We’ve all seen a continuity error in a film or noticed a plot hole at some point. The fact that you don’t see hundreds of them is because productions hire someone to pay attention to the details of a script.

This person on set is known as 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.

1

Script Supervisor 101

GETTING STARTED

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.

What is a Script Supervisor - Script Supervisor Template - Seinfeld

Use script supervisor forms to take notes like here on the set of Seinfeld.

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 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 you can avoid any embarrassing continuity errors.

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Form Explained

​​​​The script supervisor forms explained. 

They'll take pictures of the frames at the beginning and end of every scene as things change and move.

The  script supervisor PDF breakdown video.

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

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Union representing Script Supervisors

Local 871 in Los Angeles started in 1958 as a union representing script supervisors. 

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.

If 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.

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - D2 - Scene Description

Is scene two the next day or a flashback to earlier that day?

The next scene should either be day three or, for whatever reason, note that they're flashing back to earlier that day.

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - D3 - Scene Description

 Notice D3 has been added to the second slugline. It’s the next 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.

All major script notes are reflected in the script breakdown.  

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.

2

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.

StudioBinder Script Breakdown

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.

Scene Count

The number of scenes to be filmed.

Page Count

How many pages to be shot in total, and by scenes and acts.

Continuity Reports

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.

Report Delivery

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.

Reading Notes

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:

Shot list

The script supervisor will have studied the shot list and storyboard prior to the beginning of production.  They will have the order of the shoot for the day down to a science.

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 the dialogue that needs to be filmed is shot.

What and how a script supervisor works

Rehearsal Continuity

What happens in the lead up to the cameras rolling will be carefully noted and monitored for consistency.

Stopwatch

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

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.

Script Supervisor position in detail

Shot Notes

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.

2.5 POST-PRODUCTION

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:

Marked Script

Original marked script that denotes where certain things happened within the scene, including cuts and run ons.

An even more in depth look at the job of the script supervisor

Scene Reports

Chronological scene report list.  This is simply when certain scenes were shot.

Production Totals

Total time and number of scenes completed.

3

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.

Script supervisor notes matter. 

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.

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.

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Hank from Breaking Bad

Hank reading Whitman in season five.

That's a set up two seasons in the making as it was given to Walt by his murdered lab partner, Gale Boetticher.

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Walter from Breaking Bad

Walt, reading Leaves of Grass in season three.

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:
What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Script Supervisor Example 1

Missing script supervisor notes here. 

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Script Supervisor Example 2

Script supervisor notes could save this shot. 

What is Synopsis - How to Write Movie Synopsis - Script Supervisor Example 3

Script supervisor notes were not utilized.

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.

UP NEXT

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.

Up Next: How to use production design to make a better film →
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