Script Supervising and Film Continuity
eBook - ePub

Script Supervising and Film Continuity

Pat P Miller

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  1. 256 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Script Supervising and Film Continuity

Pat P Miller

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About This Book

This definitive handbook explains how a script is transformed into a motion picture or television program. Readers will learn the methodology and craft of the script supervisor, who ensures that the continuity of a film, its logical progression, is coherent. The book teaches all vital script supervising functions, including how to:
.prepare, or "break down" a script for shooting
.maintaining screen direction and progression
.matching scenes and shots for editing
.cuing actors
.recording good takes and prints
preparing time and log sheets for editingThis revision of an industry classic has been updated to reflect changes in the film industry in recent years, including the use of electronic media in the script supervisor's tasks. While it is written for the novice script writer, it can serve as a valuable resource for directors, film editors, scriptwriters and cinematographers.

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Getting Into the Act

It would benefit you enormously to gain entry into a movie studio lot—at your earliest opportunity—and observe a studio sound stage while filming is in progress. A sure way to get an inside track is to apply for any kind of a job. In the meantime, I shall endeavor to acquaint you with an overview of the traditional studio lot.


A studio lot is a complex of sound stages and buildings that house the equipment, offices, and personnel connected with the production of feature pictures or television shows.
NOTE: For someone entering a studio lot for the first time, here's a warning: Heed the red light. Sound stages are marked with huge numbers on their outside walls. There is also a red light above every door, or on a stanchion just outside the door. When the red light is blinking, it means filming (shooting) of a scene is in progress. In industry parlance, the process of transmitting a live performance onto film is referred to as shooting the scene. Do not open the door to peek in or enter the stage. Why? Because the squeak or slam of the door will be picked up on the sound track, causing an actor's speech to be obliterated; and if the scene were lit for darkness or other special effects, a shaft of light from the outside may well ruin what is being filmed. In each instance, the scene might have to be done over because you have possibly shattered a delicate mood. Also, you've caused a costly, time-consuming disturbance. So I repeat: Heed the red light.
When the shooting takes place at locales away from the studio stages, other methods of forewarning are implemented. You will also profit by observing a movie set that is filming anywhere other than a studio sound stage—where there is no red light or forbidding door to forewarn you. At those locales, when the camera is ready to roll, the first assistant director (1st A.D.) or the production assistant (P.A.) will yell, “Quiet. . . rolling.” All must instantly stop in their tracks—and not resume activity until the announcement “Cut” or “All clear”— at which time you may resume talking and moving about.
It will also benefit you to visit a local independent production company where filming is taking place—indoors or outdoors. I advise this because contemporary movie-making is no longer the exclusive domain of the time-honored major studio with performances confined to conventional studio sound stages. (Once again, a sure way to get an inside track is to apply for any kind of a job at a film or television studio, or an independent production company.)
A word of caution: Do not carry any camera onto a sound stage or shooting locale. You may be summarily asked to leave the premises, and the film in your camera may be confiscated.

Inside a Sound Stage

Having gained entry to the inner sanctum of a sound stage, try to remain there for the better part of a day. Carefully observe all the activities. Much may be incomprehensible at first, but before long you will be able to understand the functions of various technicians. But you will find one technician whose scope of work will not be readily apparent. He or she is the continuity supervisor.
You will observe this person concentrating on the scene and making notes in a book (known as the script), also conferring with the director, the actors, the director of photography, and other production personnel. Primarily, the continuity supervisor is recording critical information for the editor: notating the way the director is transforming the script into motion picture scenes that will be projected onto theater or television screens.
More intricate aspects of the continuity supervisor's functions will be depicted in subsequent chapters, and you will gain a perspective of the knowledge and skills that are mandated for the career of continuity supervising.


Continuity supervising is a multifaceted and highly responsible job that requires specific qualifications: prerequisites and requisites.


A sharp eye for visual details and a good ear for sound.
Composure under stress and the ability to function with aplomb when the atmosphere is fraught with tension, and speed is a priority.
A high level of energy to sustain you during the long days and nights of a shooting schedule.
Ingenuity to improvise whenever circumstances arise that were not covered during your training, or encountered in past experience.
An analytical mind and a keen sense of organization.
An aptitude for basic arithmetic.
Legible handwriting or hand printing.
A respectable command of the English language.
Some form of shorthand or speed writing.
A pleasing personality, well-mannered deportment, and good grooming.


Comprehension of the dynamics of the camera and film progression: to be proficient in matching camera angles and action cuts.
Techniques for rehearsing and cuing actors.
How to time rehearsals and performances.
How to calculate picture running time.
Expertise in reading a script to analyze and break it down according to standard procedure for filming scenes out of continuity.
Knowledge of screenplay and teleplay forms. It is suggested you read as many scripts as possible. Scriptwriting has undergone significant modifications in recent years, and you should be familiar with the changed formats. There may be times when part, or all, of a scene will be performed ad lib; not according to the written dialogue and description in the script. In that case, you will have to transcribe the improvised scenes per the particular format of the script at hand. There will be times when a scene goes into rehearsal—and sometimes even into filming—without benefit of script. In that event, you are the only person who can provide the record of the action and dialogue that has been committed to film. Here's where speed writing is valuable.
An understanding of the dynamics of camera direction and progression. Both subjects mandate particular skill in matching camera angles and action cuts.
Techniques for rehearsing and cuing actors.
How to time rehearsals.
How to calculate picture running time.
Basic computer literacy.
Basic knowledge of video and digital visual effects.


Ballpoint pens
Booklight: Tiny, batteried, clipped to script; or hanging from neck
Camp stool: To squeeze into tight camera spots, or for locations when chairs are impractical
Clasp envelopes
Computer, printer, and up-to-date software
Correction fluid
Dictionary (including a software dictionary in your computer)
Envelopes: Legal size
Felt pens—waterproof (Sharpies)
Filing folders
Index dividers and tabs
Laptop computer, portable inkjet printer, up-to-date software, and when possible, a computer diskette (obtained from the Production Office) with the most current version of the script in a software compatible with your own
Mylar-reinforced three-hole paper*
One-hole punch
Paper clips
Paper for printer
Pencils: Lead and colored—mechanical pencils eliminate need for sharpeners. I discourage highlighting words on the script page. This may obliterate the text when photocopied. Underscoring with colored pencils makes neater copy.
Polaroid camera (or one of the new, small electronic digital cameras). In the past, at major studios, the use of Polaroid or any other kind of camera by the continuity supervisor for matching purposes was forbidden. According to the then union rules, only the still photographer assigned to a feature or a TV show could provide you with photographs you required for matching. (Rarely were they exacdy right for your matching purposes.) Present-day continuity supervisors must provide their own cameras, so you are in control.
Rubber bands
Reinforcements (self-stick) for three-hole punch paper
Ruler: Clear—attached to script binder by a cord
Scratch pads
Script binder: Spring-back or three-ring; different sizes for shorter or longer scripts
Stapler and remover
Three-hole punch
Timepiece: An accurate wristwatch or pocket watch is an essential tool because it is your official duty to record the time of the day's first shot, the time lunch was called, the time of the first shot after lunch, the time for dinner, and the time the company wrapped
Typewriter and typing paper: If not using laptop computer
Writing paper


What is film continuity? It is the unique methodology by which a story is dramatized on film.
In a legitimate-theater stage play, actors perform the s...

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