Mar 16, 2008

A Continuity Error

I forgot to mention another comment “civilians” like to make when learning about my job. They love to tell me about every continuity error in films they have seen. I’m glad they noticed.

Here is one way a continuity error can happen:

Imagine you are filming a scene between two people having a conversation. Let’s make it Dick and Jane talking outside. In this sequence the actor on camera left and the actress on camera right both enter frame and start talking. Jane leans over and picks up a can of soda. They continue their conversation ending on a let’s get together later note. That is the complete action and the scene ends at that point.

You will film all their dialogue and action in that particular scene starting with a wide shot, (Both actors in frame) which is called a master. Then you will go into coverage. A single of him and then a single of her. (single=close-up for this example) During each single the actors will repeat their complete dialogue and action as they did in the wide shot.

Our continuity error has to do with hair. Our actress “Jane” happens to have long hair. During the wide shot her hair stayed behind her back during all of the takes, even when she leaned over to pick up the can of soda. So we will continue to match this in her single.

During her single around take three she bent down, picked up the soda and her hair fell in front of her shoulders. She continued the scene to the end of her dialogue with her hair forward.

I notate this error in my script book. We continue filming and her hair stayed back throughout the rest of the takes.

At the movie’s premiere the scene was cut as such:

Wide shot with the two of them talking cut to:

Single of him cut to:

Single of her (HAIR BACK) cut to:

Single of him cut to:

Single of her (HAIR FORWARD) cut to:

Single of him cut to:

Single of her (HAIR BACK) cut to:

Single of him cut to:

Single of her (HAIR FORWARD)

So, as you watch the scene her hair flops from being back to forward to back for no apparent reason. Why did this happen? On the day, her hair only fell forward during one take.

The editor can separate each take and use it at will, line by line, in chunks or use just a reaction, whatever they need to sell the scene. They can even switch the order in which the dialogue was said. During certain lines the editor must have felt "Jane" gave her best performance and used those in the final cut regardless of her hair mismatch. Editors will always choose performance over continuity. Wouldn’t you rather have good acting than good continuity? Of course I’d like to have both but one always has to win over the other.

Do I watch for continuity errors when going to the movies? No, that would be work. I just sit back, enjoy, and eat popcorn.

Here is a link to another Script Supervisor's experience with continuity: When Continuity Counts, Call a Script Girl — Er, Guy For those of you who like to note continuity errors check out The Gaffe Patrol: A Continuity-Error Clip Reel...under Zac Efron's picture in that article.

Any continuity errors you want to discuss?


GregX said...

I'm a big fan of the glass that's full, then half empty, then full again, or the unburning candle (gets longer, then shorter, then longer)

That Other Guy said...

I crewed a movie with director Philippe Mora, who I heard tell someone "Matching is for pussies." This attitude may partially explain his career path.

Scripty said...

Thanks for the comment's guys!

GregX, candles and drinks can be continuity nightmares. Look for food miss match's as well. Actors like to eat the food during the take, between takes, after the take, totally messing with the continuity.

that other guy...thank's for stopping by! Your comment hit's it right on the money. Matching is crucial for good editing. Mr. Mora more than likely gave his editor a huge headache!

devonellington said...

And sometimes something unusual happens in a take, and you tell everyone who needs to know that there's an error, and they shrug it off anyway.

Or they want to do a take with a double, but don't want to wait to dress the double appropriately, or . . .there are so many times when the ones making the decisions just shrug it off.

Sometimes, it's barely noticeable -- I caught one of my own mistakes once and kicked myself around the block over it once and when it aired, no one else seemed to notice and comment on it.

But I still felt like crap. Because I made a mistake, and I felt I was being paid not to make mistakes.

Scripty said...

devonellington: Ah, yes, we've all experienced the "no one will ever notice" comments from the director. Or my personal favorite "If they're looking at that they're looking at the wrong thing."

Wish we could explain those arguments to the audience.