Not long ago film sets had a "continuity girl". This term has been replaced with the more politically correct "script supervisor" a job that entails more than just continuity. But that should not undermine the importance of continuity. Since most films are shot out of sequence and on different days, maintaining the consistency of characters, wardrobe and props over the duration of the film is an unenviable but critical task. However, failure to do so can cause an audience to be distracted from the story.
The fact that it is important is seen in that almost every film ever made has some at least some minor continuity issues. The most common are:
Common Continuity issues
- different head positions (especially when filming reversals)
- changes in hair position (especially women e.g. -behind the ear or not)
- hats/clothing (buttoned or unbuttoned, collars up or down?)
- food (if an eating scene how much food is on the plate at different stages of the scene)
- cigarettes (length of)
- weather/lighting (bright day, dark day)
Five Famous Continuity Errors
- The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s hair noticeably changes length when she first encounters the Scarecrow. Her ruby-red shoes shoes inexplicably become black when she and the Scarecrow fight with the apple tree.
- The Godfather. When Sonny and his car are shot up at the toll booth the shattered windshield is shown undamaged in the next shot.
- Pretty Woman. When Julia Roberts’ character is eating breakfast, she goes back and forth between eating a pancake and a bagel.
- Return of the Jedi. When Lando says to Han Solo, “Go on you pirate,” his whole outfit changes. Not only does it change colour but the strap and rank changes sides.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When Harry is sorted into Gryffindor he sits down on the right side of the table, and a few moments later he is magically sitting on the left side of the table next to Hermione.
- Keep actors aware of their own continuity
- Shoot a master shot that becomes the template for all close ups
- Have a script supervisor who pays close attention to details
- Make notes in the script to remind you and the team of potential issues
- Take digital photographs of the cast and set at all times