News & InfoEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Meet the Script Supervisor

A conversation with Rachel Connors Phillippe (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,’ ‘Only Murders in the Building’)
November 15, 2022
Meet the Script Supervisor: A Conversation with Rachel Connors Phillippe

If you were to walk onto a hot set (a term used when cameras are rolling), you would find script supervisor, Rachel Connors Phillippe, near the director and a video monitor, making notes in a binder with an old-fashioned pencil.

We recently had the fortune to sit down with Rachel, most recently known for Amazon’s, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ starring Emmy Award-Winning Rachel Brosnahan, and Hulu’s, ‘Only Murders in the Building’ starring Steve Martin, Selena Gomez, and Martin Short.

A department of one, the script supervisor is a single crewmember who impacts everyone on set. As Rachel explains it, eavesdropping is her superpower. Tuned into the conversations happening around her, she takes notes, proactively shaping the authenticity of a scene. She listens in on the director and DP discussing coverage patterns, how a shot is going to be edited, and even the tone of the actor in a specific scene.

“My role is to make sure that what appears on the script page appears on the screen so that the dialogue is spoken as scripted, and that the action is captured as scripted. And within that, overall, I'm also the person keeping an eye on continuity,” Rachel explains.

Her notes are all in service of getting to the heart of what the filmmakers actually need, keeping in mind two crucial questions, 1) What are they using a scene for and 2) What does this piece of the story serve? These questions ensure that the editors have the correct coverage throughout filming. If there’s a shot that’s working for part of the sequence, but falters at another point, she jumps into problem-solving mode, “maybe we're just having a hard time with a prop, or an actor is struggling with a line, or we have a technical issue,” she says. Keeping the bigger picture in mind, Rachel helps the director identify the problems and weigh in on possible solutions.

The Code pilot-Rachel Connors Phillippe.jpg
Rachel Connors Phillippe on location for 'The Code Pilot' / Courtesy of Rachel Connors Phillippe

Managing continuity

In addition to keeping the heart of the story intact, continuity is another crucial part of her role. The slightest detail can make or break a scene!

Because scene sequences are typically shot out of order, Rachel is tasked with remembering what happened weeks prior, to ensure both the physical and emotional elements match seamlessly in the editing room. If an actor walks onto a scene with a coffee cup, Rachel will note which hand their cup was in, how full it was when they sipped from it, and when and where they put it down. She also needs to preserve the emotional arc. Was the character anxious coming into the scene? Why?

Rachel communicates these nuances to the director and actors prior to shooting the scene again, so the continuity matches.

Food scenes can also be some of the most challenging for continuity. On ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ when the entire family was seated at a dinner scene, Rachel recalls, “We have an amazing prop department and they are all over it, but it was a little intimidating. The first couple of takes I had 11 principals who were all speaking, all eating, and all passing food in different directions all the time. It tested me, and it made me better. But it certainly was daunting.”

Fact checking is another part of the job of managing continuity. This is especially important on period projects. Typically, the research department will cover most of the historical accuracy on a show, but Rachel adds that “there are definitely times on set where we'll have to double check.”

On the historical drama ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Rachel recalls one scene where one of the cast members had to make a call on a payphone and pull out the correct change to pay for it. Rachel had to quickly research how much a phone call cost in 1961 to maintain historical accuracy. It was ten cents.

martin-short-gomez-only-murders.jpg
Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez in 'Only Murders in the Building' / 20th Century Fox Television

Contemporary productions also have their fair share of authenticity challenges, like revising pop culture references so they won’t feel dated in a decade. On her newest show, ‘Only Murders In the Building,’ clues that being in one episode may pay off in another episode, later in the season. “That’s a challenge because they're not always clear,” admits Rachel. An actor may take her cell phone and stick it in her pocket, so I learned on that show to ask, ‘why is she sticking it in her pocket?’ and ‘what do we need to know?’. You find out five episodes down the line, it's because that phone was recording the whole scene, so it’s a significant detail.”

A day-in-the life of a script supervisor on set

Working in television gives Rachel scheduled hours so she can be a mom, but it’s also faster paced than working in feature films. Revised script pages may not be available until right before shooting. This adds to the pressure of her job, making it more difficult to follow the story arc and determine what elements are important or not.

When Rachel receives the script, she breaks it down by designating how many pages each scene will be and determines (with the help of the writers) the date and time of the scene in the timeline of the story. This organization helps her track hero props, makeup, and costumes.

“I’ll coordinate with wardrobe or makeup if there’s an element in a sequence that needs to degrade in a certain way, like a black eye or a shirt. It’s nice to touch base with those departments ahead of time so we can be in sync. Then when we’re on set and I see it, I know that we’re in the right place”.

The same goes for other departments, “When a certain prop note comes up in a rehearsal from the director, like an actor needs to be holding a newspaper, but it's not something that's scripted, I might either use the assistant director (AD) or the prop person, depending on my relationship with those individuals, and make sure they have it on hand.”

This level of detail and forward thinking is what makes Rachel Connors Phillippe skillful at her job.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel S5-Rachel Connors Phillippe.jpg
Rachel on set for 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' / Courtesy of Rachel Connors Phillippe

In advance of each shoot day, Rachel will review continuity photos and stills to re-familiarize herself with scenes coming up. “I log everything we shoot for the day. I'm the only one on set tracking the sequence of what we've shot; which camera rolls, and when sound rolls. I'm generating notes that describe every shot and compiling the camera information, like the lens size and any specific notes on individual takes. My responsibility is to determine whether a take is complete or incomplete. I also track where things didn't match or moments when a director loved how a line was performed.”

At the end of the day, Rachel scans her hand-written notes and submits them to production. Overnight, the footage is downloaded, sorted, and sent out to the editors. As early as the next morning, the editors are already cutting the work from the day before. That’s why Rachel is extremely detailed with her notetaking. The voice that connects what's happening on set to post-production, it is the script supervisor’s thoroughness that clarifies and prevents misunderstandings.

Becoming a script supervisor

Rachel credits her diverse background working in every film department to her success as a script supervisor today.

Her love of storytelling began in high school working in theater. Later in college, she dual enrolled in both education and filmmaking at Boston University, taking classes in editing, writing, cinematography, and lighting. After graduating, she started out in the camera department and worked her way up as a camera operator and then as a DP.

Still unsure of which department to specialize in, and with pending union offers to join the IATSE Local 600 (International Cinematographers Guild), Rachel connected with the NYU and Columbia film programs to work on student films and continue expanding her on-set experience and network. She worked as a grip, electrician, boom operator, costume supervisor, and prop supervisor. “The only thing I hadn't done was script supervising,” she says, but soon after working all those roles, she finally interviewed for just that, a script supervisor role on an indie feature. She quickly fell in love with the position and has never looked back.

All these positions paid off for Rachel, because as a script supervisor she explains, “I often have contact with every department on set during my workday. So, understanding how everyone works and communicates helps.”

Because of her editing experience, she says “I watched how footage was cut together. I have more of an understanding of what it looks like on set to what it looks like as a final product. Editing informs me on the types of coverage we need.”

“I also took a lot of acting classes,” adds Rachel. “Not so much to be an actress, but to understand the process on the other side. Acting helps me determine the best time and methods to communicate with the actors when I have a note to give, because everyone takes direction differently.”

Training the next generation of sript supervisors

In recent years, shooting with two cameras simultaneously has become the norm, along with cutting out rehearsing and going direct to shoot. These changes, coupled with constant script revisions, can be a lot for one person to handle. Currently in the US, script supervisors don’t have assistants, but that could potentially change in the future. Canada and the UK do hire assistant script supervisors, and the US may not be far behind.

Rachel is a proponent of educating the next generation of script supervisors when her schedule allows, “It's a hard position to train for because it's so singular. During my career, I've been lucky enough to mentor people, but often I'm not allowed to bring them to set for various confidentiality and budget reasons.”

While aren’t many formal training programs to learn the art of script supervising, Rachel recommends these programs and organizations to start:

While on-set experience is best, Rachel advises reading these books that helped expand her knowledge about the position:

In addition to these resources, Rachel believes the best way to learn is by shadowing a script supervisor on set. “Watching someone work is immensely helpful,” she says, “because you can observe so many personalities and how to deal with them. A book can't teach you about how to conduct yourself on set.”

While script supervising is a niche position, there’s always opportunities to gain on-set experience and meet people on student film projects or indie shoots, much like how Rachel first started out. Explore film schools or your local film commission on this map and see what opportunities could be in your own backyard.

Topic: Spotlight

Related Content

EP Blog_SQUARE_1st AC Matt Sanderson

Meet the First Assistant Camera

9/7/2022
A conversation with 1st AC Matt Sanderson ('Everything Everywhere All At Once')
Topic: Spotlight
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

8/2/2022
A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...

Producing with Purpose

4/27/2022
Creative Producer, Kimberly Goodman ('Selling Sunset', 'Project Runway') shares insights on creating...
EP Blog_SQUARE_meet the cinematographer-dan-laustsen

Meet the Cinematographer

4/12/2022
A conversation with Dan Laustsen ('John Wick', 'Nightmare Alley').
Bradley Cooper-nightmare alley

Meet the Assistant Director

3/16/2022
A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
EP Blog_SQUARE-Sound Mixer-Lora Hirschberg

Meet the Sound Mixer

3/1/2022
A conversation with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, Lora Hirschberg ('Inception', Skywalker Sound)

Behind the Boom: Why the UK is a Hotspot for Production

11/17/2022
Explore the generous industry incentives, talent, and infrastructure available to productions filming in...

Film Community and Industry Jobs Grow in Washington State

10/25/2022
Thanks to new funding and a continuous effort by Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington Filmworks,...
Changes to UK Pensions Act

Proposed Changes to the UK Pensions Act Could Impact Production Budgets

10/12/2022
Reintroduced bill seeks to give UK government the power to extend pensions auto-enrollment to young and...
Topic: UK
More
UK Gov Growth Plan

Mini Budget; Big Changes: What the UK Government’s Growth Plan Means for Production 

10/12/2022
UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announces new Growth Plan (aka the “mini budget”) and a big shake up of the...
Topic: UK
More
Changes to UK right to work checks

Important Changes to UK Right to Work Checks

9/20/2022
On September 30, 2022 the UK rules around right to work checks will change. Here’s what productions need...
Topic: UK
More
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Hollywood production in U.K. soars to record levels as crews complain of burnout

8/22/2022
Spending on film and high-end television shoots reach record-breaking amounts as production activity...
Compliant crew contracting panel-square

Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

8/1/2022
Learn how to ensure your crew contracts are compliant with UK regulations and why the Production Portal is...
Topic: UK
Watch
Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

7/19/2022
How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
Canadian flag flying over Quebec City

5 Reasons to Consider Canada for Your Next Production

7/12/2022
Here's why Canada deserves a spot on every producer's shortlist.
Topic: Canada
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

7/7/2022
A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

6/29/2022
As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

6/14/2022
Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Tax Incentives and Legal Affairs

5/31/2022
Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...
EP Blog_Residuals and the streaming model

Residuals and the Streaming Model

5/24/2022
How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

5/10/2022
How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

5/5/2022
Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.
contracting-in-a-covid-19-world-LC

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

5/3/2022
The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
terms-to-include-uk-contracts-LC

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

5/3/2022
Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK
More
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

5/2/2022
The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
cell phone with sticky note stating sign here

Six e-Consent Myths (and Why They’re Not True)

5/2/2022
Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal
More
six-elements-for-uk-contracts-LC

Six Elements for Enforceable UK Crew Contracts

5/2/2022
Although parties to a crew contract can largely enter into whatever terms they choose, certain elements...
Topic: UK
More
recycling conversation

Sustainability in Production: Q&A with Nikki Saunders

4/22/2022
Nikki Saunders on sustainable filming practices, COVID-19, and why carbon offsetting isn’t a...
Master Series Panel-Solving the crew shortage

Solving the Crew Shortage

4/13/2022
Learn how EP Academy, the Georgia Film Academy, Reel Works, the New Mexico Film Office, and others, are...
EP Blog-proud to support-square

Proud to Support: Celebrating Client Nominations at the 94th Academy Awards

3/22/2022
A look at the evolution of the Oscars and the notable films powered by Entertainment Partners technology.
Anthony De La Rosa-EVP-Residuals

Spotlight: Anthony De La Rosa, Executive Vice President, Residuals

3/8/2022
Meet EP’s resident residual domain expert, Anthony De La Rosa, and learn what inspired him to enhance and...
EP Blog_Uncovering Treasures_IndieCollect

Uncovering Lost Treasures of Independent Film

2/23/2022
How IndieCollect is preserving Black independent films to reflect a more honest view of America and of...
Crew contracting in the UK-panel

Quick and Compliant Crew Contracting in the UK

2/9/2022
Neisha Glynternick and Sarmad Saleh from UK-based entertainment law firm Sheridans discuss crew...
Topic: Legal
Watch
meet-the-executive-producer-just-mercy-sq

Meet the Executive Producer

2/8/2022
A conversation with Mike Drake ('Just Mercy') on the path to becoming and EP, and the role of social...

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.