A script supervisor or continuity is a member of a film crew responsible for maintaining the film's internal continuity and for marking the production unit's daily progress in shooting the film's screenplay. On early films, the job of script supervisor was performed by an individual credited as the "continuity clerk" or "script girl," and while in fact a great many script supervisors are women, the title "script girl" is now considered sexist and, therefore, archaic and incorrect – similar to the replacement of 'stewardess' by 'flight attendant'. In modern films, script supervisors are either credited as such or as "Continuity", in a film's closing credits.
In the most basic description, the script supervisor is the editor's and writer's representative on set, as well as being the right hand aide to the director and the director of photography. It is the script supervisor's job to make sure that at the end of the day the film can be cut together. In that sense, they back up every department, monitor the script during shooting and make sure that errors in continuity do not occur that would prevent the film from being able to be compiled in the editing room.
In pre-production, the script supervisor creates a number of reports based on the script, including a one-line continuity synopsis providing basic continuity information on each scene and a wardrobe synopsis used to track changes and damage to wardrobe. These reports are used by various departments in order to determine the most advantageous shot order and the quantities and types of clothing that may be needed. A character that wears a particular shirt that (in different scenes) progresses from clean to dirty to dirty and torn may require at least three sets of that shirt in order to ensure that continuity can be properly managed.
During production, the script supervisor acts as a central point for all production information on a film shoot, and has several responsibilities.
- Continuity – The script supervisor takes notes on all the details required to recreate the continuity of a particular scene, location, or action. The supervisor is responsible for making sure that continuity errors do not happen. For every take, the script supervisor will note the duration of the take (usually with a stopwatch) and meticulously log information about the action of the take, including position of the main actor(s), screen direction of their movement, important actions performed during the shot, type of lens used, and additional information which may vary from case to case. When multiple cameras are in use, the script supervisor keeps separate notes on each. These logs also notate a director's comments on any particular take as to whether it is no good, a hold take (ok, but not perfect), or a print take (a good take). All of these notes are crucial not just for continuity – they provide the editor information on what the director's preferences, any problems with any of the takes and other notes to assist the editing process.
- Slating – The script supervisor interacts with the clapper loader (second camera assistant) and the production sound mixer to make sure that each take of exposed film has a consistent and meaningful slate, that the sound and picture slates match. The script supervisor also notes the sound roll of each sync take, and the state of all MOS takes. This ensures that there is proper identification on the film footage in the editing room so the editor can find and use the correct takes.
- Script – The script supervisor is responsible for keeping the most current version of the shooting script. During shooting, the script supervisor notates any changes from the screenplay that are made by the actors, director or others during the actual filming process. If significant changes are made to the script that affect a future day's shooting, the script supervisor is responsible for providing those changes to the assistant director's team who then will distribute those changes to the rest of the crew. The script supervisor's script is also referred to as their lined script because during shooting, a script supervisor draws a vertical line down the page for each different camera setup. Each line designates the start and stop of that setup, a quick note of what the shot description was and whether or not the dialogue was on camera for that setup. This allows the editor to quickly reference which camera setups cover which portion of the dialogue or action.
- Production Reports – At the end of each shooting day, the script supervisor prepares daily reports for the production team. These reports vary in form depending on the studio or production company; however, they generally include a log of the actual times that shooting and breaks started and stopped, and a breakdown of the pages, scenes and minutes that were shot that day, as well as the same information for the previous day, the total script and the amounts remaining to be done. Also included are the number of scenes covered (completely shot), the number of retakes (when a scene has to be reshot), and the number of wild tracks. The script supervisor is the official timekeeper on any set.
- Editor's Notes – In addition to the production reports, each shooting day the script supervisor also compiles the continuity logs for the day's shooting as well as the relevant lined script pages for the scenes shot that day. Those notes are sent off to the editorial staff to assist them in the editing process.
The script supervisor is the primary liaison between the director (who decides what scenes are to be shot) and the editor (who is usually not present during actual filming but needs to have exact records of the filming in order to do the job of cutting the film together.) The script supervisor is a technical rather than artistic position and is generally considered as part of the producer's or studio's staff. There is usually only one script supervisor on a given film production.
- Miller, Pat P. Script Supervising and Film Continuity. 3rd Ed. Focal Press, 1998.
- Ulmer, Shirley and C. R. Sevilla. The Role of Script Supervision in Film and Television: A Career Guide. Communication Arts Books 1987.