There are many positions in a film which are frequently overlooked or not talked about – many of which are still incredibly important to have on a production. One of these positions is one that’s not only imperative during filming but also in post production, and that’s the *script supervisor*.
The script-supervisor – sometimes abbreviated to “scripty” – is the person who is the keeper of the script on set. He or she acts as the “right-hand-human” to both the Director and DOP, and is the representative of the writer and editor. In my opinion, this is one of the most important positions on set, because without someone doing the things that they do the movie is much more likely to have serious problems when it gets into the cutting room.
Sadly, it’s a position that many low budget films forgo – and I’m not totally sure why. Maybe it’s because the filmmakers don’t completely understand the role, or maybe they think that they can catch everything as they go without one. But 9 times out of 10, the movie will end up saving money in post production, because from an editor’s perspective, without a script-supervisor it usually means our job is going to take at least three times as long to do. Not to mention that there are always problems that can’t be “fixed-in-post”.
Marking Up the Script
One of the script-supervisor’s primary responsibilities is to mark up the shooting script – they’ll note what’s shot differently than what’s written in the screenplay, as well as make a series of lines across the page that directly correspond to what’s been shot. For example, take 1 covered half of page 30, but take 2 covered the entire page.
This is not only helpful information for the editor to have when editing rolls around, but if something is different enough that it affects a different part of the script, then new versions of the script will need to be distributed to the crew and actors before affected scenes are shot so that everyone’s on the same page (pun intended…)
The scripty will also work closely with the person in charge of clapping the slate so that everything in their paperwork matches up properly in editorial.
Continuity, Axis, and Eye-Lines
Another responsibility of the script-supervisor is carefully paying attention to each take and calling out when something isn’t lining up correctly visually. For example, if the actor raised his left hand to point a finger dramatically in the previous setup, that actor will need to always use his left hand so that it cuts together seamlessly. This concept is called continuity, and especially with actors, it’s easy to get lost in the moment and not realize that every take is using a different hand, which is no fun to try and cut together, trust me.
The script-supervisor will also pay attention to where the shot is setup in global space. It can be jarring to suddenly be on an opposite side of the room without a specific reason or need, and it’s easy to get lost if you don’t understand the concept of the 180 degree rule. This is where you pick a logical semi-circle within the action and stick to one side throughout the scene. If you “cross the line” to other side, you risk disorientating your viewers.
On the same line of thinking, it’s important to make sure that your actors are looking where they’re supposed to. If you’ve established a certain space with a wide shot, then change the setup to a close up on one character, that character should be looking in a logical place that matches the wide.
Reports and Notes
Finally, the supervisor keeps a detailed log of the shots, if the director liked them, what the problems were, and a description of each shot. This is primarily for the editor’s reference when getting everything organized, but it’s also useful for the director (and other department heads for that matter) to take a look at at the end of each day so that he or she can watch out for common issues on the next day.
So, without the script-supervisor basically watching every department’s back to ensure that the movie looks great once cut together, you’re in for trouble.