• Continuity - A Misunderstood Art

    For four years I have been working as a continuity/Script supervisor (scripty) and there is one thing that has really started to bother me. More and more of the Irish film makers I meet either don't know what a continuity supervisor does, they get their friend to do it for them or think they don't need one at all. These are the same people who will happily complain about the amount of mistakes there were in whatever piece of crap they were watching the night before yet it doesn't occur to them to pay someone to prevent these mistakes from happening in their own films.

    Now I know we aren't the most popular people on set, usually shouting “you can't do that” or “that's' copy-written, you can't use it” earning us nicknames like continuity Nazi, but it we are a necessary evil. As a director your 1st AD is your right arm but your continuity supervisor is your left. Aside from being responsible for maintaining the films continuity of action and recording and keeping track of the production unit's progress, a scripty is there to make everyone else's job a lot easier and why would you want to make things difficult for yourself.

    There is one person who truly appreciates us though and that's the editor. Every time we yell at the clapper loader for missing a slate or an extra for moving props it's not for the good of our health it's for the editor. At the end of the day he or she is the one that's going to be the one putting the film together and more often then not they won't be on set. So the only way they're going to know which shot goes where or what roll its on is if you do your job properly. Don't ever let anyone tell you “it'll be fine” or “we don't need to do that”, it's not on their head it's on yours, so feel free to shout at them.

    Often when I meet new people on a set they ask me what I do and when they find out I always get the same response, “Jesus I wouldn't want to be doing your job, must be a nightmare”. As daunting as it may seem continuity is a great job, there may be a lot of paper work involved but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature and you don't really notice it. I hope more people will decide to get into continuity, may be this article will help although I doubt it. I have only ever met two other scriptys and one of them was my lecturer so I'm not sure if that counts.

    A director once gave me the excuse “Scorsese doesn't use a continuity supervisor so why should I”, which is right up there with “sure I'll keep an eye on it myself, it'll be fine”. This of course is complete and utter rubbish and any director who thinks they can get away without a scripty is a fool.

    So before you decide to leave a continuity supervisor out of your production team read the following list of what we do and then make your decision. I hope it's the right one.

    1. Time the script
    2. Story day breakdown (timeline, story continuity)
    3. Page and scene count
    4. One-line breakdown
    5. Make continuity notes
    6. Voice Over list
    7. Prepare and customize note forms
    8. Assemble tools - notebooks and covers, ruler, pens and pencils, stopwatch, digital camera, set box, set pouch, various office supplies. Of course if you use Script-E software you won't need half of this.
    9. Put together materials for shoot - script with note page form photocopied on back, master sheets, production reports, script note forms, breakdowns, continuity notes & wardrobe forms, voice over list, pick up form, call sheets & one line schedule & shot list, miscellaneous
    10. Attend rehearsals and cast read thru
    11. Set up process for getting script notes copied and returned with production.
    12. Get clearance information from producer, art department, propmaster, wardrobe (very important!)
    13. Attend full production meeting – make notes on items discussed, script changes, etc.
    14. Issue Script Changes Memos as necessary
    15. Make notes at hair/make-up/wardrobe tests if needed

    1. Make notes on every shot taken - script notes and log sheet
    2. Time each take and make notes for prints and performance
    3. Monitor dialogue
    4. Keep a record of all wild tracks recorded
    5. Watch scene rehearsals and make notes on blocking
    6. Assign slate numbers
    7. Keep track of continuity, camera positions and axis, screen direction, eyelines and matching action - working with the camera department, hair and makeup, wardrobe, props, set dressers, and actors
    8. Keep list of coverage for scene - thinking editorially
    9. Double check printed takes on camera and sound reports as necessary
    10. Keep track of film roll numbers and sound roll numbers as necessary
    11. Read off-screen dialogue when needed
    12. Take photos as needed for continuity and matching
    13. Do production/progress report each day
    14. Turn in notes and production report at wrap each day
    15. Attend dailies (not always applicable)
    16. Keep list of pick-ups, inserts and wild lines to be done
    17. Confirm with 1st AD that all scenes are complete before wrapping at each location, before wrapping an actor, and before picture wrap.

    1. Double check notes for accuracy and completeness
    2. Make copy of your lined script for director
    3. Make other copies as needed
    4. Turn in original lined script and log sheets to editorial department
    5. Turn in original production reports and photos to production manager or production coordinator
    6. Do end of picture memo listing any scenes not shot, any incomplete scenes and any shots still to be taken

    About the author:
    Fiona (Kit) Graham

    Degree in Multimedia and communications from the Dundalk Institue of Technology. Masters degree in T.V. and Radio Production from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

    Started in music videos as a D.O.P. and editor. Wrote and directed a number of documentaries, including radio documentaries aired only in Australia.

    Fiona has been working as a continuity supervisor for four years.

    In 2009 Fiona wrote, directed and produced first film (short) "Deadline" (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deadline/208245509199844)

    In 2010 Fiona wrote and directed first feature "The Nixer" (www.thenixermovie.com / http://www.facebook.com/TheNixer)

    Ambitions – "to one day be the dictator of a small caribbean island or failing that own a film studio."
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Bridgef's Avatar
      Bridgef -
      I totally agree about the importance of having a proper continuity supervisor on set. As an actor I am often amazed at how lax some directors are about it. I've done films where we've come back from lunch or setting up a shot and I've been handed different props or another actor is carrying a bag on a different shoulder or something and if I didn't speak up about it there was no one else there keeping an eye on it. Even then there's an attitude of "why are the actors criticising my decisions" when in reality all I'm trying to do when I comment is ensure that the audience don't get confused by random continuity errors and therefore can focus on the story.

      I recently had an incident where we were shooting in a house. The scene was set at a very specific time which was mentioned in the script. However, there was a clock on the wall in the kitchen that clearly showed a different time. It was going to be in a few of the shots but even though I pointed this out several times I was dismissed and when they had to retake a couple of scenes over it the director actually said "why did no one tell me about that?"

      A proper continuity supervisor can make such a huge difference but unfortunately that opinion doesn't seem to be shared by a lot of directors and producers.
    1. Mary's Avatar
      Mary -
      Absolutely vital member of the crew! This article is just what every producer and director needs, to confirm that they need a continuity person on their set.

      As a camera assistant, I heavily rely on them to confirm slate numbers, takes numbers, camera notes etc and that's just me. Sound, props, art department, lighting, cast and EVERYONE else goes to the continuity dept for various reasons during the shooting day. I'm glad you wrote this article Fiona as your profession is one of the truly 'invisible' arts- nobody gets an award for best continuity, but we all complain when it's bad!
    1. Ivan McCullough's Avatar
      Ivan McCullough -
      Script supervisor/continuity supervisor, whatever people like to call it is one of the most important jobs on a set. Everyone benefits from this job being done well. People who don't think the job is important all have one thing in common...they have not worked on a well run set. Its incredible the amount of times I see this position be the first to get the chop on a short, even if there are 10 main cast! madness...

      Only one issue with your article..yelling at people , i am sure you were only being expressive but nobody yells at my crew, or anyone else for that matter. There are some professional standards that are universal.
    1. Sadie K's Avatar
      Sadie K -
      Yes, in my four years of college I am one of a few people who does continuity, and I feel like a leper on set sometimes! The job is very difficult when you start making longer films, and I've a lot to learn. When I make mistakes I feel awful, but the thing is, people often don't allow you to say your piece when you're learning how to do the job. It's something I like doing but I hope more importance is given to the job. On some shoots I've been given 'Other jobs' to do as if I'm simply there as a runner!
      I'm hoping this changes in the future!
    1. ladydaisy's Avatar
      ladydaisy -
      Great article and very informative, definitely a must read!
    1. jesst's Avatar
      jesst -
      Brilliant article Fiona! Hate the DIY/ 'ah it'll do' attitude people have with certain jobs on set. From an art department point of view script supervisor/continuity supervisor's are a God send, especially with peoples eagerness to move/touch/examine props in between takes! Keep up the good work! I'm fighting your corner
    1. gilbert harold kelly's Avatar
      gilbert harold kelly -
      FOZZA knows............she's got experience and is making her own feature films. listen to her. and thanks for taking the time to advise us all.
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