A WRINKLE IN TIME PERCEPTION

Lockdown to Slowdown

Woke up…no alarm…sunrise…. Did not know what day of the week it was.

This sentiment pops up on the Internet, seeing others comment that in lockdown they are losing their bearings. Basic patterns disrupted, unsure as to when things will get back to normal, a certain monotony of days blending together…

This is not uncharted territory for folks in the film industry! After completing a job you might just float around til the next one. But when in production, crew becomes initiated in to a sort of club where the framework of time is lifted, or shifted, in a ‘through sleet or snow or any hour’ kind of way. If not clocking in at a sound stage, and instead doing location work, more than likely schedules will shift, with no natural day of the week or weekend.  Circadian rhythms be damned, if we need to shoot all overnights, we shoot all overnights. If we need to shoot 6 days a week, well by golly that’s what we do.  If we need to film Wednesday through Sunday, then that’s that. And say goodbye to the 40-hour work week.

Friends and family don’t automatically understand that you can’t meet up after work or for Sunday dinner, or that you can’t plan too far ahead without the caveat “if I’m not working.”  They may be shocked that you miss a little calendar marker, or that your bills might be late, or that you aren’t caught up on the news.  

They may not understand how with odd and shifting work schedules you can get turned around as to the day of the week, and even if you are off on Sunday you must do laundry, wash dishes, look at mail and paperwork and try to sleep for that 6 a.m. start time on the next day.

They may not understand… until now. At least some folks. Depending on the level of lockdown, some people have been home in a loose loop. Saturday night may not differ much from Monday morning.  Home bored, or home busy – cleaning out closets and cabinets, learning an instrument or writing that novel. Working from home in half the time. But missing haircuts, no concerts or shows, nor eating out, no conference room meetings. Sweatpants, and keeping those brassieres in the drawers (this, actually, is pretty good) – all are big adjustments to a whole world’s habits and rituals and normal operations. 

For those on the sidelines that didn’t experience any sickness, maybe this was a strange gift, a moment to slow down, catch up, to look inward, to intuitively appreciate simple moments and small things.

It’s almost summer. Businesses begin to open. Production is officially allowed to shake the dust off its shoulders in Texas, but projects have yet to ride over the horizon.  People have had to live in the slipperiness of an expanded view of time, and maybe that has changed us in a good way.

YOU MEAN YOU’RE LIKE A SCRIPT GIRL?

NO.

That’s a conversation opener I’ve encountered more than once.

actress playing a script supervisor as candy in The Life Aquatic

But NO.

I can still hear my little ol’ Auntie basically asking the above. Well, at least this shows there’s an awareness of someone on set at the helm of the script! More than likely this comes from movies about movies themselves, like Singin’ In the Rain, 8 1/2 or Get Shorty, to mention a few off the top of my head.

Particularly in older movies, when a film set was shown in the story, the only woman sitting by the Director as part of the filmmaking process was a secretarial gal with a script on her lap (a more professional example than, uh, what was portrayed in the picture above).

My husband jumps in with enthusiasm as to what an important and influential position this is. I then fill in the gaps, that many men also hold this position, and that it entails much much more than following lines in the script.

In general terms I explain how this is about managing several simultaneous streams of information in a highly organized way, sometimes creating systems to do so. Yes we support, and correct, gently, the Actors, with their dialogue and with continuity to help things match. Continuity causes us to guide or coordinate with several departments, as Hair, Make Up, Props, Set Dressing and Wardrobe, to keep everyone on the same timeline page and matching looks. We work to keep the Directors on point, inform them as to the coverage or shots needed to tie the story together so they can choose how to proceed, and we keep track of their preferences while we are shooting.

All this while also keeping track every time each camera rolls, notating information for each take on each camera, watching for technical errors, and essentially transcribing a map for Editorial, in a way being on-set eyes for the Editor with the goal to get all the pieces necessary to put the project together appropriately, elegantly, if possible.

We keep tabs on what’s been filmed and what’s yet owed for each scene in the script, applying mathematical calculations that translate into scheduling our production days for the AD Department. These numbers also go to the Producers to help them gauge the budgeting for those days.

Our shoulders also bear the responsibility to our fellow crew and cast members in legally documenting our production time on the clock, to ensure everyone gets the appropriate pay, meal penalties and overtime contractually agreed upon by the Union.

On top of the pure logistics, a bit of psychology is involved for there are a lot of egos involved. One must adapt and learn how to earn trust so that people will allow you to help them.

…My Auntie stares at me blankly.

“It’s like being a Junior Director to help get everything right.” Bah.

ON BECOMING A SCRIPT SUPERVISOR

I Like to Watch and Imagine…Dont You?

Why does one become a Script Supervisor? The short answer, for some: “It’s just a job, Kid. “ The long answer, for me: As an almost-only child in the 70’s, books, TV and an active imagination were my daily companions.  There was an instinctive pull to soak up stories, and in turn create my own through play, drawing, and eventually words. And eventually eventually photography, film and video.

With just a handful of channels to choose from, there was always a desire for more! Sleepovers at my friend’s next door were great for the extra bonus that the Gran watched Television all night long. And from my sleeping bag on the floor of the living room so could I!

Sneakily trying this at home did not go over so well, the sirens from a rerun of Emergency! waking my dad, stumbling into the TV room at 2 am to find wide-eyed little me.

Before VCR’s we had to hope and wait for a movie to play on TV, and were happy to sit through commercials for it. The Wizard of Oz only came around once a year. As I got older it seemed parts of the movie were missing, later realizing the missing scenes and storylines were ones I had made up in my head! But they were so authentic to me.

Hmm what the heck kind of future could this child have? Despite my well meaning parents’ push toward a “safe” trade or degree, Universe took the scenic route to plop me on a commercial film set (better late than never), and eventually at a monitor to observe, take after take, what is, what should be, and with some friendly Script Supervisor suggestions for the Director, what can be the best to bring words on paper to life.

Now as an adult in my downtime I prefer to be in nature, or with friends – away from electronics! Yet still driven and inspired to story – will the sunfowers bloom? Will there be frogs in the pond this year? How can I write a personal struggle into a screenplay best?

Oh and where does that red brick road lead?