Last weekend, I had the opportunity to work as a Script Supervisor for the first time on a short student film. It’s a massively underappreciated job, and I thought this seemed like a good opportunity to give some love to all the Scriptys out there.
On every movie and TV show’s IMDb page, you’ll find a list of “Goofs,” mostly made up of continuity errors like, “her hair was over her shoulder in one shot, and behind it in the next,” or “his glass was full in one shot and half empty in the next.” It seems super nit-picky, but bad continuity can be really distracting. Imagine if the main characters were suddenly wearing different clothes, or had cut their hair, or a glass of water turned into a glass of iced tea, between each shot. Those are kind of extreme examples, but with roughly a billion moving pieces on set, it can be easy to lose track of the little things.
It’s up to the script supervisor to make sure that that goofs section on IMDb is as small as possible.
Script supervisors work with literally every department on set, keeping track of how things look, what has and hasn’t been done, what’s changing, and generally watching where every moving piece is going day to day. They talk to the actors, helping them run lines and making sure they’re delivering lines and blocking consistently. They talk to hair & make-up and wardrobe to make sure the talent looks the way they should every day. They talk to the lighting and grip departments to make sure that lighting and atmosphere are consistent. They talk to the production designer and props master to make sure the scene looks the same in every shot. They talk to the director to make sure that everything is going according to plan. They keep track of what time things began and ended, how many pages a scene is, and how long each take runs.
It’s a job that requires ridiculous attention to detail.
The short film I worked on was relatively straightforward—the whole story took place on one day, and it was all shot in just three days. But on a feature-length film, or a whole season of a television show, there are countless details to keep track of. Of course, everyone on set should be taking note of the different days of the story, but the script supervisor is the ultimate authority. Since almost nothing is shot in chronological order, you might shoot characters walking up to a door on Monday and not shoot them walking inside the building until next Friday. That’s why it’s important that the script supervisor be on hand to talk to each department about what happened and how things looked the last time they shot each day of the story.
Essentially, the script supervisor is the editor’s representative on set. Why? Because a screw up in continuity means that a shot is unusable, and the editor will have to work around not being able to use that shot. By making sure that lighting, cameras, hair, makeup, wardrobe, sound, props, and actors’ delivery are all consistent shot by shot, and by making note of exactly what each shot contains, scripty is making sure that editing is as easy as possible. Scrimping on a script supervisor will cost tons more in post-production, so having scripty on set can pay for itself!
Being script supervisor is a unique role, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, nobody has quite as much information at any given moment as scripty. Anyone who has a question about what’s happening, what has happened, and what’s supposed to happen in the future can ask scripty, and chances are, scripty will know.
It’s also special in that it’s one of the only positions that doesn’t involve being on a team, and thus isn’t really a job you can work your way up to. Although they work with everyone, scriptys are a team of one. It’s really up to each person to figure out how to do the job, and since you can’t really be “assistant script supervisor,” you pretty much have to just… do it. Learn as you go, and hope you don’t mess up too badly.
Script supervisors don’t win awards, their names don’t appear very high up in the end credits, and they don’t get nearly as much recognition as they deserve. But they have one of the most important jobs on set. Just like in sound and editing, if scripty does a good job, you don’t notice it. Just keep an eye out for their names in the credits, and be very glad that they were there!