Oct 30, 2011

Script Supervisor's Elevator Speech

For many years I have always struggled with "civilians" asking what I do for a living. My elevator speech goes something like this:

Normal Person: What do you do?

Me: I'm a script supervisor for features and commercials.

Normal Person: Oh! So you write commercials.

Me: No I'm on set during filming. I sit next to the director and make sure the scenes match and the actors say their lines correctly.

Normal Person: Oh, so your like a producer?

Me: No, I'm a script supervisor, I'm like an on-set editor, I make sure that everything matches, continuity, eye line, so that when an editor puts it together it's seamless. You wouldn't know it was shot out of order.

Normal Person: Oh, so you watch for continuity errors?

Me: That's one part of my job.

Normal Person: I'd be great at your job, I always catch continuity errors in movies! Did you ever see [insert random movie]? There was this one part...

At this point I roll my eyes in my head and just smile and nod as Mr./Mrs. Person recounts all continuity errors that he/she have spotted in movies, perhaps thinking I'll give a knowing nod and respond with something like, "I know that exact spot. The script supervisor never worked again. Sad really."

Another alternate version to the last answer is:

Normal Person: Oh, my friend's cousin was an extra in a movie once. He saw [insert famous person] and got to stand right next to them!

At this point the entire conversation shifts as everyone ooh's and ahh's at the thrilling tail of this now third hand celebrity encounter. If I'm feeling snippy (really, it happens) I may comment that I talk with the actors all the time and run lines with them. Somehow that doesn't seem to hold a candle to the time said friend's cousin told Shelley Long which was the fat free ranch dressing in the catering line.

Not only do I have trouble with strangers, but I also have a friend who never quite understands what I do either. She will go on and on about her niece who works in a post-production house (this is in no way intended to belittle post). One time she told me about how this niece was invited to set once and had to stay 15 feet away from the actors, but managed to get some good pictures. "Isn't that amazing!" she tells me. I nod and respond, "you do realize that I actually not only stand next to... but talk to the actors right?" Somehow that doesn't compute...

What have you said that has worked when you explain what you do? How have you explained what you do in a :30 second elevator speech...clearly I need assistance!


Michael Taylor said...

Your elevator speech reminds me of the time a woman sitting next to me on a plane asked what I did for a living. Given that I was then a gaffer working mostly on commercials, I replied "I do lighting for television commercials."

She proceeded to ask me lots of rather odd questions about the business that didn't make much sense, but I did my best to answer. Finally she asked again "What did you say you do?"

"Lighting," I repeated.

"Oh, I thought you said writing," she said, with a disappointed frown.

Uh, never mind.

Hey, at least I didn't have to tell her I was a Best Boy. God only knows what questions that would have prompted...

Good to see you back posting, Scripty. Hope all is well.

A.J. said...

I used to have the same problem ("'Grip and electric?' What's that??") but now I just usually say, "I'm a lighting technician for movies and commercials." If I still get a blank stare, I'll follow that with, "I do the lighting for movies and stuff," and they usually get the point.

But interestingly enough, I often have the opposite problem when it comes to the actors: People think I talk and schmooze with them all the time.

Go figure.

Scripty said...

Thanks Michael!

Hey A.J., I think you've got it! Keep it simple..how about... "I pay attention to the script and stuff."

Dean Dodds said...

I usually start with "back in the early days of cinema..." at which point whoever I am with instantly falls unconscious and doesn't hear "filmmakers realised that they couldn't edit between certain shots because too much had changed. So the script supervisor was born to watch for this, take notes and ensure everything matched between takes".

Scripty said...

Yes, yes Dean! I like it!

Anonymous said...

I've managed to boil it down to this after thinking about it for years and having to explain what I do to friends and family:

"I'm the one who makes sure that the film is shot without any mistakes so that when the director gets to post production, they have all the footage they need to edit the film successfully." It usually works when put like that because most people I've used that line on follow it up with a question like, "So, you're next to the director telling him if there's been a mistake? What happens if he doesn't want to fix it?" Somehow it seems to take people's focus away from the most easily observable continuity errors in films and has them focusing on things they're only dimly aware of and then I get to educate them - yay!

(My mother still doesn't get what it is I do that has me working 72-hour weeks but I'm trying to remedy that.)

Scripty said...

Nice Anonymous! Clear, Succinct! and bonus gets them "focusing on things they're only dimly aware of"

Again I have fantastic readers! I can't wait to try all these suggestions out at my next social gathering!

Nic said...

Hi there, I work in the industry and I'm still trying to figure out my calling Script Supervising has always been on my radar and I'm digging a little deeper into it but I haven't found any classes in my area that match my schedule. Do you have any suggestions for learning/getting a better idea if this is the right fit for me?

Marian said...

I usually say I'm the note taker on set, I always follow that up with I'm the eyes of the editor on set to make sure that the movie stays believable.. that usually helps them get their head around it all! (I think)

A.J. said...

If none of the above suggestions work, you can always tell them you're a Sales Associate at Staples.

Because really, it's probably just easier that way. :)

Nick the Film Chick said...

I'm also a script supervisor. What I tell people. I am the edior's eyes on the set....thats enought.

Scripty said...

Hey Nic, next time you are on a job, talk to the script supervisor. Ask him/her about the job and how they like it. Oh, and reading my site might help too! Thanks for stopping by!

Nick and Marian, I've been saying on-set editor and maybe that's too techie talk for regular folks. I like both your suggestions of editor's eyes....I'll give it a try.

Yes, A.J. sometimes I feel it would be much easier to say I have an easily identifiable job, like I'm a nurse, doctor, fireman, astronaut..super hero.

Moneypenny said...

Hi, Scripty! Whenever I read your posts I'm delighted to know that our job is the same all over the world, and also it is the difficulty to explain it to "ordinary people". In Italy we have an additional problem: we are called "segretaria di edizione", and the word "secretary" immediatly brings people to think of an office job, otherwise for the most skilled ones to "production secretary"....Anyway, my elevator speech is very similar to yours. I always say that I actually work for the editor, or that I'm the link between director and editor, but at the end of the day, it's the same stuff. It's exhausting!

Scripty said...

Hi Moneypenny! I love hearing from you and your experiences in Italy! Thanks for stopping by!

Leary said...

Ah ha...I have the same speech, although I start with "It's complicated...".

I always get asked if I supervise the script while it's being written.

Scripty said...

Hey Leary!

Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, right, supervise the script as it's written. I wish, we could maybe avoid some continuity errors early on!

JB Bruno said...

I've shortened my description of line producing to "other people raise the money and then I spend it." They seem to enjoy that, or at least it keeps me from having to go into detail.

Scripty said...

Thanks for the comment JB, I'd enjoy spending other people's money too!

scriptskirt said...

I usually explain to people that the editor, who is not anywhere near set) gets all the sound rolls and film rolls (though now all mostly digital discs and hard drives), and my notes, and that's how the know what everything is.
Ironically, here on portlandia, I actually do supervise the script as it's being written, because although we have actual scripts, they are really just paths to veer from while shooting. We do 30+ minute takes that are all improv, and I try to get as much of the good stuff transcribed onto the scipt as possible. I've never written so much in my entire career, sometimes whilst trying hard not to laugh out loud.