What Is a Script Supervisor?

Script supervisor taking notes on computer

If you have a love of cinema, there are many rewarding careers in the film industry you could pursue. The first Hollywood job that many people think of is that of an actor. However, there are numerous behind-the-camera possibilities to consider, such as the job of a script supervisor.

What is a script supervisor and what do they do? These professionals play a critical role in ensuring that the final cut of a film is error-free and aesthetically pleasing to the audience. Explore this career guide to learn more details about a script supervisor’s job.

What Is a Script Supervisor?

A script supervisor is also sometimes referred to as a “continuity supervisor.” It is a common misconception that the script supervisor actually supervises the writing of the script. In fact, the script supervisor is an on-set film crew member who is responsible for ensuring consistency in the details of the film.

This may seem like it should be a simple job, but it’s actually fairly complicated and requires laser-like focus on the film’s details. Most films are shot out of sequence, meaning that a film crew might shoot the ending of a film before shooting its introductory scene. It’s the script supervisor’s responsibility to keep track of the film’s timeline and ensure its consistency.

Inconsistent details in a film can interfere with the viewing experience. For instance, let’s say you watch a film in which a professor is giving a lecture to a class while wearing a polka-dot tie. The film cuts to a view of the students, and then returns to the professor, who is now wearing a striped tie.

Or, let’s say it’s an action movie and the characters are riding around the Australian outback in a mud-splattered Jeep. In the next scene, the Jeep should still be covered in mud unless the film shows the car heading into a car wash. As you can see, the job of a script supervisor is all about keeping track of the details.

What Does a Script Supervisor Do?

Now that you know the general answer to the question “What is a script supervisor?” it’s time to take a closer look at some of their specific tasks.

  • Script breakdown – During pre-production, the script supervisor compiles a script breakdown. This is a document that details all of the various elements for each scene. These elements might include everything from the time of day, the costumes needed and the props that will be required. The script breakdown is then sent to the various departments on set, such as the costume department.
  • Detailed notes – During the shooting of the film, the script supervisor is present for each take. They will take extensive notes about each scene, including which direction an actor looks while speaking a particular line, which hand an actor uses to pick up a prop and so on. The notes will also reference scene and take numbers as well as camera information, such as info about lenses and filters.
  • Production book – After all of the scenes have been shot, the script supervisor organizes and compiles all of the scene notes into a production book. The director, editors and visual effects artists refer to the production book to ensure continuity during the post-production phase.

Earning Your Digital Film Degree

If the answer to the question “What does a script supervisor do?” has made you eager to pack up your bags and head for Hollywood, you should first start making plans for your college education. There is no universal degree requirement for script supervisors; professionals come to this field from a range of academic backgrounds. However, it’s certainly helpful to have a strong background in film production.

A digital film degree program teaches competencies in areas such as visual storytelling, digital video production and film directing. This degree will give you a thorough foundation in the fundamentals of film concepts, terminology and aesthetics.

How to Become a Script Supervisor: A Tutorial for Graduates

Now that you’ve graduated with your digital film degree, you’re probably raring to get out there and submit your application for various script supervisor jobs in Hollywood. However, you should know that you’ll need to get some work experience first.

Script supervisors have a lot of responsibility. As such, they need to have a strong understanding of the film production process. Even after earning your degree in digital film, you can expect to need some extensive on-the-job training. Script supervisors often get their start in the film industry by working as production assistants on at least a few film productions.

Production assistants are assigned to various departments but often are under the direction of the Assistant Director. Just like an office assistant, a production assistant can expect to do a little bit of everything. They may do any of the following tasks:

  • Act as runners between departments, handing off memos or picking up equipment
  • Helping secure locations before filming begins
  • Driving production vans to and from location

Although the job of an assistant may not sound all that glamorous, it’s crucial that you give it your best effort every day. Impressing the right people is your ticket to a higher-level job, such as that of script supervisor. Plus, maintaining a solid work ethic as a production assistant will help you learn the ins and outs of the industry and the process of creating films.

In the film industry, whom you know and who knows you can be just as important as what you know. In addition to giving your job your best effort, you should strive to actively cultivate good working relationships with everyone you meet on set. Building a robust professional network will help you pursue your goal of becoming a script supervisor.

After serving as a production assistant on at least a few film productions, you may decide it’s time to pursue your next challenge. Aspiring script supervisors may have a better chance of landing a job with an independent film, rather than the next Hollywood blockbuster.

As you look for the right opportunity, remember to tap into your professional network. For instance, you can ask your contacts if the next film they’re working on needs a script supervisor. After you’ve worked as a script supervisor for a few independent or low-budget films, you may be qualified to pursue a position at a major production.

Essential Skills and Characteristics of an Effective Script Supervisor

An effective script supervisor needs an array of skills and traits to fuel their success on set. Among the most important is attention to detail. The essence of a script supervisor’s job is to remain laser-focused on the hundreds of little details of each scene in the film.

When a director or an actor has a question about these details, script supervisors are expected to provide a prompt answer. Whether it’s the positioning of a spoon in a prop bowl or the tilt of an actor’s hat, script supervisors must pay attention to just about everything.

Other essential skills and characteristics include the following:

  • Organization – It’s critical to keep all of those details organized throughout the lifecycle of the film
  • Assertiveness – Script supervisors must not hesitate to speak up if they notice a continuity error, even if it means the entire scene must be shot again
  • Diplomacy – Although it’s necessary to speak up about errors, it’s also important to do so diplomatically, as other crew members may get frustrated
  • Computer literacy – These days, script supervisors often use software programs to manage tasks such as the script breakdown and production book

If you’re passionate about the artistic promise of a career in the film industry, then you can earn a digital film degree from the College of Arts and Media at Grand Canyon University. The Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Screenwriting degree program challenges students to reach their full potential by developing their talents in areas such as visual storytelling, screenwriting, cinema directing and media adaptations. Begin planning your future at GCU by clicking on the Request Info button above to request more info.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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