Script Supervisor  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dot"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."

dotEditors 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.

dotA 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.

dotThe 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.

dotFinally, 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 one.

dotMost 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."

dotThere 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.

dotNon-union shoots tend to be student films, films by independent production companies or films with a modest (under $5 million) budget.

dotScript 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.

dotLongstreet 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."

dotWhen the shoot is over, script supervisors are out of work and may go weeks or months waiting for the next contract.

At a Glance

Create consistency in films

  • You need an eye for detail and a good memory
  • Most script supervisors work as freelancers
  • A degree from a film program would be an ideal education base