Livin' the Dream with Stacey K. Black

This week, I want you to get to know my friend, Shea Butler, a little better. She's a dynamo, and a badass chick, and one of my dearest friends.

She is one of the Script Supervisors on Major Crimes, and you may remember her from my video blogs earlier in the season with our other Scripty, Haley McLane!

Shea is also a wonderful writer and director, and I was lucky enough to watch her in action on her short, "The Trial of Ben Barry," on which I was her Data Manager, and I provided the opening song. I LOVE my friends!

I have always referred to the Script Supervisor's job as the "Central Nervous System" of any film or tv set. And when you read Shea's description of her job, you will know what I mean!!!

And here she is, Ms. Shea B.

Shea's Guest Blog:

Hi all you MAJOR CRIMES fans! Thanks for being part of our family. And family is exactly what MAJOR CRIMES is - all the cast and crew are incredibly close and supportive of each other. Truth. Which I can attest to first hand having been on the receiving end of all that support and help when I directed my award winning short film, THE TRIAL OF BEN BARRY. And when someone in your family asks, you step up. So when the incredibly amazing and talented Miss Stacey K. Black (SKB to all us MAJOR CRIMES peeps) asked me to do a guest blog, I said a big "Yes!" of course. But what to blog about?

I finally thought I'd clue you all in on what my job, as one of two Script Supervisors on MAJOR CRIMES (the fabulous Haley McClane, my partner in crime, is the other script supervisor) is all about. Believe me when I say many people who work in the industry are fuzzy on what, exactly, a script supervisor does. You can usually find us at video village sitting next to the Director and the Director of Photography or on set working with all the various departments that make up a film/TV crew. Basically, we do a lot! And it would be impossible to cover everything we do in one blog posting so I thought I'd give you a quick description of the job then focus on one aspect of it. So, here goes.

A Script Supervisor is responsible for doing a break down, scene by scene, during preproduction for use by various departments (including the director, production, wardrobe, editors, hair and makeup, etc.), timing the script, maintaining the film's internal continuity, backing up every department on set, monitoring the script as it's shot, helping to maintain screen direction, matching, cuing actors, slating, and creating a written record for the editor of every shot that each camera records, and at the end of the day producing a daily production report of the day's work, among other things. Whew!

One aspect of the job is the written logs a script supervisor creates for the editors of each and every shot each camera records and all the information connected to each shot. For every page of the script, we create facing pages that we insert into our script binder opposite the corresponding script page. The facing page and script page start out, before we start filming, like the example below from Episode 211 ("Poster Boy" written by Leo Geter and directed by Michael M. Robin.)

Blank Facing Page

Script Page opposite before filming

Now compare the same two pages after we shot the scenes with my script supervisor notes written on the pages.

Facing page

Script page opposite

All those notes tell everyone exactly what each camera shot. That includes the date, the slate number, which camera was used during that setup, camera lens, shot description (size of the shot, type of camera move, which actors were on screen during the shot), number of takes, which take the director wants printed and sent to the editors, the time of each take, whether the shot was completed, notes regarding the shot, which lines of the script were covered by the shot, the camera roll and the sound roll. Below is a CU of one shot setup (slate 34).

On the left side of the facing page you can see the date, the slate (34 - indicating the scene number (34) and that it's the very first shot for scene 34 (the second shot would be slated 34A, the third shot 34B and so on), the lens each camera used, shot description for every camera filming during this setup (in this case we used three cameras - A, B, and C cameras), the number of takes (we did this same shot 5 times), the directors preferred takes (we circled take 3 and take 5) and the timing of each take (I have a stop watch which I use to time the shots). All three cameras rolled simultaneously and each filmed different characters and had different sized shots.

The shot description for A Camera was: HH Master (fav Sharon). That short hand description translates into: Hand Held Master favoring the character Sharon. B Camera description: MS Tao ->CS-Prof. CS Taylor ->MS Tao ->OLS Prof CS Sharon. Which translates into: Medium shot of the character Tao then moved to a Close Shot of Taylor which turned into a Profile Close Shot of Taylor then moved into a Medium Shot of Tao then moved into an Over Left Shoulder of a Profile Close Shot of Sharon. And the C Camera description: M/hip Buzz -> o/s MCU Buzz. Which translates into: Medium Hip Shot of the character Buzz into an over the shoulder shot of a Medium Close Up of Buzz. You can see that each camera shot something different even though they were all rolling at the same time.

On the right side of the facing page are any remarks the editors may need to know about the shot (is the shot complete (C), incomplete (inc.), was it a false start (FS) or any notes about dialogue, changes in the shot, camera notes the cameramen might give me), which lines of that scene (I'll number each script line of each scene right before we shoot) were covered during the shot, what camera roll each camera is on and which sound roll the dialogue is recorded on.

As you can see, take 1 timed out at 1:59, take 2 at 1:53, etc., and takes 1-3 and 5 covered lines 1-70 of scene 34 while take 4 was a FS (false start) and covered no lines of the script. A camera was on roll A847, B camera on roll B794 and C camera on roll C245. And all takes were recorded on sound roll 164. Basically, all that information is so the editors, film lab and others can find the shot!

On the actual script page I write the slate number above the straight and squiggly lines which indicate what, exactly, of the script each camera recorded. If a line of description or dialogue is covered by a straight line, then that action or dialogue was recorded/seen by that camera (there's a line under each slate number for each camera that rolled during that slate setup). If the line is squiggly, then it means that action or dialogue was not "on camera" or recorded/seen by that camera during their shot. And I write a shortened version of the shot description next to each of the straight/squiggly lines for each camera.

Also recorded on the script page are any changes in the script that might occur on set while shooting (dialogue different from what the writer wrote, if the director's blocking changed any of the action of the scene, and notes to the editor.) I'll also put continuity notes (for myself and the editors) in the margins.

So, there you go. A run-down of the hieroglyphics you'll see on a script page and its facing page after the script supervisor notes down all the information for each camera of every shot that we shoot during the filming of a script. It's a heck of a lot of writing. While I (and many other script supervisors) still prefer to do the work long hand, many script supervisors now work on computers.

Like every job on a TV or film set, script supervising is a lot of hard work. But I love the work, I love the set and I love MAJOR CRIMES and all the people that make up our cast and crew.

On Location during episode 210.

I'm very lucky to work with such awesome and talented professionals. And I can't wait for season 3!!!!

Hope you've enjoyed my guest blog as much as I've enjoyed being a guest blogger.

Shea E. Butler is a script supervisor on MAJOR CRIMES. She has also worked as a script supervisor on television series that include THE CLOSER, THE CLIENT LIST, WILDFIRE, TRUE BLOOD, and MEDIUM and on films that include HARD CANDY, BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME, and PEEP WORLD. She is also an award winning writer and director. Her first film, THE TRIAL OF BEN BARRY, is a 33-minute short film starring Richard Roundtree (SHAFT) and Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (THE WIRE, THE WALKING DEAD). The film has been in 17 film festivals and won several awards including Best Female Filmmaker - Shorts at the 2012 AOF International Film Festival, Best Screenplay at Cincinnati Film Festival, and Best Director Short Films at the 2013 Mumbai International Women's Film Festival. She recently directed a segment of a Rashomon-like independent film "Brad's Untitled Restaurant Project" which is now in post production. Shea was also one of the co-directors of the play, THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, which played in Los Angeles, February 2013. She is currently writing a low budget independent film, DARE, for her next directing project. In her spare time she rides her retired Thoroughbred race horse, Silver.


Stacey K. Black has been burnin' hair on Hollywood TV and Film sets since 1996. She is a three-time Emmy nominee for Outstanding Hairstyling on the series "GLEE," and "American Horror Story."

Her other hairstyling credits include the feature films "THE STEPFATHER," "RUNNING WITH SCISSORS," "THE MINUS MAN," and TV series "NIP/TUCK," "JAKE IN PROGRESS," "THE D.A.," "EZ STREETS," "PROVIDENCE," "CSI:NY," "TOTAL SECURITY," and TNT's "THE CLOSER." She is now enjoying season 2 of "MAJOR CRIMES" as Department Head Hair Stylist.

Stacey also made the unconventional jump from Hairstylist to Director during season 6 of "THE CLOSER" on the episode "Last Woman Standing," and since the episode didn't suck, she was handed the reigns again for her second episode, "Star Turn," this time during season 7. She somehow snowed the powers-that-be into letting her direct an episode of "MAJOR CRIMES" during season 1, which aired on October 8, 2012, entitled, "Cheaters Never Prosper," and this season, her episode "Risk Assessment" will air on Dec. 23.

Her methods of persuasion remain a mystery.
Stacey's documentary feature film "Send My Mail To Nashville" is currently in post-production.

She also enjoys making movies and music, and curried lentil stew. 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer/speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.