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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

Bob Gary

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By Judi Hanna
Outside the industry nobody really knows much about script supervisors. Then again, not everybody inside knows either. Bob Gary, dean of script supervisors, knows the discipline as well as anyone. Fifty years later, he considers his decision to enter the profession “one of the few smart things I ever did.”
No one knows the name of the first script supervisor. Legend has a frantic director with an even more frantic editor deciding that someone should keep track of the shots. A secretary was commandeered to the set and became the “script girl.” The job evolved as pictures became more sophisticated. The slate came into being and someone was charged with keeping track of what action was taking place on what line and whether the line was spoken correctly. The studios began a training program for “script clerks” to meet ever-increasing standards.
Gary bemoans the loss of studio training for script supervisors and the fact that many directors don’t use them effectively. “The director’s point of view is how the scene plays, what the audience should be thinking. The script supervisor has the task of seeing that the dialogue is right and all the technical elements match. We never tell anyone what to do, but we are quietly involved in everybody else’s job: crew, wardrobe, actors, makeup, props. We‘re an extra pair of eyes.”
During the past 12 years Gary has taught script supervision at the urging of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. His course covers the basics of what a script supervisor should provide to the director: a script marked with wavy lines for off-camera dialog, straight lines for on-camera, with scene designations and special notes (“Moses raises tablet on Commandment 3“). On the opposite page, indications of scene numbers, circled takes and notes. Plus daily reports.
But that’s just the paperwork. The script supervisor is actively involved during production, although his or her role can vary wildly. At major studios script supervisors are provided with: a chair with their name on it next to the director; earphones; monitor; slate operator; catered meals; honey wagon; pay. And respect.
At the bottom end of the spectrum, like at very-low-budget indies, they sit on the ground with rocks holding down the script; they have to beg for a time code; they have to scream out the scene numbers for the camera mike; transportation and the closest bathroom are a long, long walk away; who said anything about lunch; they’re prepared to run if anyone in a uniform spots the crew; low, none or deferred pay. And the constant threat of “You can’t be THERE!”
Being called a “script girl” or “scripty” is a major downer. On one of his earlier films, Gary was called one of those titles by an insensitive grip. Gary (who spent ten years of his career as a fitness trainer for the likes of Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster) offered to punch him in the nose. When the offer was respectfully declined, Gary took his place alongside the director. John Ford handed him a glass of water and said, “Good job, script supervisor.” Shooting of The Searchers continued.
Gary’s work includes: Friendly Persuasion (Billy Wilder), Diary of Anne Frank (George Stevens), Darby’s Rangers (William Wellman), and seven features with Bob Aldrich, including Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Television credits include E.R. and all original episodes of Star Trek.

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