Everyone knows that television shows have writers, directors and actors, but one of the most important roles is often overlooked. This is the script supervisor.
The script supervisor is mainly responsible for ensuring the continuity of the action that the viewer sees on screen.
This may sound like a fairly simple thing to do, but it is actually a complicated role, involving virtually every faucet of production.
Prior to shooting, the script supervisor reviews the script and provides what’s called a ‘breakdown’. This involves timing out each scene and providing the director and the crew with the shooting order. This allows all departments to coordinator the action that will take place every day on the set.
During filming, the script supervisor remains on the set at all times, usually sitting with the director and the writers near the video monitors in the area commonly known on sets as ‘video village’. Working with the actors, making sure they know their dialogue and following their on-camera movements closely at all times are the primary duties of the script supervisor at this time.
A very large part of the job involves taking detailed notes on each scene as to the actors progression though the scene. All scenes are shot several times. First, there is a master shot that is usually a wide angle shot that includes all of the actors in the scene. Then there are coverage shots of each actor and their individual reactions to the actions in the scene. The script supervisor must make sure that the actors movements match in the master shot and all of the coverage shots. During each shot of each scene, the script supervisor takes detailed notes, outlining the time of each shot and any information that may be helpful in choosing the best take of each shot for the finished product.
At the end of the shooting day, the script supervisor gives his or her notes go to the editors to allow them to know which takes of each shot the director prefers. These notes also help the editors to match all of the action in each scene for proper continuity.
Current script supervisor on ABC’s comedy hit, “Cougar Town“, Kelly Akers shares her insight on several faucets of her job.
“My favorite part of the job is being around the creative process. Although Script Supervising isn’t that creative, you’re around a lot of creativity and you assist in the process, helping the director and all of the other departments. I really enjoy interacting with everyone from the cast to the crew to the producers. The cast needs my help for dialogue while the different departments, like make-up, hair, props and wardrobe, need my help for continuity. It’s a very collaborative job. On the set, you’re a team and I really enjoy that environment.”
“I also really like that my environment is always changing. I move through various projects and meet different people on each project. Even if I’m on a show for a long period of time, no two days are the same. Things are always changing, so it helps my job constantly feel fresh.”
Akers, who has also worked on “Dark Blue”for TNT, “Dirty Sexy Money”for ABC, “Sleeper Cell” for Showtime, Steven Bochco’s “Over There”for FX, as well as several films, also adds, “When you sit back and look at all that goes into making a film or show, it’s pretty funny. It’s like organized chaos, really.”
The script supervisor is a big part of keeping that ‘organized chaos’ on track to complete each day’s work and help bring the whole project in on time, which is no easy task.
Asked about her least favorite part of the job, Akers answers as many people working in film and television do, commenting that the hours are tough. Production on a film or television show generally runs at least twelve hours at day with many days stretching to sixteen hours.
In giving advice to aspiring script supervisors, Akers offers this. “To become a script supervisor, I would suggest you have to be very organized and detail oriented to begin with since the job really requires very good organizational skills. I find this is hard to learn if you’re not naturally like this, so be painfully honest with yourself and access your skills thoroughly to decide if this is for you.”
“Second, there are a few schools that offer a class in this, such as the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Southern California and the American Film Institute, among others. There are also some private instructors who teach and I would highly recommend them as well. After completing a course, I would highly suggest sitting with a seasoned Script Supervisor to watch and learn how they work on set and what the correct etiquette is. Everyone has their own style, but there is set etiquette that can be learned from shadowing.”
In conclusion, Akers offers this last bit of advice, which seems to hold true for any position in any industry.”It’s important to know who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are, then find the job that suits you. People will remember you and remember if they liked working with you. The actual work of the job is about 40% of your success, your personality and work ethic are the rest.”
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