18 February 2007



Clare Cunningham returned today to talk us through the duties of the continuity person. Although every department does their own continuity, the costume department being responsible for making sure the actors wear the same clothe as in the previous scene of as in the previous scene and in the same way, for example, the continuity person is the believability police, the editor’s eye on set; making sure that scenes filmed far apart from each other will still cut together in the editing room.


Clare gave us an idea of what is required to prepare a script for continuity and note taking on set involving the following steps:

1. Read the script for general glaring continuity/believability mistakes. Sudden unexplained switches from day to night or location, weather or costume.
2. Time the script by visualising the action, reading it out loud and acting it out as necessary (in a closed room, unless you’re really good). Give a copy of the timing to the director and producer so that they will know if it’s too long. (use this Continuity Breakdown sheet)
3. Work out the temporal movements, e.g. what day is it, How much time has elapsed? What time of day is it? Ascribe a day of the week for each scene Do this for all scenes, even if it doesn’t seem important, it speeds up decision making on set and you may not have time to work it out then. Get it signed off by the director and pass a copy to each department.
4. Get hold of a one-page-per-scene script. Prepare the script by highlighting all references to weather/lighting, props, costume, character looks. Then plot backwards and forwards through the script to work out where props have to appear first, e.g. a TV in a room where the TV is used later on. Mark any direct continuity with scene and page numbers. Shooting day On the shooting day you will need:

★ a prepared copy of the script,
 ★ a notebook to make rough continuity shot list notes,
 ★ a clean copy of the script to mark up for the editor
★ a daily progress report if the production dept requires it,
★ continuity shot lists to write up for the editor, one per scene,
★ a stop watch with the beep removed,
★ pens and highlighters,
★ a small camp stool,
★ a ruler to stripe the script
★ a chinagraph pen to mark liquid levels in glasses

1. During blocking and rehearsal mark up the script: put a line through the script to show action covered and write a short shot description and slate number at the top of the page.
2. Write the slate number and a shot description in your rough continuity shot list notebook.
3. Time the rehearsal.
4. Before the take make sure continuity is right and prime yourself for the main points to consider.
5. During shooting time the take, write down comments and best take.
6. During setup for the next shot, mark up the editor’s copy and fill in the good continuity shot list. Finish those before the end of the day.
7. At the end of the shooting day, complete a script duration reconciliation form to make sure the film is on target for length.

A few of Clare’s tips on set: Do the wide shot first, then the close-ups. Apart from anything else, close-ups can be controlled better and therefore continuity problems (changing light, for example) can be dealt with on a much smaller scale.
Learn where cuts are likely to be, so that you can make sure that screen direction and actions match from take to take. Cuts are often made on movement or on hard syllables or loud sounds.
It’s helpful to check frequently what the shots look like on the monitor feed from the camera.
In crowd shots, squint to see if any particular colour or shape sticks out, or if anyone is particularly noticeable.
Make a location map to define the general directions of the actors, so that they always walk out the front door in the same direction when they are going to the pub, for example.
Change screen direction by using a head-on shot or crossing the camera in front of the line of action. You can also use an extra-wide shot to show the general geography.
When the actors are walking, you can change screen direction by having them walk up or down stairs or across the camera.
Take polaroids for continuity. They are not cheap, but can be written on and easily collected.
Photograph set and actors after the first print take, not before, as things may change.
Get the actors to show their shoes and hands prominently, so you remember where they wore the rings and such.
If a setup gets messed up, get a shot before the take so it can be easily reset for subsequent takes.

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