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Art of the Scripty: Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen

Posted on the 23 November 2020 by Thehollywoodinterview @theHollywoodInt

Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen

(Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen on the set of PREMATURE, with director Rashaad Ernesto Green, above.)

by Terry Keefe 

Back longer than I want to admit, I was 23 and co-directing a feature film for the first time. We had no real money and the film was largely being made on credit cards. Our credit cards. In other words, we were looking to cut corners wherever we could. We had a Director of Photography, a Production Designer, a Costume Designer, Sound Mixer, Production Assistants, but at a pre-production pow-wow, I posited that we didn't need a Script Supervisor. I had gotten by without them in film school and I had written the script anyway. Who could know it better than me?A more veteran member of the team spoke up, "No, you need a Script Supervisor. The Script Supervisor is the director's right hand."Thankfully, we listened, or we might not have made it through the first day. The job of the Script Supervisor is often referred to as "continuity," but it is so much more than that. He or she keeps meticulous notes of every take, which are invaluable during postproduction, but also during production itself. If an actor skips or changes a line, the Script Supervisor will let the Director and performer know. Want to know which variations of the same lines an improv'ing comedic actor did over multiple takes? The Script Supervisor is on that too. What cup an actor picked up during a dinner scene? And how full was that cup? How long each take was? And which take was the overall best? Which take had some sound problems but nailed the dolly? Who has those answers in a flash? You got it, the script supervisor, also known as the Scripty.I go back far enough to remember when the Script Supervisor always carried around a number of different 1-2 large binders of the script, which were marked everywhere with their notes. When we hired script supervisor Tamara Hansen on our new feature 18 1/2, she introduced me to the new technology which has streamlined the job, a computer program called the Skarratt Template, created by a former script supervisor from the U.K. named Peter Skarratt, which allows a Scripty to do digitally much of what required an assortment of different colored pens, and a whole lot of paper.Hansen is one of the most in-demand script supervisors in the independent film world, and we were fortunate to get her. It didn't take much to find filmmakers who would give her their highest recommendation."Script supervisors, for those who don't know, are ideally sort of the 'Google' of filmmaking," said director Kerry Harris, who worked with Hansen on DREAMKATCHER last year. "If you have a question about what you shot earlier, what lens you might want to use, where you are emotionally in the film, or what actor or actress is in a vaguely psychotic mood that day, you can just ask that information from your script supervisor and the answer should come back immediately.  I have worked with some that are more the 'Ask Jeeves' of filmmaking where you get vague information that's either not what you're looking for or just plain wrong, but Tamara is definitely in the 'Google' category.  Every question comes back answered in a microsecond, carefully laid out for you.  Tamara even has an image search function because she meticulously photographs everything along the way so if there's the slightest question she might be wrong about something (she won't be) you can check the photos."PREMATURE director Rashaad Ernesto Green commented further, "Tamara was my secret weapon. She was my second pair of eyes, especially when I didn't trust my first!"

We caught up with Hansen recently to discuss all things Scripty.

THE HOLLYWOOD INTERVIEW: You’re one of the top Script Supervisors in the Indie Film World in NYC. How did you get started in the position? 

TAMARA HANSEN: On the very first feature I worked on, I connected with the Line Producer, we’re friends to this day, her name is Nicky Akmal. At the end of the shoot she said that she thinks I would be a great Scripty. I have no idea how she saw that or how she knew, but she was right. I trusted her judgment and told my friends I’m available for their next projects as Scripty. I bought a book called BEYOND CONTINUITY: SCRIPT SUPERVISION FOR THE MODERN FILMMAKER by Mary Cybulski online and spoke to everyone I knew about what a Scripty does. I then got my first feature film as Scripty a couple months later which was PARADISE CITY. I’ve only done short films up to that point and only worked with pen & paper. I was very fortunate to connect with Writer & Script Supervisor Alia Azamat via Facebook, she invited me into her home and taught me how to use the Scripty Software “Peter Skarratt Template” and so much more. I’m incredible grateful and thankful to have met these beautiful souls. 

Did you immediately "click" with the job and know it was a good fit for you?

I guess I didn’t think about it that much. I just kept going and eventually realized that I really enjoy it. I love being on set everyday.
For the uninitiated, what does a Script Supervisor do? A Script Supervisor takes care of continuity but also so many other things. We make an edit log for the editor and write down every little detail about what was shot, we write down which take the director liked best and why the other ones didn’t work. We make sure we get all the shots we need and most importantly that it will cut in the edit. When we’re lucky, we discuss takes and shots in a collaborative way with the director and are his/her right hand on set, in addition to the 1st AD of course. 
What type of personality do you think one needs to be a good Script Supervisor? And what sort of skill set? I guess you have to be very organized, otherwise it’ll get messy. You need to know when it’s important to step in and when it’s not. You have to pick your battles. But I think that all these things also apply to every other Department Head / Position on Set. I don’t know that one needs to have a certain type of personality. I met all kinds of Scripty’s with totally different personalities. 
How much does memory come into play in being a good Script Supervisor? How good is your memory? My memory is not bad, but I have many helpers, like screen grabs and my notes… 
I remember when the Script Supervisors took notes directly on the script while shooting. How has technology changed the job of Script Supervisor? We have this discussion in our Scripty-Groups sometimes, what is better, pen & paper vs digital. I guess it’s really a preference and both ways are totally fine. I still know Script Supervisors who work with pen and paper only. They have their system down and it works great for them. For me personally, I very much prefer working on my laptop only, because it allows me to have everything in one place, I can view up to 4 cameras, my notes and script at the same time. I don’t have to scan my notes at the end of the day and I don’t have to flip through pages back and fourth, etc. In my opinion, I think it’s a huge advantage & improvement. You recently were the Scripty on 18 1/2, which starred actor John Magaro, who is also the subject of Oscar Buzz for his new release FIRST COW, directed by Kelly Reichardt. He was recently nominated for a Gotham Award for Best Actor. What was your experience of working with John?John was very laid back and great to work with. You would never be able to tell how he really feels, he’s very professional and self contained. I’d work with him again anytime. 

Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen

(Hansen at work on the set of 18/12, above. Actor John Magaro, on the Covid-safe pick-up shoot of 18 1/2 below. Director of Photography Elle Schneider is in the background.)
Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen

What was the experience of working on 18 1/2 like, which was shooting during March, when Covid hit? We had 4 days left of shooting when they shut us down. It was inevitable at that point, because the (actors') managers would have pulled the Cast. Even though we were in a bubble - filming and staying at the famous Silver Sands Motel - we were in the beginning of a global pandemic. The silver lining was that we got to come back in beginning of September for another week and got to finish it - thankfully with exactly the same people we started, that was nice. 
Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen
(The set of 18 1/2, prior to the pandemic hitting. Hansen and 1st Assistant Director Alan Steinman discuss shots, far right.)
How has production changed since the pandemic started? Obviously we’re all wearing masks, and who ever is close to talent also has to wear a FaceShield. Which can make it very hard to remember faces, because you can’t see most of it. I’m already bad with remembering names, and it’s crazy how much a face needs the nose and the mouth to be complete. Some productions do shorter days (10hrs instead of 12hrs) - in theory. Catering is now individually wrapped / in boxes. Which has its advantages, not having to wait in line for food. I now have a collection of tiny hand sanitizers in my room, because you can’t possibly use all of the hand sanitizers you’re being given on set. Every shoot now needs an additional 15% more budget to pay for Covid Safety, to e.g. test crew prior and during the shoot and keep everyone safe. PREMATURE was one of your first features as Scripty. It has gone on to be a true indie success, starting with a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Did you know PREMATURE was going to be special when you were working on it?That’s gonna sound pretentious but I did, yes. And I can prove it to you! Some of the days were rough schedule wise and it was very low budget, so some crew members had a hard time, some were unhappy. One of the producers came to me and asked how I feel about everything, and how I’m doing. And I said I’m great and that in a few months nobody will remember what happened outside of the frame, because everything inside of the frame is incredible. Everything we shot was so great performance and story-wise, and I really enjoyed working with Rashaad, the director, it was a true pleasure working with him. He directed the hell out of this movie. A few months later, when Premature got selected into Sundance, that very same producer texted me “You were right.” 
Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen
(Hansen, right, working with director Green, left, on PREMATURE.)

You recently also worked on the movie DREAMKATCHER, which sold to Lionsgate, and is now available on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms. How was your experience working with Rhada Mitchell, who is now starring as Nicolas Cage’s wife in the new Netflix movie FROZEN GROUNDS?Rhada is awesome, she was always super prepared and ready to rock. In addition to being one of the lead roles, she is also an Executive Producer on DREAMKATCHER, which I believe made the film even more important to her. She put her heart and soul into it, you can tell. I would like to say that I truly enjoyed working with Finlay Wojtak-Hissong and Lin Shaye. Fin was the youngest actor on set, he had the lead role, as a 9 year old - and he was the most professional person on Set! He was just incredible. He was also the cutest, he took a Selfie of him and me and made it his iPhone Background! Lin Shaye and I are still connected, we’re texting now and then to say hi which is a blessing, she’s a beautiful soul inside and out! 
Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen

(DREAMKATCHER, starring Radha Mitchell and Henry Thomas, above.)Tell us about the experience of working as Scripty on CRABS IN A BUCKET which starred Jeremy Piven ("Entourage") and legendary actor Bruce Dern (most recently seen in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD)?I truly loved working with Jeremy Piven. Every note I gave him he immediately took care of. He was very professional and thanked me at wrap for taking care of him. Bruce Dern was only there for 1 Day unfortunately. He was great and delivered an amazing performance. Truth be told, I didn’t really interact with him that much. 
Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen
(CRABS IN A BUCKET, above, starring Jeremy Piven, Bruce Dern, and Taryn Manning)What sort of potential disasters have you avoided for some of the productions you have worked on?That’s a great question. Unfortunately I don’t have a great answer. There are so many little moments when people thank me for “catching that." Basically I only say something when it’s not working, when something is not going the way it should be. On one film, the DP set up the camera to shoot the Reverse Shot of a Conversation of two people and was looking over the wrong shoulder. It wouldn’t have cut at all, we would have had to reshoot the whole thing. But I told him that it has to be over the other shoulder to match, so we did that and it cut beautifully. In film terms you would say, he would have crossed the line, the entire scene wouldn’t have matched and we’d have to reshoot it. That’s part of my job to watch out for that. What’s the most successful film that you’ve worked on to date? PREMATURE. As you already mentioned, it started with a Selection at Sundance where it premiered last year, then it sold to IFC Films later that year and had its theatrical premiere at IFC Center in Downtown Manhattan. Rashaad then won an Independent Spirit Award shortly after, and it’s also now streaming on Hulu. 
Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen
You have a background as a photographer. How does that inform your job as Script Supervisor?I think it helps a lot having a background in photography, it helps understand framing and composition, coverage and blocking. Which is not part of my job per se, but it’s good to know these things. What is your next project / film that you’re working on? I just finished a new feature film called LINOLEUM, starring Jim Gaffigan (TESLA) and Rhea Seehorn (BETTER CALL SAUL). We shot and stayed up in Kingston NY, it’s a great script, written and directed by Colin West. It was a finalist in the Sundance Writing Lab, and I'm excited about it.(Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn, below, in LINOLEUM.)

Art of the Scripty:     Talking with Top Independent Film Script Supervisor Tamara Hansen

(Writer Terry Keefe was a producer on the feature film 18 1/2, which is currently finishing post-production. The film was directed by Dan Mirvish and written by Daniel Moya, both of whom also produced. 18 1/2 stars John Magaro, Willa Fitzgerald, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Catherine Curtin, Bruce Campbell, Jon Cryer, Ted Raimi, Richard Kind, and Sullivan Jones. )

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