Eagle Eye With Elephant Brain on the Film Set: Script/Continuity as a Profession

script-continuity-film job
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu rehearses scalping with Leonado DiCaprio for "The Revenant" | © Twentieth Century Fox

The profession of Script/Continuity consists of two core tasks. The first is to ensure that the individual settings of a film or video fit together seamlessly and effortlessly. Secondly, in the logging of all the information that the editor must have later on in the editing of the recorded film images.

Few professions in film are as closely linked to the film image and its production on the film set as the job of Script/Continuity. At the same time, this job is one of those film professions that are highly demanding but hardly ever in the public eye.

What you need to know

  • Script/Continuity is always present on the film set during the shooting.
  • The job description consists of a mixture of support, control and logging during filming
  • This function ensures that a video or film contains as few connection errors as possible.
  • The director and assistant director as well as editors during film editing benefit in particular from the support provided by Script/Continuity.

Film professions in focus: Script/Continuity

The cameraman puts the director’s vision in the right light. This sounds easier than it is. The devil is also in the details when shooting feature films, tv commercials or image videos. As is well known, films are not shot in one piece, but in the form of shots. These have to be put together into a whole later on in the editing department.

It is only possible if the connections are correct. Responsible for this is the continuity, also known as script. Both terms mean the same role. This profession is the interface between the film since and the editing room. You could also say: between director and editor.

Because 99% of the time the editor is not on location. Nevertheless, it’s up to him to assemble a film plot from thousands of shots later. If the editor doesn’t get along with the film material and doesn’t know which takes the director prefers, it can lead to disaster.

Problems with the continuity and handling of the film material can extend the montage of feature films by weeks! Additional costs are the result. It’s even worse when a scene cannot be mounted properly due to connection errors. Because then it’s time to say goodbye to emotions!

The work of the script in advance of the film shooting

In order to be able to perform the function on the set, the script prepares so-called excerpts from the script in advance of shooting. All important details are noted down. In this way, they are also made accessible to the other participants in the film production.

At the same time, the function of continuity also has the task of drawing attention to inconsistencies within the script. This is done either at joint production meetings. Or in consultation with the director in direct contact with the respective departments.

At the same time, the function of continuity also has the task of drawing attention to inconsistencies within the script. This is done either at joint production meetings. Or in consultation with the director in direct contact with the respective departments.

Script/Continuity: Timing and rehearsals

Professional screenwriters write film scripts with a good feeling for the effective length of a scene. However, the director’s specific style or individual staging decisions still require that the length be recalculated for each film.

This task is the responsibility of the script/continuity. For this purpose, he or she estimates the respective playing time for a scene using all the information available to him or her and based on the shooting board. This should not be confused with shooting time, i.e. the time required to shoot a scene.

In order to be able to time a film as accurately as possible, continuity is usually already present at rehearsals. The script notes down all details early on, especially deviations from the script. These are meticulously recorded.

Continuity is thus able to communicate all planned settings for each image to the film crew at any time.

The function of continuity during the shooting

During the shooting the continuity is always on location. She memorizes all important props, mask and costume details during the shooting. But that is not all. The script also notes the actions of the actors.

When repeating the shots, or shooting a film scene from different perspectives and with different settings, Continuity ensures that the actors play congruently.

An example: an actor combines a certain word with a very specific gesture. Shot from different angles, such a scene can only be cut if body movement and speech are always performed at exactly the same moment.

Due to the flood of information on the film set, the only way to control this for the script is by immediately making handwritten notes of all relevant details.

Support of the actors

The Continuity is regularly present at rehearsals with the actors. This is not only the case for separate text rehearsals with the director. It is also the case when the actors themselves need help in memorizing the text during rebuilding times or waiting times on the set.

If an actor improvises on the film set, it is also the task of the script to judge whether the improvisation fits seamlessly into the planned action. Here, too, the continuity/script assists the actors to a considerable extent.

The difference between direct continuity and in indirect continuity

“Direct continuity” means nothing else than that a prop or another detail important to the film must necessarily be present in the same scene without interruption.

For example, an actress is standing with a key in front of her front door. In the next shot you can see the front door opening from the inside. Obviously, you have to make sure that the key is still in the hand of the actress. This means direct continuity.

Indirect Continuity is given when the key from the previous example doesn’t appear in the next scene or shot, but only later in the movie. Maybe because it has to be on a table for reasons of plot.

Protocol of the shooting

Script/Continuity controls and notes the duration of each shot, setting and image. The script also notes down an exact description of each setting for the editor.

The protocol includes the numbering of shot repeated. Here, too, the roll moves in a mix of control and protocol function. The 2nd camera assistant gets, if he should ask for the clapperboard numbering, the corresponding announcement from Continuity.

The Continuity takes special care that a new record is set when:

  • the camera position changes
  • the camera lens is changed
  • pick-ups are recorded.

In the event of faulty flaps, Continuity informs the second camera assistant so that this can be made up for as the final flap at the end of the shot.

If the camera operator switches off the camera prematurely before the flap has been closed, the script records this process in the log for the editor.

Cooperation of the Script Continuity with the production managers

Continuity informs the production manager or the producer if the actual shooting time deviates significantly from the schedule. This enables either the planning to be adjusted (Attention: additional costs!). Or to seek a discussion with the director.

Special feature: Bridge photographs

It can happen during shooting that a connection error is noticed, but this is still not corrected by a repetition. Be it because there is no time to do so. Or the genius of the actor’s performance cannot be repeated.

In these cases the Script/Continuity suggests a bridge shot after consulting the director:

This is an additional, unplanned shot that distracts the viewer from the mistake. Close-ups serve this purpose. Or the view of a detail that fits seamlessly into the plot.

Copiers and non-copiers

Continuity also keeps track of which recordings are to be used in editing. He/she receives the corresponding announcements from the director.

Together with the material shot daily, the continuity report goes to the editing room.

Training and professional practice

A training for Script/Continuity takes place in practice during the shooting. Advantageous, if not even a basis for the task, are already existing experiences on a professional film set and practical knowledge from the work as assistant editor.

Almost without exception, the job is done freelance.

Conclusion

Just like the assistant director, the film profession of script/continuity is in close proximity to the work of the director and assistant director and the camera and actors. This is where a very special fascination lies.

For the professional success as Continuity/Script a distinctive social competence, a far above-average power of observation and the joy of precise work is necessary. This is combined with the ability to think outside the box and to improvise if necessary.

In this profession, in-depth knowledge of film dramaturgy and storytelling, the work of the editor and film editing are helpful.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

About Carlo P. Olsson 84 Articles
Carlo P. Olsson accompanies the production of films, videos and TV series on behalf of companies, agencies and production companies. In his spare time he plays ice hockey and is engaged in baroque sound drama.

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