While on set, everyone should be aware of themselves and what they need to accomplish, without sticking their nose in the wrong department. Of course, there are some differences between independent film sets and studio film sets. For example, an independent set is much more lenient with positions being a bit loser. Obviously, there is less money to be spent, so fewer people can be hired. Having a skillset in multiple areas makes you much more valuable. As a Scripty on an independent film, you may also work as VTR, or help out in some other way. Script Supervisor doesn’t require much equipment, and of that equipment none of it is very costly. A Scripty’s job on an indie film would be very similar to that in a studio.
The entire process of filmmaking is grueling, and unlike what the general public would imagine. A story is born, challenged, displayed, enacted, distributed and viewed. Through that process hundreds of people get to leave their fingerprint somewhere on it. As Script Supervisor, it’s pretty amazing to have such a big role in this progression. Robert Bresson, a French film director once said, “My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, and come to life again like flowers in water.”
Cybulski, M. (2014). Beyond continuity: Script supervision for the modern filmmaker. New York: Focal Press.
Film Jobs Hierarchy. (2013). Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.hierarchystructure.com/film-jobs-hierarchy/
Script Supervisors UK – continuity script supervisors – ORIGINS OF THE ROLE. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.scriptsupervisors.co.uk/page4.htm