What's a Scripty?
I’ve only been supering for less than a year, but I’ve worked on a number of projects in a number of different formats: from feature, to short, to television pilot, and a few commercials. And in the 9, or so, months that I’ve been doing it, I’ve received dozens of questions about what it is that a script supervisor is, and does.
First, a little back-story on how I fell into script supering. I had recently graduated from film school and was working in the art department on the independent feature Messina High (http://www.imdb.com) when a friend from school asked me for help on a project. He needed a script supervisor. At the time I had no idea what a scripty was. So, I started shadowing the super on Messina High and asking as many questions as I could (by the way, Sara Sposito, I couldn’t have done it without your help). By the time the new project started I felt like I was ready; or at least at a level that would be sufficient for a short, student film. The project went well, and I fell in love with script supervising. From there I offered my services to student project after student project. Eventually I started getting asked to super on projects for people I didn’t go to school with. After a couple of those, I got a couple paid gigs.
Now, back to the present. Like I said, I’ve been asked multiple times what it is I do, and sometimes on sets, how I do it. I should probably point out that what I actually do is script AND continuity. Traditionally these are two separate roles. But on most indy productions the roles are merged. So what does that all mean? What is it that I’m doing? Basically I’m a note taker. The script supervisor takes detailed notes on scene and take number, camera angle and lens, director’s notes on individual takes, and even how long each shot is.
It seems like an easy job. Just watch what’s going on, and take notes. Fill in the form, and you’re done. But there’s a lot more to it than that. I’ve found that it’s perfect for me because it’s just the right combination of OCD, anal retentive note-taking and being creative and flexible enough to work wit the director, DP, and camera operators. You have to know lenses, angles, and camera direction just as well as you know actors, inflection, and the script. That being said, if you can grasp the basic concepts, it is a pretty easy job. And if you’re just as crazy as I am, it may actually be enjoyable.
So what EXACTLY does a script supervisor do?
Pre-Production: 1) Meet with director, script writer, editor, and all principle crew during production meetings. 2) Learn the script. A lot of supers may not do this, but I find it easier to do my job if I know the script. Almost to the point of memorizing. If I know the script page by page, then I can keep on track better. 3) Prep logs and daily pages. NOTE: the logs that I use vary from production to production, depending on what kind of notes the director and editor want, and on what format the project is being shot on. Also, I prep daily pages by making sure I’ve got a copy of those pages that I can take notes on, then I sharpie out any scenes on those pages that aren’t being shot that day.
Production: 1) Pay attention. The number one job of a script and continuity supervisor is to pay attention to the scene. Part of the job is making sure that scenes look the same from take to take. Otherwise you have gaps in the edit. Ever notice that something changes without motivation? That means the scripty wasn’t paying attention. 2) Take notes. I use a continuity log and daily pages to take notes. This way I can be sure that all parts of a scene have coverage, and so I can note any differences in blocking/lines/camera movement. 3) Pay attention. Continuity is key, so the script supervisor needs to pay really close attention to all the small details. 4) Talk with the AC/ camera operator/ DP (depending on size of project) to make sure things are being slated correctly. I’ve also found that by checking with the camera crew about what lenses/rolls/shots they are on that it helps them catch if something is amiss. I.e.: supposed to be on a 50mm lens when a 28mm is currently in use. 5) Take stills of each shot. This way, if the crew has to go back and do a re-shoot, then they can use your stills as reference for continuity.
Post-Production: 1) Scan and email logs, lined daily pages, and notes to director and editor. Part of what you discuss in pre-production is who gets copies of your notes. Usually the director, editor, and producer get copies. But I’ve worked on projects where the DP also gets them.
The latest project I worked on was My Sweet Clementine, a short by Nico Van Den Berg (digitalrevolutionmedia.com). I know Nico from school, and have worked on many projects with him; so when he asked me to super for his senior project, I jumped on it, no question. And I’m glad I did. The script was solid, the crew was amazing, and it was a great four days of shooting.
We go by many names: scripty, super, I’ve even heard S.S. (yes, in reference to the Waffen SS, ask me if you want to know why); but it all equates to one thing: script supervisor. We help keep productions on track, we make things easier for the editor, and we check for continuity. I know when I was in school, we never had a super on set, but I’ve learned that any serious narrative production needs to have one. At the end of the month, I’ll be speaking to students at the Art Institute of California- San Francisco about what it is I do, and why it is important that you have a scripty on set. I love answering questions, so if you have any about script supervision, I’d be more than happy to answer them.