What makes script supervisors the unsung heroes of film and television?

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Do you think you can do without a screenwriter? Think again.

This post was written by Caryn Ruby.

Savvy directors and smart producers get it. So why do so many productions think they can save money by not hiring a script supervisor? Or when they do, why are we one of the last department heads hired?

You may be thinking about saving money by not hiring a script supervisor, but you’re probably setting yourself up for a much longer and more expensive post-production process.

What makes script supervisors the unsung heroes of film and television?

In Jon Fusco’s 2017 article on No Film SchoolHere’s why screenwriters are the “secret ninjas” of filmmaking,” scriptwriter Eve Butterly was right:

“I’m your cheapest department because I’m a department of one and have the opportunity to save you the most money.”

While many script supervisors think we should actually be more than a “department of one”, a big part of our job is to find and help fix problems before you start. If we’re only brought in right before filming (if at all), we probably can’t do our best.

Preparation matters

What makes us “secret ninjas” starts with preparation. If we’re brought in early enough, we can spot things that need a script overhaul instead of expensive reshoots or extensive retouching during editing.

We go through the script for any logical inconsistencies, internalize the script, prepare story day/night breakdowns – and as required by the script – various other breakdowns such as locations, time of day, injuries, costumes, props, and any other script-specific details to be shared with all departments.

We are not only a second pair of eyes for the continuity of each service, we are often the only one think about details that fall between departments such as character bow, emotional continuityetc

If you have enough prep time, you help us help you!

Lessons from a Script Supervisor

When I first started supervising scripts, I was so happy to have the job that I didn’t ask for — or even think of asking for — paid prep or closing days. I just did all my prep (and packaging) work for free. This profession has a very steep learning curve and as it takes a while to become proficient, it is customary to take on low paying gigs at first.

I learned early on that prep and closing days had to be paid for, but it’s a constant tension during interviews because I’m often the only one talking about it. Producers and directors often act surprised and “have no budget” for prep days, so I have to justify and explain what I would be doing and why it is necessary for me to do a good job. Maybe part of the problem is that no one ever sees that part of the work because we study and break down the script at home. Only.

Also, it’s always a good idea to include me in production meetings, technical scouts and rehearsals. If I’ve had time to prepare my breakdowns, I can point out potential issues with blocking or shooting shots or remind everyone of an important moment or insert a shot described in the script.

Learn from experience

Early in my career, I put it down to inexperience. I was new, and many of them were too. But it kept happening, with some movies calling for a screenwriter to start on set the next morning – no time for prep even if it was paid!

At script supervisor meetings, I learned that this was not a new or unusual problem. Even at union level, script supervisors are always fighting over enough prep days, camera fees, box rentals, etc.

In reality, Sylvia Parker (no time to die, The favourite) told me that a mid-budget movie she scripted years ago sent the second unit to film pick-ups of a large battle scene without a script supervisor. She had recommended that her intern script the scene, but UPM decided they weren’t necessary. So the scene (involving many extras) was shot with the stunt doubles’ weapons all in the wrong hands and it didn’t fit the main unit.

In the end, they had to do it all over again, this time with trainee ! This is an extreme but not uncommon example. Productions often try to save money by not paying the modest salary of a script supervisor, then have to pay many times more at the end to fix mistakes that could easily have been avoided with a perfectly flawless script supervisor. prepare.

A director I worked with said to me, “I really don’t need a screenwriter, the producer made me hire one.

And after being the first script supervisor experienced directors worked with time and time again, it started to become clear. How could producers and directors understand/appreciate what script supervisors do if they have never worked with a trained professional before?

This lack of understanding of even the basics of our work leads many to believe that they can just give software to a PA and call them a script supervisor. When they perform poorly, it’s not just this film that suffers is all of us, because it denies our value and denigrates the necessity of the position itself!

We need a podcast about it!

It’s frankly infuriating that so many people think we’re just “note takers” and/or frivolous crew members who can be easily eliminated. Something must be done!

So I created the podcast, “Script Supervisors: Unsung Heroes of Film and TV”, a behind-the-scenes pass into the process of making a film from one of a film crew’s most challenging and lesser-known department head positions.

All 10 episodes are coming less than 30 minutes and include advice from more than a dozen dogmatic script supervisors from across the United States. with experience in everything from low-budget independent films and commercials to several Oscars and Emmy Award and nominated films and TV shows, including Black Panther, star wars episode ix, Mister Robot, Boardwalk Empire, Fear the living dead, Harriet, Pi’s life, Pen15… And the list continues!

Each episode includes a short interview with one of our esteemed guests and a compilation of the best and most relevant information on a single theme distilled into a fast, funnyand extremely educational subject such as “What is a script supervisor?” Where, “Why you should stop calling us scripty.

I hope you will listen and help spread the word. Together we can help educate our colleagues and dispel some of the myths about our amazing and misunderstood profession!


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