Script Supervisors: The unsung heros

Script Supervisors: The unsung heros

You’re a script supervisor on a film set. It’s hectic, you’re losing light fast and still have a quarter of the scene left to complete. People from EVERY department will fire questions at you quickly and you have to know the answer.

Makeup: “Does she get the bruise on her knee before or after this scene?

Hair stylist: “Does the hair need to match scene 25 or has time passed?

Boom operator: “On what line does Jane stand up?

Sound Mixer: “How many takes did we do for 34 Apple?

Prop Master: “Was the window open on that last shot?

Director: “What was the timing on the rehearsal?

DOP: “What time of day is this?

2nd AC: “Was 23 Baker MOS?

Actor: “Did I look over my left shoulder or right shoulder?

AD: “What time was first turn over?

You get the picture. As a Script Supervisor you need to keep track of all of these things, ensure we have enough coverage to edit the scene AND keep consistent continuity while filming. Although departments such as hair, makeup and props will keep their own continuity, they are relying on you to be their safety net so that nothing slips through the cracks.

To maintain mental sanity, it’s good to have checklists of what to look out for before each take to ensure perfect continuity. Before they start rolling, look at EVERYTHING one by one. First, costume. Are the actors wearing the right costume? Is his shirt tucked in? Has her dress got that rip in the sleeve from the scene before? Then, hair. In front of or tucked behind the ears? It was raining in the last scene so shouldn’t it be a bit damp? Props: We have already shot the scene after this and the character was carrying a briefcase, so we need to see the character pick up a briefcase in this scene. Another one is time of day. One of the Script Supervisor’s jobs is timing the script to know it’s run time and also break it down into narrative days. Do the events in this film take place over a year? A day? An hour? What time is the clock on the wall in the background? Does that time match the time on the actors watch? If it’s midday, then there shouldn’t be long stretched out shadows on the floor.

One thing that can catch anyone out is eye line. Take screengrabs of whatever we are matching this shot to and make sure the actor is looking the right direction AND correct side of the line to cut with the reverse.

You also need to pay attention when actors say their lines. Adlibbing or the occasional slip up is to be expected, just be sure to keep your ears open to nudge them if they get stuck and make a note of any on-set script changes.

However, slip ups and errors don’t occur just on set, they can occur in the script long before filming begins. Part of your pre-production preparation is to get extremely familiar with the script. You are the Script Supervisor after all. You should know it inside, out, back to front. And this will happen naturally as you breakdown the script, noting location, costume, props, character, action, time of day etc. This will also help you spot any errors in the script. For example: a character says “I had such a lovely time on our dinner date today” when we have already established it’s the morning.  Or, it’s Monday, eleven O’clock in the morning and a woman looks out of her office window to see children running up to an ice cream van. Unless this is on purpose and a key beat in the narrative, normally the children would be in school at this time.

No point sugar coating it. There is a lot of pressure and work for a department of one. But every day is different. You know the story better than anyone else. You’re right next to the action, you are the director’s trusty right hand man/woman and you build friendships with every department on set. It’s a crazy job and you may feel like every day you’ve lost a few marbles but it’s one of the coolest and most fun adventures to get paid for doing.

Shooting On Location: the Dos and Don’ts

Shooting On Location: the Dos and Don’ts

There’s a thrill about shooting on location, but the logistics can be difficult to get right and there’s a lot to think about! Here’s some simple dos and don’ts to get you started when shooting out on location.

DOs

DO carry a copy of your Public Liability Insurance certificate with you, no matter what you’re shooting or how you’re shooting it. You could be asked to present it at any time. I like to carry a folder which has my insurance certificates, risk assessments and other important safety information on but if this isn’t your style then have a copy on your phone.

DO make appropriate provisions to safely dispose of litter – especially cigarettes! The latter is something frequently overlooked, especially be filmmakers who don’t smoke. Cigarette ends cannot be disposed of in plastic waste sacks and must never be left on site. A small metal bucket will do.

DO thank the location owners afterwards. This is a courtesy that costs nothing and will go along way. I like to buy a card and small box of chocolates for people who have helped a film come to life. You can even allow for this in your budget by creating an account or line-item for gratuities. You’ll also be doing a great job of representing our industry and help other filmmakers use fab locations!

DO think about your cast and crew when planning a location shoot, even if you’ve only for 4 or 5 people with you. Where can they use a toilet? Where can they find shelter if it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet? Where can they sit down and eat? Where can they park their cars or keep their personal belongings? Remember, filmmaking is seldom as simple as getting a camera and shooting something; as a producer, everything becomes your responsibility.

DO have a plan B. Unlike shooting in a studio where you can control every aspect, location shooting presents many variables that are completely out of your control. Recces are great opportunities to start planning shots and deciding where exactly your set will be, but you must also decide what to do if that set or those shots suddenly won’t work when you turn up to shoot.

DON’Ts

DON’T shoot anywhere without Public Liability Insurance. Even if you’re doing run-and-gun or guerrilla filmmaking or you’re not using any fancy equipment, if somebody gets hurt or something gets damaged the compensation will be coming out of your pocket unless you’re appropriately covered.

DON’T leave car engines, generators or lights running unnecessarily – or anything else that could cause public nuisance. Not only will leaving everything switched on cost an awful lot of money and increase your production’s carbon footprint, you’ll drive the public, neighbours, location-users and pretty much anyone else in the vicinity mad and they won’t be so welcoming to future film projects.

DON’T use megaphones and PA equipment unless you really have to. Film sets draw enough attention to themselves as it is, and you must always be respectful of neighbours and those near your location, plus the use of loud communication equipment will end up giving you and your crew a headache, too. Try to use a walkie with headsets to communicate across the set.

DON’T use offensive language. You never know who is listening and who is sensitive to what and you could inadvertently really upset the public or neighbours and then cause havoc for your Location Manager or yourself.

DON’T forget the weather. Especially in the UK where we live with a schizophrenic weather climate. Don’t just look at one weather resource – compare lots of different services and keep an eye on trends throughout the week. Let your cast and crew know on the call sheet what sort of weather to expect and if it’s anything too adverse, pop a banner across the top with a warning to dress appropriately!