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A script supervisor has a lot more work to do than simply supervising the script. Another name for a script supervisor is continuity expert or continuity supervisor. This makes a little more sense when you see what the job responsibilities really entail. As a script supervisor, you will be responsible for keeping a very detailed, written account of all the scenes filmed or taped during a production. This is very important because the scenes of television shows and movies are not shot in the sequence in which they appear in the final production. The script supervisor's job is to keep notes that will be referred to day after day to be sure that the action matches from one take or scene to another. In other words, the script supervisor is responsible for making sure that the film looks like it has been shot in sequence. Most films are shot on a schedule that must balance such factors as the availability of actors and the availability of locations, to mention just two considerations. For example, when the movie Titanic was being filmed, all of the scenes featuring the character Molly Brown, played by Kathy Bates, were shot within just a few days. Yet as you watch the movie, you will notice that Molly Brown appears throughout the film. It is the script supervisor's job to make sure that the hair, makeup, costumes, dialogue, and props all match from one scene to the next.
This is a job for someone with a great deal of patience, a terrific eye for detail, and a great memory. You will need to be extremely organized to do this kind of work. If you are good at taking notes, this may be a good job for you. You will have to write notes detailing just about everything that happens each time the camera rolls. You will have to record what the shot looked like and how long it took. You must note which camera was used and exactly how the actors were positioned. You have to take note of it all and make sure that the scene is set exactly the same way each time the camera rolls, even if days have passed since the last shoot. The next time you watch The Wizard of Oz, pay attention to the length of Dorothy's pigtails. Throughout the film they go from just about shoulder length to quite long and back again. Now, unless there was a hairstylist giving free haircuts along the Yellow Brick Road, this is a very good example of a script supervisor who was not keeping detailed notes!
The script supervisor works directly with the director of the film or television show to be sure that all necessary shots have been done, that there are no big mistakes in screen direction or the continuing action, and that scenes will edit together cleanly. The camera department will check with the script supervisor to be sure that each scene is listed correctly, to make sure their logs and reports agree, and to record focal lengths and filters for matching shots later on. You will work closely with the heads of other departments to ensure that makeup, wardrobe, hair, props, set dressing, and everything else has the proper continuity. You may assist the actors by helping them with their lines, reminding them what they did or how they performed an action in a previous take, and making sure that the script matches any ad-libs or mistakes the actors have made. It is important that you make your notes with great detail. Your notes will help the editor identify the shots he or she must piece together to make a complete film.
The production office will rely on you to provide it with important information each day, such as how many scenes were scheduled for that day and how many of those scheduled were actually completed. You will have to know the time shooting gets started each day, what time the lunch break occurred, and when shooting for the day ended.
The first thing you will do when you get a script is to break it down. This means dividing the scenes, discovering and noting their chronological order and the day each scene takes place, counting the total scenes and total pages, and giving a one-line synopsis of all this information. You might be asked to time the entire script. You also will have to attend production meetings.
Every day you will be responsible for preparing each of the pages of the script that will be shot that day. In addition, you will prepare all logs and reports, and record the time of the first shot of the day. For each shot you will have to time the rehearsals and make notes about them. You then will have to figure out what scene number the shot will be called, and let the camera and sound departments know. It is essential that you keep track of the scene number, camera and sound rolls, and scene description each time a scene is set up. You will write down the take number, the length of the take, how the take went, and which take or takes the director particularly liked.
Toward the middle of the day, the cast and crew will break for lunch. At this point, you will note the time and a lot of other things as well. You will need to have notes on what was going on before lunch and what is to happen directly after lunch. The fact that lunch was called should not interfere with the continuity of the shooting schedule. Later, when the day is over, you will have to check in with the sound and camera people to coordinate which takes the director likes and might use in the final cut. You will have notes on everything that happened that day and you will hand in copies of those notes to the production department. It may be up to you to determine what time shooting should begin the next day. You are the one responsible for making sure that all the little details of the filming go smoothly.
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