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...

Great then – so that’s coverage sorted?

Ah – no. My role in ensuring coverage goes back to being “the editor’s representative on set”. The Script Supervisor is responsible for making sure that the editor has material to work with. It’s all part of making sure the film will cut.[1]

A very simple rule-of-thumb: everything on the page should have at least two tramlines covering it. This means that every action, every piece of dialogue, is covered by at least two shots. That way the editor can cut between them.

If there is only one shot covering something, then the editor is pretty much stuffed. She has nothing to cut between, she has no options – and the one thing an editor really likes is options.[2].

So what do I look for? Well, I try to:

  • make sure that all action is fully covered. Yes, sounds obvious, but…
  • make sure that all actors are fully covered. The actors tend to be keen on this one too.
  • get reaction shots as well as action shots.
  • get cutaways. Always. Sometimes these are required in the script (e.g. “the minute hand slowly moves to four minutes to midnight”), but even if not, the use of a well-chosen cutaway can save a scene.[3] And if that’s not possible, even an apparently tangential cutaway is better than none.[4]
  • get protection shots. Just in case that wonderful crane-down track-out zoom-in swing-around shot taking us from the rooftop down to the street through the car windows and out to the close-up on the water bottle in the detective’s hand as the bullet passes through it doesn’t quite work – shoot a static wide of the guy being shot, okay? Just in case.
  • start and end every shot on an action. I discussed this earlier, and it’s not always possible nor even desirable, but at the least it should always be considered.
  • generally look for any possible improvements for editing options.

And that is what I do regarding coverage.[5]

  1. Note that I am not responsible for what the coverage is – that’s between the Director and the DoP, and nothing to do with me. I just try to make sure that we actually have coverage. [↩︎]
  2. No, I’m not entirely sure about the grammar there either. [↩︎]
  3. Cutaways are vital to enable the editor to alter the passage of time within a scene – to lengthen or shorten it, to cover unseen action, to modify unnecessary dialogue. And that’s just for starters. [↩︎]
  4. Just shoot something – anything – at the same time, with the same setup. Please. It’s very quick. [↩︎]
  5. Obviously, it is an immense help to know what the planned coverage is in advance. Hopefully I at least get given a shot list, sometimes a storyboard, occasionally even a coverage script (a bit like my MUS, except the tramlines indicate the Director’s planned coverage). If at all possible, I try to spend time with the Director before the first day of shooting, to get a better understanding of how she actually plans to shoot the thing. But of course, however detailed the storyboard and coverage script, it never corresponds to what actually does get shot… [↩︎]

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Posted By That Continuity Guy On March 2, 2009 @ 11:36 pm In Continuity 101

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