The script supervisor is a well-respected person on set. This position oversees the consistency and continuity of a production while the project is in principal photography. Many script supervisors learn the basics of a film set as production assistants, then move up into assistant director (AD) roles before becoming script supervisors. Kelly Krieg (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Doctor Strange”) began her career as a 3rd AD. “I was given the opportunity to learn about script/continuity as I was asked to cover the script supervisor for the day. That’s when I realized script/continuity ticks all the boxes: You have to be organized, have an overview of the entire production, make a sequence work in several aspects—you are holding it all together.”
Since continuity is a department of one, many professionals remain script supervisors for their entire careers. This means it's a great role for those interested in pursuing a professional path in the film industry. Want to learn more about this position? From salary averages to the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, here’s everything you need to know about becoming a script supervisor.
Script supervisors serve as the editor’s eyes on set to ensure continuity from take to take and scene to scene. This means they are heavily involved when it comes to consistency within costumes, props, hair, makeup, prosthetics, sets, and lighting throughout production. Even though a script supervisor is a team of one, they work closely with the director, assistant directors, and director of photography.
As mentioned above, a script supervisor plays a significant role in the continuity of a project. They keep the set organized and make sure actors and props are where they’re supposed to be in a scene before the camera rolls. Everything from whether a spoon is on the left or right side of a bowl to which wrist a character’s watch is on falls under the eye of the script supervisor. According to Ana Maria Quintana (“Almost Famous,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Jurassic Park”), script supervisors must have “total knowledge of the script,” breaking it down in every department. “Just about everyone on the set needs some kind of information from me,” says Penny Patrick, script supervisor on “The Hangover” and a 35-year-veteran of the job. “They have the questions and it’s up to me to give them the right answer.”
Since most films are shot out of order, they also take notes during filming so it’s easier to organize footage chronologically and edit in post-production. “I represent the editor on set, and I represent the director through my notes,” says Andrea Manners (“Fruitvale Station,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “The Haunting of Hill House”). “We keep detailed notes on the shooting day, scene numbers, take numbers, camera information, lenses, and filters. We describe each scene and make notes on each take,” says Quintana. “All of our notes are given to the editor to use for his or her assembly, and the director will later refer to them during his or her cut. The notes will tell them the good takes from the bad, the incomplete from the complete, what each take had that was particularly good or bad, and any other notes that might help distinguish the shooting scene during the editing process.”
The preparation of production reports also falls under the script supervisor; these “tell [the producers] what we did on set, how many pages we shot, how much of the movie we shot, and how much is left to go,” says Manners.
According to a 2019 report, the national average salary for a script supervisor was $67,000—but it ranged from $19,500 to $129,500. A script supervisor’s salary is dependent on a few factors, including the number of shoots they work and each production’s size, budget, and union status. Typically, the larger the film, the more the script supervisor needs to keep track of, so the larger the paycheck.
Since script supervisors are members of IATSE Local 871, they are guaranteed an hourly rate by their union status. According to Local 871’s rate sheet, script supervisors in their first year in the industry are guaranteed at least $35.78 per hour as an hourly employee working 40 hours a week (with time and a half after that) and $2,144.76 per week as a weekly employee. In the second year, those numbers jump to $38.09 per hour, or $2,253.95 per week. In the third year and beyond, the rates rise again to $40.26 per hour, or $2,379 per week.
While film school is a great place to make connections and get your foot in the door, it's not a requirement for becoming a successful script supervisor. In terms of training, “There’s no direct route,” says Roe Moore (“Sandman,” “Earth to Ned”). “Most people attend a workshop or intensive. Others find senior script supervisors with mountains of experience and learn through shared knowledge.” Moore also suggests that aspiring script supervisors break down the films they watch: “Write down how many close-ups, wide shots, and moving shots they did in a scene. Find out how long the scene ran. Understand why they edited the movie the way they did. Discover the differences in not only pacing but camera framing between a comedy and a drama, a television series, and a film.”
There are also certain skills to master. Script supervisors must have exceptional organizational and communication skills, pay acute attention to detail, take excellent and copious notes, and have a strong knowledge of how sets and shot lists operate.
Another unexpected skill? Knowing what different audiences like and need. “When you are faced with an actor who likes to present a variety of performances of the same scene, it helps to support their creativity by logging improvisations,” says Krieg. “Different performances can be chosen during editorial for releases in other countries to accommodate the target audience…. [like] dialed down ‘airplane versions’ of jokes to allow a film to be offered up restriction-free as on-flight entertainment.”