"The script supervisor has to know what shirt an actor is wearing, what
shoulder a purse is on, whether they're wearing a scarf or not, whether they're
wearing a wedding ring or not," explains Lexie Longstreet, a script supervisor
who's worked on movies like Tombstone and True Lies. "I take Polaroid pictures,
and you have to have a really good memory and learn to watch very carefully."
The script supervisor has to be able to tell the director and cast when
a scene won't cut with an earlier scene. "That's the bad part of the job,"
says Longstreet. "You're always the one telling them, 'This was wrong!' You
have to say, 'Your bangs fell in your face and it won't match the other shots.'"
But continuity isn't Longstreet's only responsibility. "A script supervisor
is a liaison between the director and the editor."
Editors are always in an edit suite -- typically in California -- and the
director might be shooting on location anywhere in the world. During the shooting
of Navy Seals, Longstreet spent a day on a Spanish submarine in the middle
of the ocean.
A script supervisor has to write careful notes indicating to the editor
what the director did and didn't like about each scene. The editor also needs
to have a detailed list of shots, including type, number of takes, prints,
film, sound roll and where the shots might be found.
The script supervisor keeps track of the number of pages and scenes covered
in a day, the number of setups, the official lunch and wrap times and the
estimated screen time of each scene.
"That's really important," says Longstreet, who has also worked on television
programs like Matlock. "If it's supposed to be a one-hour show, you don't
want it to be an hour and 10 minutes!"
Script supervisors have to have an eye for detail and a good memory. You'll
also need to be able to handle stress well. "You always have a lot of people
around you asking questions and demanding attention," says Longstreet.
Finally, the script supervisor keeps a copy of the script handy at all
times. The script is always there in case an actor needs to refer to it for
lines or if the director wants to see how one scene is linked to the following
Most script supervisors work on a freelance basis. They're hired on a contract
basis to work on everything from commercials to major movies. When that shoot
is over, they move on to another project.
Linda Kodis says some script supervisors work for primarily one or two
directors. "Clint Eastwood comes to mind," she says. "His script supervisor
has been with him for 20 or so years, and when he's not working for Clint
he'll take other script supervisor jobs."
There are two main categories of script supervisors: union and non-union.
Union films tend to be big-budget, big-production films. Unions negotiate
salaries, breaks, overtime and benefits with production companies.
Non-union shoots tend to be student films, films by independent production
companies or films with a modest (under $5 million) budget.
Script supervisors work long days. "Twelve hours is a short day," says
Earen McNey. She worked as a script supervisor on programs like the X-Files.
Longstreet says some weeks she starts working a 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule
and ends the week working 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., shooting night scenes. "I've been
standing in a graveyard in the pouring rain at 3 a.m. That's pretty miserable."
When the shoot is over, script supervisors are out of work and may go weeks
or months waiting for the next contract.