Continuity 101 (or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Scripty)
- Q & A on just what it is that Continuity / Script Supervisors actually do...

And what about pre-production?

Ah yes. Primarily, in pre-production I time the script and break it down.[1]

My scene timings are used as the basis for the estimated running time of the finished film.[2][3] This will give an idea of whether the intended ninety minutes is actually looking more like eighty or a hundred-and-eighty (and can hence prevent vast amount amounts of time and money being wasted on shooting things that aren’t going to end up in the final cut).[4]

Then while we’re actually shooting, I keep track of how our actual timing corresponds to the original estimates, and you get an idea of whether the film is running short (rare) or long (common).[5].

My breakdowns cover things like day order and scene progression, one-line scene synopses, who and what is in each scene, that sort of thing. These go to the other heads of department for them to cross-reference and plan. You can see some of the form templates I use over in the Forms section of this website, and there are a couple of real examples in the Samples section.

Most important of all though is that a Script Supervisor has to know the script. Which requires reading, re-reading and re-reading, doing countless breakdowns and progressions (some to share, many just for my own notes), and clarifying anything that’s not clear with the director (or writer) as far in advance as possible. I’m trying to anticipate potential problems before we encounter them when we’re actually shooting, since by then chances are it’s too late to do anything about them (“What do you mean, he should be in Prussia not Russia?”).

If you don’t know the script, then you just won’t be able to function properly as a Script Supervisor on set.[6] And without that pre-production work, you’re just not going to know the script properly.[7][8]

  1. And to save another question: No, I don’t have anything to do with post-production once my MUS and Continuity Sheets have been delivered, although I am always available to the editor for any queries she may have. []
  2. Also by the 1st AD for scheduling and such. []
  3. Scene lengths are measured in eighths of a page – hence 1 1/2 pages is actually 1 4/8 and so on – and the standard rule-of-thumb when looking at a script is that one page roughly equals one minute of screen time (for film anyway). This can be used as a rough guide for initial timing and scheduling, but it is only a very rough guide. Sure, normally a 1/8 scene should run a lot shorter and take a lot less time to shoot than a four pager – but take my favourite example of a 1/8 scene, one I heard from a cinematographer friend: “The elephant pushes the ferris wheel off the end of the pier…” []
  4. Ron Burgundy, I’m looking at you. []
  5. As for how I arrive at my initial estimated timings – I’ll leave that to your imagination… []
  6. Which makes standing in for or taking over from another scripty particularly hard. []
  7. For a feature film, this will be anywhere between two weeks to two months (dependent on film and budget – but anything less than two weeks is going to be a problem); for a short, usually a day. []
  8. Although for shorts at least, this “day” is more “ten hours spread over a couple of weeks.” []

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Posted By That Continuity Guy On March 3, 2009 @ 12:05 am In Continuity 101

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