It's a demanding job but someone has got to do it. A script supervisor needs the patience of a saint, dexterity of a talented juggler and the painstaking attention to detail of a top accountant. That's just for starters. A sense of humor and addiction to high-stress situations help too.
A script supervisor's job is to establish the continuity and fluid flow of a film, TV show or commercial. Scenes must follow each other without incongruities in detail, movement, dialogue, cuts, changes in lighting intensity or sound levels. The script supervisor is responsible for keeping a detailed record -- in words, photos and timing numbers -- of the particulars of each completed shot. That takes careful planning.
Quite often, more so in the past, the "script girl" on any set was considered one of the worst jobs a person could have. Why? A large part of the job is to make sure everyone else does their job.
Just about everyone on the set needs some kind of information from me," says Penny Patrick a 20-year-veteran of the job. "They have the questions and it's up to me to give them the right answer. I get to meet everyone on the production."
One of the first stages of script supervision "is to break down the script in ten to twelve different ways," says Patrick who is giving a script supervising workshop this Saturday, December 4 (9-4 PM) in Las Vegas.
The seminar, through Women in Film, will offer an "overview of what the job entails," says Patrick. "Many have left the workshop with the handbook under their arm and gotten jobs right away." Others, who have little or no set experience can sign up for follow up tutoring with Patrick for more precise instruction.
Patrick's credits include Ally McBeal, Stephen King, V.I.P., King Cobra, MTV, Wuthering Heights and Body & Soul, among other productions. She also teaches at University of Nevada Las Vegas and Community College of Southern Nevada.
The seminar will determine if you have what it takes to pursue script supervising as a career. It's a demanding and rewarding job.
Because a film is not shot in sequence, it is the script supervisor's responsibility to see that the hair, makeup, costumes and lighting all match in related scenes. The supervisor will have to give directions to the makeup artist, hairdresser and costume designer to match every detail scene to scene, even when there are days or weeks between filming.
The supervisor will also take photos with a digital or instant camera to record precise placement of props, actors' blocking, lighting and angles. Any changes by the director are also noted in detail.
Along with photos, there are written notes that go on the production breakdown board: the scene number, the location, a short description of the action, time of day, estimated shooting hours, number of script pages, cast, extras, props, costumes; interior or exterior location. This is all done before principal photography begins.
A stopwatch is part of the script supervisor's on-set gear. Continuity sheets assist the film editor match cuts. These offer specific technical information, notes about sound and action running times. Camera directions and shot sizes are also recorded. Those continuity sheets go to the film editor at post production who works with the director and the material filmed, and should be error-free. If it's not, the script supervisor wasn't on top of the chore.
The job might sound daunting but "script supervision is an intricate system that works," says Patrick. "You learn it well and put it into place."
And there are rewards. "Because so many films are made all over the world," says Patrick, "traveling on location can be a great experience. And you meet so many interesting and talented people. One of my favorite experiences was working with the fabulous, fabulous actor Rod Steiger." Script supervising can be an incredibly rewarding career if you're up for the challenge.
The Women in Film Las Vegas Script Supervision Training Workshop by Penny Patrick will be held Saturday, December 4 at Media Underground, 3485 W. Harmon Avenue, suite 100, Las Vegas, NV 89103. The cost is $175 ($100 for WIF members and students). The price of the course will be deducted from any of Penny's private sessions and includes a workbook valued at $50. To register, call 702) 737-7337 or visit the WIF website: www.wiflasvegas.org