We all know by now that going into production is probably the least smooth process of any industry. As the saying goes, if everything’s going right, then everything’s going wrong. But in order to smooth over those bumps in the road, the industry created an entire position to be the glue that holds it all together during the tornado.
That’s the script supervisor. If anyone is talking the most on set, it’s the first AD. If anyone’s talking the second most, it’s the script supervisor.
In this post, we’ll go over what a script supervisor does, why they’re so important, and also provide free script supervisor template and forms.
Table of Contents
Everything you need to know about Script Supervisor
Script Supervisor 101
1.1 DEFINITION AND DUTIES OF A SCRIPT SUPERVISOR
Know what the position requires
The script supervisor is an integral role to every production.
They're involved in every step of the process, from pre-production all the way into post.
The script supervisor uses script supervisor forms to make sure that continuity errors are avoided in every part of the filmmaking process.
The script supervisor is the security net for department heads, the producers, and the director. For lack of better words, the script supervisor observes and monitors nearly everything.
SCRIPT SUPERVISOR DEFINITION
What is a script supervisor?A script supervisor (or continuity supervisor) is a member of a production crew that supervises continuity. The domain includes many departments such as properties, costumes, set decoration and dressing, hair, makeup. The script supervisor also monitors the actions of the talent during the filming of scenes.
The main responsibility of a script supervisor is to track the continuity of all aspects of what's on screen between every set up, take, scene, and (if applicable) episode.
That means that if an actor takes a drink before a certain word, the scriptie marks that down in their script supervisor form and tells the director if they miss it.
This can be crucial in the edit bay because if they don’t monitor this, the shot and reverse shot won’t add up.
They also demarcate where certain props and set decorations are from one position to another, so the production can avoid any embarrassing continuity errors.
They'll take pictures of the frames at the beginning and end of every scene as things change and move.
That way when they reset, or the director moves on to a new set up, every department head can know where everything was originally placed.
We'll get into further detail, but if you don't want your project to make those "Top 10 Continuity Error" lists, then hiring a great script supervisor is key.
1.2 SCRIPT SUPERVISOR VS. COORDINATOR
Don’t get confused
While the script supervisor is an important voice on set, they're not to be confused with script coordinators.
SCRIPT COORDINATOR DEFINITION
What does a script coordinator do?A script coordinator is a high-level assistant who works exclusively in the writers' rooms of TV shows. They're oftentimes the liaison between the writers' room and everyone else on the production.
What does a script coordinator do?
- Coordinate the distribution of scripts
- Script adjustments per legal and clearances
- Script adjustments per production
Script coordinators are rarely seen on film sets. Script supervisors are integral to production.
For instance, it is the script supervisor who must tell the camera crews how to label the slate. The script supervisor also must make sure every department follows continuity.
So if, within the slug lines of the script, there's an issue between one scene that reads:
INT. JIM'S HOUSE - NIGHT (NIGHT 2)
And the next scene reads:
EXT. JIM'S HOUSE - DAY (DAY 2)
The script supervisor will let the script coordinator know before the script goes into production.
The next scene should either be day three or, for whatever reason, note that they're flashing back to earlier that day.
That way when the next set of revisions go out, the correct days are used so wardrobe, hair, makeup, and other departments can correctly plan the shoot.
Or a note is included saying it's a flashback.
This helps them plan more thoroughly because now they know that when they do exteriors for JIM’S HOUSE, they’ll need to have multiple day’s worths of wardrobe changes on hand.This is all easier when a script supervisor has a script breakdown to guide them.
SCRIPT BREAKDOWN DEFINITION
What is a script breakdown?
A script breakdown is an important filmmaking process that allows you to identify all the script elements needed to prep, schedule and budget a film production. By creating a script breakdown, you will determine the technical and creative requirements for each department.
There were so many elements that need to be in every scene. Props, costumes, livestock, vehicles, FX, and more. It can be hard to keep track of things as new drafts were delivered.
How To Do The Job
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
2.1 THE WORK OF THE SCRIPTY
How to Make a Script Breakdown
Follow these steps to effectively break down your script:
- Read the script as if you were a viewer
- Spot any and every formatting issue
- Input your script into Studiobinder
- Tag your elements
- Generate reports
- Generate strip boards
As you go through and do each scene breakdown, you will find yourself becoming familiar with the elements your production will require.
It’s useful to do it with the breakdown sheet template, and get a sense of the entire process. As a result, when when you do it using script breakdown software like StudioBinder, you understand everything that is happening.
2.2 A STEP BY STEP PROCESS
Learn an all-encompassing process
So we've covered the difference between a script coordinator and a script supervisor. We've also covered what they do during the production.
But we've barely scratched the surface of their overall responsibilities, which is a lot more than just filling out script supervisor forms.
2.3 PRE-PRODUCTION ROLE
How it begins
A script supervisor's role in pre-production may include any of the following: Script breakdowns (may also be with, or done by, the AD department) which will have the following elements.
The number of scenes to be filmed.
How many pages to be shot in total, and by scenes and acts.
In pre-production, these will be elements that may need special monitoring.
Wardrobe and Prop summary (also with breakdown or ADs)
Elements of art department that will require special attention.
To whom will the detailed reports be given over the course of production.
DP Shot Lists (or storyboards)
What and how the production plans to film and over what time period.
Any special considerations or attention to any aspect of what is to be filmed.
2.4 PRODUCTION ROLE
When shooting begins
The script supervisors role once production begins is the official timekeeper as well as the monitor of all things on screen. This includes but is not limited to the following:
Camera crew info
The Script Supervisor will be aware of the entire crew’s activities even if there are more than one. The script supervisor will know exactly what each group is doing and how each take is marked on the slate and in their notes.
Line Readings for talent
A large part of the job will be making sure the Talent says the lines as written or agreed upon. It also makes sure that all of the dialogue that needs to be filmed is shot.
What happens in the lead up to the cameras rolling will be carefully noted and monitored for consistency.
The script supervisor will almost always have an apparatus for timing of the scenes filmed so that the director and editor’s work is a but less chaotic, especially on multi-cam sitcoms.
Video Village is the domain of the Script Supervisor. Other members of the crew or executives may jockey for position, but the script supervisor will always have a seat in the front row.
The Script Supervisor will make any number of notes regarding the scenes being filmed, but the most important will more than likely be those that come straight from the director’s mouth. Whether the shot is usable or not, too soft too loud, a little shaky… Any thoughts or observations relevant to the scene will be recorded in the notes.
Daily Production Reports
The daily production reports are essential for information regarding the shoot. What was shot, what's left to be shot, what was missed or skipped are included in the daily production reports. This is as accurate a measure of how the production is progressing as any.
When the shooting is over
Unlike many other positions on set, when the production wraps, the script supervisors job is not yet done. The script supervisor must produce a production book. How these are presented can be as unique as the person in the role, but generally includes the following:
Original marked script that denotes where certain things happened within the scene, including cuts and run ons.
Chronological scene report list. This is simply when certain scenes were shot.
Total time and number of scenes completed.
Continuing Script Supervision
A CASE STUDY
3.1 THE MAIN PART
Eliminate continuity errors
With all the elements that go into making a film, it's easy to lose track of small, yet important, details in the process.
This is especially true because movies and TV shows are shot out of sequence. So the scene where your main characters drive to the bar and the scene at the actual bar may be shot days apart.
Their wardrobe and hair still need to match, since in the story they're going from one to the other within minutes. If they spill a drink in the car, and then show up at the bar with a clean shirt, that's a continuity error.And the internet loves to point those out.
The best way to avoid being thrown on the list of errors is to hire a script supervisor. They'll be the ones to keep track of not only what your characters spilled on the way to the bar but also how the spill looks.
They'll make sure wardrobe keeps the soiled shirts for the bar scene and if they have to recreate it, show them exactly where and how it was spilled.
While this is a small example, it can easily snowball into much more important aspects.
3.2 CASE IN POINT
The curious case of Walter White
Consider the scene in Breaking Bad where Hank finds the copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in Walt's bathroom.
That's a set up two seasons in the making as it was given to Walt by his murdered lab partner, Gale Boetticher.
The script supervisor had to make sure they used the same cover of the book that Walt was reading in season three as to what Hank found in season five. Script supervisor notes matter to the story of every show.
It's not uncommon for script supervisors to go back multiple seasons to pull out references and shots as they're brought up again in later seasons.
Continuity is more than just from one shot to another, it's over the development and arc of major characters and plot points. The scriptie maintains a critical voice in that conversation and uses detailed script supervisor forms to keep track.For another example, consider this sequence from the show Baskets, where a broken sequence magically fixes itself but then goes back to broken:
Odds are this was discussed multiple times on set between the director, the script supervisor (and their notes), and the prop master.
Unfortunately, the best take they had for the reverse shot was the one where the cigarette didn’t match the cut away. Does that mean they never thought of it? Odds are, no. They definitely thought of it and noticed it.
But it probably escaped them during a take (they’re all human) and that take happened to be the winner in the edit bay. So it goes.As you can see, having a great script supervisor is key to the success and efficiency of any shoot. No one wants to spend hours a day tracking storyboards, day and nights, and production reports. StudioBinder will help any script supervisor keep that all in one, convenient location. StudioBinder offers seamless workflow for the script supervisor to the producer, from pre-production to post, for every production.
How to use production design?
There are so many dynamic positions on set. Each on contributes to the final outcome that we see on screen. Continue your journey through the film set while learning the ins and outs of production when we take a look at the head of the art department, the production designer.