Script supervisors oversee the technical, creative, and recordkeeping notes of a project. They’re the intermediary that connects the production to the post-production world. It’s a crucial position and recommended for those with years of experience working in production within the entertainment industry. Our understanding of the filmmaking process needs to be thorough because there are many people depending on us to ensure the project will come together in a cohesive manner.
This means that a day on set for a script supervisor includes working with a number of important aspects of a film that impact several departments. Here’s what it’s like.
6:00 a.m. General Crew Call Time
When I arrive, it’s generally the calmest time of the day for me since I prepare my script breakdowns beforehand and understand what our shooting day looks like prior to stepping foot on set. I challenge myself to know the script better than anyone, including every prop, character and their storylines, and possible shots that may happen in any scene.
I use the start of my day to confirm the shot list with the director, cinematographer, and first assistant director (1st AD). I visit wardrobe, hair, and makeup to review scenes and script continuity. After those meetings, I follow up with a few other crew members: the second assistant camera, sound mixer, and, if available, videotape recorder (VTR). I’ll communicate what information needs to be on the slate and receive the camera and sound information that needs to be placed in my editor notes.
7:00 a.m. Blocking Rehearsal
Before the set is completely lit and dressed, the actors are brought to set for blocking rehearsal. Some projects will allow the director to have a private rehearsal in the space prior to allowing department heads to see the scene, but other projects will do the private director’s rehearsal and blocking rehearsals simultaneously.
While the actors are running the scene, I’m noting on my script where each actor and character is positioned, any movements—including picking up props and entrances or exits—and reviewing if the action being rehearsed matches what’s written in the script. You can see my notes in the image to the left. If there are discrepancies, I bring them up to the 1st AD and/or director. Because this is a creative time, I try to limit my corrections to only essential items.
After the actors are sent back to hair, makeup, and wardrobe, I’ll standby to discuss coverage with the director and cinematographer. Coverage is how many camera angles and b-roll needs to be filmed to make the edited scene feel full and complete. Usually, this means doing wide shots, medium shots, and closeups of each character as well as a few inserts on props or the set. This discussion allows me to keep the director on track so we don’t forget anything that is vital for the storytelling and to the editor.
7:45 a.m. Camera Rehearsal
This is different from the blocking rehearsal because this is the first time everything is seen on-camera. Sometimes what’s done in the blocking rehearsal doesn’t quite work for the camera and adjustments are made. Flexibility is key here. As a script supervisor, I use this time to confirm all props are in place, the wardrobe, hair, and makeup is correct per the script continuity, and I’m listening keenly to the dialogue lines of the characters.
Giving and correcting actor’s lines varies from set to set and from actor to actor. I always ask the director about their preferred approach for an actor who may be struggling with lines, blocking, or continuity. Some directors prefer I go straight to the actor while others are much more protective and prefer I tell them first so the only voice the actor hears is the director. I’ve learned to read the room and determine the best course of action even if I have permission from the director. I’ve seen firsthand where an actor’s performance is greatly diminished when they have multiple voices giving them directives.
7:55 a.m. “Last looks!”
Upon the 1st AD’s announcement of last looks, these final moments are when I can communicate any issues that may come up in regard to continuity or script. If everything looks great, I’ll take my position at the director’s monitor and prepare my editorial log and facing-page notes for this camera setup.
7:58 a.m. “Rolling…action!”
By this time, everyone on set settles and we’re ready to go for our first shot of the day. Once action is called, I’m starting my stopwatch to time the scene to get an estimated run time. It’s also important that I note what time action was called on my daily report.
I’m then watching the monitor to confirm the blocking and movements are followed from the rehearsals, listening to the lines, keeping an eye on technical issues like focus and equipment or gear in frame, and noting on my script when actor actions happen so we can match them later. It’s helpful for me to take photos to reference when discussing continuity with other departments.
8:01 a.m. “Cut!”
I stop my stopwatch and note the scene’s run time in my notes. If there were things missed, I’ll follow up with the departments as necessary. As everything gets reset back to one, I’m standing by to be the last line of defense. If there’s a dollar bill in a wallet that gets passed from Character A to Character B, I’m watching to make sure the dollar bill is given back to Character A before we roll again.
8:15 a.m. “Moving on!”
Most sets will do a few takes of the first setup. Once the director is happy, we’ll hear the words “moving on!” The camera is moved to a different position for a new angle of the scene. While they move the camera, I’m lining the script—this is all those straight and squiggle lines you’ll find in my notes—and filling out my editorial log and facing page with information that would be helpful for the editor when they’re reviewing footage. These notes may include audio notes.
Before we get going again, I’ll check in with the 2nd AC and sound departments regarding the information that goes on the slate and they’ll communicate to me if there were any favorites or issues with the takes. This is also a great time for me to take continuity photos of the set, props, and actors because the first shot establishes these pieces. Unless we reshoot or decide to not use that first setup, everything will remain the same for the scene.
8:30 a.m. “Last looks!”
Just like earlier, I’ll take a final sweep to ensure everything is as it needs to be, but this time also looking to see if it will match what we just shot. For me, this is similar to playing those games where you have the two pictures next to each other and have to spot the difference.
Over the course of the next hour or so, it’s a rinse-repeat of the previous steps. Once we get the shots the director needs, I’ll usually get asked…
10:30 a.m. “Do we need anything else for this scene?”
Directors and sometimes the 1st AD will approach me after we’ve done a lot of setups and ask this question. This is my chance to mention anything we’ve missed from either the shot list, script, or coverage that would be needed in the editor’s bay to make the scene feel complete. If I feel there are shots missing, I’ll suggest the additional shots. For example, if we’re doing the scene where Character A passes the dollar bill to Character B and we only saw the dollar bill action in the wide shot, I may suggest we get a closeup of the dollar bill going from Character A to Character B.
10:45 a.m. “Next scene!”
The 1st AD has sent away the actors to change for the next scene. The cameras and art department are changing up the look on set. I review the upcoming scene, and scenes around it, and check the set. The project will then continue the pattern from the top with blocking rehearsals all the way to camera rehearsal until...
11:13 a.m. Possible Continuity Issue
When the actors returned to set for camera rehearsal, I noticed Character A arrived in the wrong outfit. It’s my position to mention this issue before we get rolling. If I let this go, it can cause an error in the storyline. If Character A is in a different outfit in the scene right before this and there isn’t reasonable justification like it’s the next day or a different location, the audience may get confused. I’ll reach out to either the on set wardrobe department or the 1st AD to ensure this gets corrected before we roll.
12:00 p.m. Lunch
During lunch, I tend to keep to myself. It’s easier to maintain my focus and memory when I step away and use lunch to reenergize. That doesn’t mean I’m not game for conversation, but it can be overwhelming especially if it’s a stressful and complicated day on set.
1:10 p.m. Camera Setup Crosses the 180-Degree Rule
Most filmmakers know and understand the 180-degree rule that dictates the way screen action unfolds and can affect whether two characters look like they are talking to each other. My rule of thumb is whichever shoulder is closest to the camera is the side the camera should stay on. For instance, if Character A’s right shoulder is closest, the camera shouldn’t be placed on Character A’s left shoulder side. When time gets tight and sets begin to rush, this is a common mistake. Technical errors like this are something that a script supervisor needs to be aware of. When this happens on set, I bring it up to the director and cinematographer. I’ll find out whether this was an intentional shot or a mistake as it’s always easier to correct something on set than hope they can make the changes in post on something like this.
The rest of my day is very much reflective of the first part. I’ll note the first time “action” is called after lunch on my daily report. I continue to take notes, watch the monitor, check for coverage, and give continuity feedback.
4:45 p.m. “Martini’s up!”
This means the last shot of the day is happening. When I hear this, I’ll give priority to what’s happening on set but during these few moments, I do my best to review all the notes I’ve taken throughout the day and make certain they’re legible and in the proper order if I’m working with traditional pen and paper or coordinated and combined if I’m working digitally. I’ll take the few moments before we start rolling on our last shot to complete the gaps.
5:15 p.m. “That’s a wrap!”
I note the time on the daily report. I’ll complete all the reports and give one more look at each of my pages before I scan and turn them in for the editor. Before I leave set, I check in with every department about the next day’s schedule, provide any continuity pictures I took for their records, and update my script breakdowns with information that was impacted by the day’s filming.
6:15 p.m. Tail Lights
Once my reports are turned in and I’ve checked in with each department, I get to go home for the day. It varies from set to set, but when the set is running efficiently, I have enough time and energy to take a shower, have dinner, and relax before heading to bed to do it all over again the next day.
Want to learn more about working on a film crew? Visit Backstage’s crew hub!
The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.