Film is a collaborative effort. That goes without saying. Most people tend to think of this collaboration as one that occurs between the director and actors. Technically, they’re not wrong. They aren’t completely right though. Have you ever stayed through the end credits of a movie? There’s a reason the list of names and attributions goes on forever and ever. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an army to make movie (jury’s still out on which process is more difficult, feel free to cast your vote in the comments). The point is that there’s literally a list of under-appreciated roles in film that deserve a little love, so they’re going to get it.
First up in the “whoa, who knew that was a job?” parade is the script supervisor (sometimes affectionately called “scripty”, though this nickname really downplays how important this role is). What, you ask, is a script supervisor? Put simply, the script supervisor is in charge of continuity, taking notes to help the editor cut the scene, and, like, 20 other things. I can’t underscore enough how important it is that the script supervisor be on top of his or her game. Since films are shot out of order, they’re basically making sure every department knows what’s going on and is following the script.
Being a script supervisor is kind of a rough gig these days. People spend a lot of time closely examining films for Easter eggs and continuity errors. There’s certainly no shortage of lists that name off every out of place detail in a film. Some continuity errors are only really noticed by the hawk-eyed viewers who are actually looking for them, and some are glaringly obvious.
You know how in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix Harry’s shirt magically goes from a short-sleeved crew neck to a long-sleeved Henley? If not then take a gander at the image posted above. That’s the kind of stuff script supervisors keep track of, and, to the best of their ability, help avoid. Almost every major film has a few goofs. We’re only human, after all. Film sets are busy places, and it’s easier than you’d think to forget a small detail here and there.
One of the cool things about script supervisors, for me, has got to be the history behind the position. Originally called “script girls”, the role of script supervisor was done almost exclusively by women in the early days. Even now women primarily fill the role, though plenty of men have jumped on board.
A good script supervisor is a boon to any film set they grace with their presence, and the repeat work they gain is pretty phenomenal. For example, Steve Gehrke is the go-to guy for Christopher Nolan’s films (No, seriously. He was script supervisor for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, The Prestige, Interstellar, and Dunkirk). Script supervisors don’t always circle back to the same director, though. Ana Maria Quintana has worked with a variety of directors on literally some of the best, and best-known, films (Jurassic Park, Avatar, Saving Private Ryan, Blade Runner, Hook, Minority Report, Vanilla Sky- seriously this woman has worked on basically all the movies).
As consumers we tend to focus on the people that make the night show circuit and sit down for Rolling Stone magazine interviews, which means there are jobs we’ve never heard of and people whose names don’t ring a bell (but they should!). In case I haven’t bludgeoned you enough with the point of this post, I’ll give you one more whack- script supervisors are awesome, they have a tough job, and they play a vital role on set. If you don’t believe me, then just wait until the next time you’re casually watching a show and the black eye from a fight keeps changing sides. You’ll agree with me then, I’m sure.