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.

Malefaction

Malefaction

Film Details

6 minutes | Short, Crime, Drama | Release Date: 8 November 2017 (UK) | 2017

Plot Outline

A hitman reflects on his life and career while he prepares to complete one more job before retiring.

Cast & Crew

Cast
The Assailant – Peter Gerald
The Man – Daniel Godward

Crew
Director – Adam Price 
Screenplay – Adam Price
Producer – Pj Saysell-Rosales


Achievements

Nominations
Aesthetica Short Film Festival – Best Screenplay
Aesthetica Short Film Festival – Best Thriller



Are short films worth it?

Are short films worth it?

Making a short film is no easy task, there are a bunch of things to take into consideration, cast, crew, locations… just to name a few. Short films require just the same amount of attention and dedication as a feature film, just on a smaller scale.

Short films can be a gateway to boost your career within the filmmaking industry, for instance, in 1967, academy award winner Martin Scorsese made a 6-minute short film titled The Big Shave, which had positive reviews and helped him to become the director that we know and love today.

As well as learning how to make films and gain all of the skills and techniques needed, they can be a valuable resource to get you on the next step of the ladder.


Malefaction in the making…

Malefaction in the making…

Midway through December, I sat down for the first time with two other filmmakers at a restaurant in Chichester. Neither of us had any idea then of the colossal undertaking we were about to commit to. What followed was seven months and a week of nonstop telephone calls, emailing, script revisions, meetings and copious amounts of paracetamol and self-doubt. The project was a three-minute short film which, despite taking over half a year of feverish work to plan, took a mere fourteen hour day to shoot.

The three of us had worked together before but, for all of us, this was our debut into the professional independent film industry. Thankfully, we had allocated ourselves a sensible, small-scale project; it would require only two locations, two cast members and five members of crew, ourselves included. I’m not sure if it was the Baileys talking or my benighted optimism, but I remember believing that such a small concept would be easy to realise. In actual fact, had I known how foolish such a sentiment was, I’d have probably never agreed to take part.

The project had the added challenge of being shot on 16 millimetre film which was another first for the three of us. Up ’til now, we had been sheltered by the convenient features (and lower operating costs) of digital cameras.

The first hurdle to jump was finding a location to suit Adam (the writer & director’s) vision for the story. Earlier drafts of the script called for a set of storage garages near a residential property which immediately presented an enormous logistical issue; there was the possibility of our shots being continuously interrupted by residents trying to access their garages

I found a disused car park behind my local indie cinema (how appropriate!) and arranged to have a look with Adam who afterwards made some revisions to the script to see if it would accommodate a car park. Life had given us the lemons, so we just needed to roll with them. Deciding not to use garages was one of these disguised blessings that life likes to send us; the alterations to the script made for the new location actually worked better in terms of tying the two halves of the film together. However, life decided to take away our lemonade as the location became suddenly unavailable due to construction works.

At this point, I realised that our “small” project was not going to be so stress-free. Adam had found a car park in Fareham owned by an estate agents who, after several calls and emails from myself, never got back to us. I was fairly close to giving up hope when I walked past my production office and had a (rather overdue) lightbulb moment: my office has an enormous car park. I immediately called Adam to arrange a recce and after a lengthy meeting with the landlords, we had our first location! After the rigmarole of finding one location, I was naturally dreading finding the second: an apartment. Closing off a car park on a day that nobody uses it is one thing, ousting somebody from their home and encouraging them to let you drag in a film crew, actors and an assemblage of equipment is a whole new level. Thanks to the generous nature of a close friend and the promise of a bottle of decent wine, we had our second (and thankfully final) location.

Next on the to-do list was finding the cast. Finding the right people to bring characters to life is always a precarious task; no matter how many auditions, call-backs, screen tests or readings you ask talent to do, it’s not until the camera starts rolling and those characters become real that you really see their interpretation of the role. We cast our net to local amateur dramatics groups and reached out to the agents of several established actors. Admittedly, I was absolutely terrified as my past experience of dealing with agencies had been abominable. Thankfully, I had the pleasure of working with two brilliant, very friendly and helpful agents whose respective clients we ended up casting.

Slowly, everything was falling into place. We had two brilliant locations and a wonderful cast of experienced performers. Between myself and Adam we had most the equipment we needed, less a couple of items which Adam sourced from a local University and a rental house in Brighton. The only thing left to make the day work was finding some extra bodies to add to our merry workforce. Adam and I both called in some our buddies… he had the advantage here as he could call upon his colleagues who he met at film school. Adam sourced a camera assistant and I took care of finding a sound recordist. As there was no dialog I knew I could be a bit flexible, so I gave one of my trusted filmmaking friends a crash course in production sound and before we knew it – we were ready to go!

As the day of the shoot drew closer, meetings in local boozers became more common, and the sight of sunlight less so as I became buried underneath ever-amassing paperwork. There were several occasions where the expeditious run up in the final week got too much and I almost threw it all out of the window and quit. But I didn’t. I’d never live it down if I did. Come the shoot, I was smugly proud of myself for coordinating the scheduling, transport arrangements, meals, legal agreements and the like. The day of the shoot went surprisingly smoothly.