Script supervision is a crucial hat and is one that, if done carefully and with accuracy, will be of great value to the Director and the Picture Editor.
The basic job of the Script Supervisor is to make notes as the filming goes along. These notes are for the Director's use and the Editorial Department's use, although the Script Supervisor works for the Director. This Tech Memo is not meant to be an exhaustive reference on the function of the Script Supervisor, but instead a quick reference to orient you to some of your functions as a Script Supervisor (also called Script Clerk).
Each scene in the script is assigned a number by the Writer or the Director. These numbers proceed from the first scene, scene one (1) through the entire script. For practical purposes, a scene can be considered to be the action that takes place in one location, however the action may extend throughout several or many locations.
The scene to be filmed is broken down into shots. A shot is the length of time the camera is running, in other words, from the time the Directors says "SOUND" to the moment he says "CUT." Each one of these shots is a unit of film. These are referred to as takes in the script notes. Each time the action is repeated, for filming purposes, so that an anticipated better take can be produced, it is called a new take. This can be repeated until the Director feels that he has gotten the performance that is "perfect."
Normally, the scene is filmed with a wide angle lens once through the entire scene. This wide angle take is referred to as the master. It is a comprehensive shot that serves to introduce the location and the relative positions of each of the actors. It is labeled from the scene number. Each take is also labeled as such:
1 - 1 (scene 1 - take 1)
2 - 3 (scene 1- take 3)
125 - 1 (scene 125 - take 1)
125 - 4 (scene 125 - take 4)
When a successful master is shot, the Director will restage the action for the various angles. The actors will duplicate their performances exactly the way they did for the master. Each one of these new angles will show the action in some kind of special detail and will provide the Editor with a wide variety of cutting options. The Script Supervisor must see to it that the actors duplicate their performances each time.
When the camera changes angle, the letter "A" is added to the scene number. When the camera takes another angle still yet, the next letter "B" is added to the scene number. Each time the camera changes angle, the Script Supervisor labels the new take with another letter. Thus the sequence would be like this:
125 - 1 Spoken: "Scene 125 take one"
125 - 2 "Scene 125 take two"
125 - 3 "Scene 125 take three"
125A - 1 "Scene 125 apple take one"
125A - 2 "Scene 125 apple take two"
125B - 1 "Scene 125 baker take one"
125B - 2 "Scene 125 baker take two"
125B - 3 "Scene 125 baker take three"
. . . etc. until that scene is done.
The letters are always spoken out in the form of any distinct word like BAKER, APPLE, CHARLIE, etc. This is so that the editors can clearly understand what is on the sound track when they work with the film in the cutting room.
If for some reason the Director calls a halt to the take before it would normally be over, he may wish to pick up the shot from the point he left off, rather than redo the whole shot. This will save film. If you were just doing 125B - 3 and then did a pick up on this shot midway through you would label the pick up as follows:
125Bpu - 1
Do not use the letters "L", "O", or "I" because they all too easily can be mistaken for other numbers and letters. Skip them and label the next shot with the next consecutive letter on up to "Z" as necessary. After "Z" start with "AA" and call it "apple, apple". Next "AB" and call it "apple, baker", etc. . . .)
If the Director wants to add some shots or scenes that are not in the original script, label these using the existing script numbers to show approximately where they will flow in the story, per the script, but along with these original script numbers put a letter in front of the scene number. For instance, let's say the Director gets an idea and wants to add a scene just after scene 125 but before scene 126. This scene, and all its subsequent angles and takes, would be labeled as follows:
A126 - 1 "Apple 126 take one."
A126 - 2 "Apple 126 take two."
A126 - 3 Etc...
A126A - 1
A126A - 2
A126B - 1
A126B - 2
A126Bpu - 1 "Apple 126 Baker pick up take one."
A126Bpu - 1
A126C - 1
. . . etc. until the scene is done.
You, the Script Supervisor, are responsible for naming every take in the production. The Director, the Sound Man and the Second Assistant Cameraman will look to you for an accurate scene, angle and take number. In the last analysis, you must know where the production is and what the last take was called. That's your province and you can be assured the Director and the Second Assistant and the Sound Man, all being very preoccupied, will come to you with the question: "What's the next shot called?" You need to be the central information center on the set. The only exception would be if the Director requested that you call some shot something different that he might want. In that case, comply with what he wants, and make sure that the others, the Second Assistant and the Sound Man, know what the next shot will be called. Remember, these two, likewise, have to keep notes similar to your script notes and these are to reflect the same number for any given take--otherwise the shot will be mislabeled and it will give the editors extra problems locating it.
In the script itself, draw a vertical line through the sections of action and dialogue covered by the actual take. Then label this line neatly along its side or at the top. Be certain that this line only reflects WHAT ACTUALLY WAS TAKEN. To do this it is best to draw in the whole line when the shot ends by the director saying, "CUT". Ideally, the line should be wavy where there is on-camera dialogue, i.e., mike is on the actor speaking. This varies, as a technique, sometimes from one script supervisor to the next.
The script notes themselves are actually from pages that are filled out throughout the course of principal photography. Some of the information on these pages includes:
SHOT, TIME, LENS USED, EXACTLY WHAT THE ACTION WAS, RELEVANT DATA
The shot would be the number as discussed above. The time the shot went would have to be measured with a stopwatch, so guess what--you have to have a stopwatch. The lens used would be as follows:
The wide establishing shot. Abbreviated: M
A shot from about the waist up. Abbreviated: MED
A shot showing the top half up. Abbreviated: MCU
A shot showing some close detail like the head. Abbreviated: CU
A shot showing two (2) people, in it, usually MCU
A shot showing three (3) people in it, etc. . . .
A shot showing a wide expanse. This term can be interchanged with the term "master" on occasion and is abbreviated: LS
On the barrel of the lens are numbers that designate what millimeter of lens is being used. The higher the number, the more telescopic the lens, hence the closer up things look. The lower the number the farther away things look to the lens. The Script Supervisor should get these numbers from the First Assistant Cameraman. If the Camera Operator is doubling as the First Assistant, get them from him. Also, if you don't get in the way, you can very easily get the number yourself by taking a look at the lens. It is ideal to record in your notes both the shot closeness (MCU, CU, LOS, etc.) and the lens millimeters (7.7mm, 100mm, 85mm, etc.). This way there is no doubt what the shot will look like from the camera point of view (POV).
It is important to note down in the script notes what happened in the shot. It is not necessary to put everything, but put the things that need to be the same from shot to shot. For instance, if the actor sits and then puts his right foot up, you need to note this and make certain that he puts his right foot up in the next take--not his left foot.
At the end of the day, be sure to note what clothes the actors and actresses were wearing.
Also, at the end of the day you should take several Polaroid snapshots of the set to ensure that it is not changed.
You are the main relay person to the Assistant Editor. He will depend on you for details, so be able to provide them to him and to the Director as work progresses.
At the end of the day's shoot, collect the camera reports and the sound reports and, along with your script notes, do a quick check over everything to make sure everything is in order and all three correspond with each other. Then get one copy of these back to the editing room, get one copy to the director, get one copy of the camera report off with the film to go to the lab (the second assistant will take this copy) and keep one copy of each for yourself at all times (preferably in your car).
If you read these notes over several times after you have experienced a day on the set, the whole thing will make much more sense and it will be easy to streamline your actions.
Sample Script Notes - Part 1
Sample Script Notes - Part 2
Sample Script Notes - Part 3
Sample Script Notes - Part 4
EXT. TOM'S HOUSE - DAY Laughing and out of breath, TOM and LAURA collapse on Tom's front porch. TOM I've never seen Hot Ass run so fast! They laugh. LAURA Hey, what's your Mom going to say if you're home this early? TOM She's at work. Come on in. I'll show you my new BB gun. INT. TOM'S BEDROOM - DAY TOM and LAURA enter and TOM crosses to his closet, takes out a BB rifle and goes to a window. TOM has tossed a six pack of beer on the bed. LAURA gives TOM a little kiss and sits on the bed watching while she opens a can. TOM (fireing a shot) Check this out. It's really accurate. LAURA and CAMERA LOOK PAST TOM to see that he is firing at his neighbor's windows. LAURA gets up to look closer. LAURA Hey! You're going to break their windows! TOM Nah, don't worry-- they're just pinging on her glass. (indicating a control on the rifle) See, all you do is set this little lever for the exact impact velocity you want, and according to the chart here-- (points to a technical chart on wall) the tensile strength of glass and therefore its critical break- ing point, cannot be reached by a BB arriving at the glass with 2.7 x 10 to the minus 3rd dynes of force, (firing a few rounds) according to the formula F=ma. (fires another round) Therefore, these BB's will not be travelling fast enough (fires off another round) to go through the window. Suddenly, we hear a loud, insistent knocking on a door O.S. TOM (curiously) What could that be? INT. FRONT DOOR TOM'S HOUSE - DAY We hear an insistent KNOCK as TOM opens the door revealing an irate, middle-aged HOUSEWIFE. HOUSEWIFE Tommie-- what the hell do you think you're doing?!? You've shot out every window on this side of my house!! TOM What do you mean? HOUSEWIFE Don't be coy with me-- I've seen your BB gun! And now I've seen the damage it can do! TOM Mrs. Miller, that's impossible. (taking a BB out of his pocket) These BB's only weigh two grams-- MRS. MILLER I don't give a damn what they weigh-- You've ruined my windows! TOM No, no, no. These BB's couldn't possibly have gone through your windows. The tensile strength of glass is 1.15 x 10 to the minus 3rd grams per square meter. MRS MILLER The holes are in my windows. TOM That's impossible. These BB's wouldn't have enough momentum to set up any significant activated complex in a crystalline substance such as glass, especially after a 50 meter trajectory. MRS MILLER All the windows on this side of my house are broken. TOM No, Ma'am. I don't think that's possible. Maybe it's an optical illusion. Have you washed your windows lately? MRS MILLER (thinking, then) NO. TOM Does it look like there's little sparkly things on the windows? MRS MILLER Why yes. TOM That could be crystallized dust, Mrs. Miller. MRS MILLER (thoughtfully) Oh...? She waves distractedly, then walks back toward her house shaking her head muttering in confusion to herself as Tom calls after. . . TOM Bye, Mrs Miller--- Have a good day, Mrs. Miller... . . .and closes the door.
Sample Script Log
© 1979, 1999 by James R. Jaeger II All Rights Reserved