I would bet even money odds there has not been a movie made that did not have at least one continuity error. Movie scenes are not shot in sequence, so there is a lot of room for error. There are communities of sites online dedicated to finding errors in movies. A continuity error can be minor as a character’s drink was not filled at exactly the same level from one frame to the next in a scene.
Major continuity movie errors can the ruin suspension of disbelief. Imagine a villain shown with a gun in their right hand, whiskey neat in their left, and an unlit cigarette hanging from their mouth about to shoot a lone victim. Cut away to lone victim then back to villain. This time viewers see the villain with a gun in their left hand, water bottle in their right hand, and they are chewing gum.
Continuity in a movie is something that production needs to watch for. Script supervisors are the best in the business at keeping continuity during a movie shoot. They are worth their weight in gold when they spot a continuity problem during filming that will come back and haunt a filmmaker during post production. If the movie budget can’t swing the cost of a script supervisor then here’s a couple of tips that can help keep continuity. You won’t catch all of them when you go into post production, but you will avoid more errors.
I got this tip on continuity from filmmaker Kevin Lindenmuth that has used it with great success. Have the actor(s) keep track of their own continuity in each scene. Ask them to make a mental note of the hand they are holding a prop with in a scene, where they should physically positioned in a scene or down to what wardrobe they are supposed to be wearing. Actors can help production avoid many common continuity errors when they are made aware that there is not a script supervisor to rely on.
Make sure the dialogue in the script is being said the same by actors each take. This has nothing to do with tone or delivery. This has to do with what lines are written on the page. Sure, some scripts better lend themselves to actors improvising dialogue during takes or were written so actors could ad-lib.
Other times a first time filmmaker can feel overwhelmed when actors do not deliver their lines the way they are scripted. I have worked with actors that have suggested line changes that were awesome and included in the script. Other times an actor might say a line kind of the same. “Kind of the same” can drive a director and editor crazy in post production when they are trying to keep dialogue continuity. Having actors stick to the script keeps filming running smoothly. If an actor or director feel a line is not working or want to change it then do it. Just make sure the line change stays the same.
I really like the idea of getting actors involved with watching out for continuity. On a independent budget there is a good chance there will not be a script supervisor on hand and the filmmaker will be stretched thin as it is. Having actors keep track of their own continuity will help avoid errors.
If you’re a seasoned filmmaker you’re much better equipped to deal with improvisational dialogue from actors. First time filmmakers can run into trouble when actors are saying lines different ways. Actors are creative and can come up with awesome lines on the spot, if one of those moments happens embrace it. Make a note to the script a line has changed. What you want to avoid is an actor saying a line a different way every take. This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing FADE OUT.
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