Continuity

Someone who does continuity is also known as a script supervisor. A script supervisor is a one-person department who works on a set at the epicenter of all that's going on. This person's primary job is to match movement, dialogue, props and often wardrobe, hair and makeup from one take to the next and one scene to the next, even though two consecutive scenes may be shot weeks apart from one another. He times each take with a stopwatch, records the type of shot (establishing, two-shot, over-the-shoulder, close-up, etc.), the camera lenses used and takes copious notes for the editor, his "lined" script being the blueprint for editing the show. The script supervisor usually sits next to the camera. He lets the director know how each scene is running time-wise and helps to make sure that each has been properly covered. He runs lines with the actors and often fills in for an actor by reading dialogue from the other side of the camera as another performer is being photographed in a close-up shot (thus allowing the first actor to retire to her dressing room or leave for the day and "get off the clock").

The script supervisor also generates a daily report and a daily log. The report indicates the shoot day, crew call, first shot of the day, time spent at lunch, first shot after lunch, last shot of the day, camera wrap and scenes, pages setups and minutes completed. This report is submitted to the second assistant director and used in completing the daily production report. The daily log is for the editor, and it's a record indicating the camera rolls used, scene numbers, take numbers, timing of each take, camera lenses used, page count of each scene shot and a shot description list. Lots of detail, lots of things to keep track of.

To do this job well, you have to have a good eye and a good memory, be extremely detail oriented, organized, good at multitasking and politically adept at dealing with diverse personalities. You should also have a good working knowledge of what everyone does on a set, as you'll be interacting with many other departments.

The best way to become a script supervisor today is to start by taking a course. Just make sure it's a reputable school, and get references from past students if possible. You'll also want to network with other script supervisors, who for the most part, are good about sharing tips.

The hours are long and your work isn't done at wrap, as you generally still have notes to complete for the editor; but for someone who wants to be in the thick of it and involved with every shot of a film, this is a terrific job.

I wanted to be a script supervisor at one time and a wonderful script supervisor-friend, Lloyd Nelson, let me shadow him on a show he was working on. After he'd finish his notes at the conclusion of each take, he'd quiz me: "On what word did that actor remove his glasses?" "When did he set down his beer mug?" In one exterior scene, an actor was dunked in a water trough, and the next day, he was filmed walking into the building. At that point Lloyd asked, "How wet is he supposed to be?" You really have to pay attention and have this innate ability to take it all in. My career as a script supervisor never panned out, but I always admire those who do it well.

Lloyd has done everything from episodic to several years' worth of Clint Eastwood features. He started off as an actor and dialogue coach, but eventually wanted something more stable. He's retired now, but I asked him what his favorite part of the job was. He said he loved having the responsibility associated with a difficult and important job and the prestige that came from knowing he was good at what he did. He loved being right next to the camera and being able to work with top industry talent: the directors, actors, DPs, editors and all the other crew members, many of whom became life-long friends. The worst part was just the fact that he didn't have his own crew or department. There was no one to help him out, especially when he was just starting and mastering his craft. But master it he did, and then some.

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