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Why a Script Supervisor is Essential to Your Film’s Success

Matt Hibbard

Ever spent countless hours filming only to discover crucial continuity mistakes, rendering your film a mess? Preserving your film’s continuity is key to maintaining the script’s credibility.

Film and Video Production

You’re on set. The entire crew is hard at work on the last scene before you wrap. The lighting is perfect, your camera operator has an amazing shot, excellent audio, and the actors are all delivering. You complete the scene in a timely fashion thanks to your crew’s excellence. After wrapping your film, post-production immediately begins. In editing, you discover that your film cannot be cut.

Despite your crew’s professionalism and excellence, your film lacks consistency: there are tons of continuity errors. Who was maintaining this continuity (or lack of it)? The script supervisor (called the continuity supervisor in the UK) has the extremely important task of maintaining your film’s continuity from shot to shot. They are essentially the editor’s representatives on set.

When every shot, action, and motion is consistent in your film, then you have achieved good continuity. The shooting schedule for a film may continue over a period of a few days, months, or even years. This places an even greater emphasis on maintaining proper consistency between shots.

Responsibilities of a Script Supervisor

It is the job of the Script Supervisor to make a log of every action that is shot:

  • What was the camera shot (close up, medium, wide, etc)?
  • Were there any technical problems with lighting, camera or audio equipment?
  • Is the take a Print (P), No Good (NG) or BUST?
  • Did your director want you to notate any particular take as the one to stand out?
  • Were there any complaints or special notes from either your DoP (Director of Photography) or director?

The majority of feature and short films are shot with only one camera. Of course, the director or DoP may prefer more coverage for a scene. This would entail moving the same camera to various angles and changing focal points and camera lenses for the same scene. Obviously, this can take some time. Maintaining continuity despite this movement can become extremely difficult, but is aided by the help of the script supervisor’s notes. Always plan the extra time to shoot additional takes.

If the continuity was broken in any way, enough time should be allotted to correct this. It is the script supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that the film will cut.

The Continuity Report

The script supervisor’s notes are outlined in a continuity report that is created throughout the shooting process. This report should contain the following information:

  • Daily log of the shoot
  • Particular action that is occurring in the shot
  • Camera configurations
  • Audio and picture quality
  • Crew list

To further avoid continuity errors, an assistant to the script supervisor is usually a necessity. Two sets of eyes are definitely better than one when it comes to catching subtle errors on set. To maximize the impact of the assistant, it is important that they have a different vantage point than the script supervisor.

Some mistakes can easily be fixed on set, however if overlooked an expensive reshoot may be your only option. To help avoid that, the assistant can take pictures of each actor’s exact movements, wardrobe, makeup, hair and props. This will help immensely if you’re forced to split a scene up by a few hours, days, or even months.

Example of a continuity sheet/ logging form from HabitualFilms:
Continuity Shot Log

Let’s Wrap

You owe it to yourself, the crew and the actors to be on top of your film’s continuity. Hiring a trusted script supervisor will ensure that your film will be cut without having to compromise your edit. Don’t overlook this seldom-discussed, but entirely necessary, on set position!

Need a script supervisor for your film? Check out the freelancer profiles over at ProductionHub.