Sofia Pipolo is an independent filmmaker and writer, graduating with a degree in Digital Media and Film Production and Sociology minor from Marymount Manhattan College. She has worked as a script supervisor on many short films, and just completed her first feature, Life After You. She is a contributing featured author to the Park Slope Reader and other publications. Sofia’s interest in both media and social outreach allows her to think and create diversely, showcasing interesting, thought-provoking narratives.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
Not really a specific event. But from a young age, I had a strong passion for film and tv and any storytelling medium, like video games or literature. Being a fan of television series and movies, I would read reviews and analyses, watch interviews of creators, and follow the production process. I was always engaging deeply and personally with the narrative media. And I knew I wanted to be part of creating the same kind of films that I loved.
When I learned about the role of script supervisor, it was the perfect fit to do just that.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
Being a script supervisor allows me the ability to really engage with films in all of its elements, from the narrative, to cinematography, to actor’s performance, to art and wardrobe. The script supervisor is responsible for keeping both the visual and narrative continuity of a film. So that could mean checking if a character’s jacket is buttoned up consistently the same way throughout a scene, or ensuring the character’s story arch is progressing the way the script and director intends. It’s a department of one, joined at the hip with the director, while still getting my hands in every other department. I get to be involved in every aspect of production and always behind the monitor, collaborating with the director to make sure their vision is fully realized with no logical or narrative mistakes.
For pre-production, I study the script, create scene breakdowns, time breakdowns, and any other array of notes that will come up as questions later on. And during production, I am behind the monitor taking notes of every scene take for the editor to use later. I note what the director liked and didn’t, any issues, time of each take, change in dialogue – literally anything and everything- all while making a lined script. Basically, my job is to know things, write them down, and answer them later.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I’ll have my degree in Digital Media and Film Production this May, which has given me a background education in production and cinema that has helped me understand how to study a script and translate it to screen. But the biggest thing is learning through experience.
For her first short film, my friend and director Sarah T. Schwab asked me to come on as the script supervisor having no prior experience but trusting I could do the job. And I did. And I liked it. And I was good at it. So from there, I read books on continuity department, joined Facebook groups, talked with other professionals, and continued to hone my craft.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
People have always been pretty encouraging. Often they’ll say “I could never do your job!” Because I think they are confused when they see me drawing wiggly lines and time codes all over a script in a 10-pound binder. But I always respond that I could never do their job, especially if that person is a gaffer (lighting is hard!). The film industry is such a team and collaborative place, that if people are discouraging I find it best to stay away.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
I’m still so early in my career that I’ve barely started. Yet, I still have doubts if I can make it sometimes. Or that I might want to do something else. But meeting new people and learning from their experiences has allowed me to see there are so many paths to take. So I’ll keep working to create and support narrative art in any way that fits me at the moment.
When did your career reach a tipping point?
It hasn’t… yet.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
A big challenge in being a script supervisor is finding your voice. If there is something incorrect you see, you have to go to the head of another department and say, “Hey this will be an issue,” or “Hey make sure you remember that.” You have to learn to do so in a way that is respectful and doesn’t cross any boundaries, while also making them aware of the mistakes and making sure they are solved. You have to know what can be “sold” or “cheated” for camera by having an idea of how the scene will be edited, and also know when to put your foot down. This can be intimidating when that person is the DP or even the director. And of course, every director and department head has a different attitude, personality, and way of doing things. So learning those communication skills is a key challenge.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
Organization. Being able to organize my notes, breakdowns, scripts, and all other materials so that I can answer any question as quickly and effectively as possible. I’m keeping track of dozens of things at once – timing, wardrobe, dialogue, action, lights, photos, etc. – so keeping both my head and hands organized is super important. Most script supervisors use pen and paper, other digital, or, like me, a combination of both. There are basic standards of breakdowns and script lining, but overall everyone has their own ways of doing the job. So, finding my own method of organization and note-taking that has proven to work best for me has been a process I continue to perfect every job.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of the large variety of projects I’ve worked on so early in my career. And proud of my own short films I have produced. Particularly two poetry films and a short documentary in collaboration with the Bedford Hills Prison College Program. The program allows incarcerated women the ability to earn a degree and advocates for education for rehabilitation. I was able to create short films in collaboration with the poetry class at Bedford Hills Women’s Prison. It’s a unique and powerful opportunity to support bring essential life to the work of those who are working to better their lives in a tremendous way.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
The same with any job in the film industry: the connection you make that are most important. Surround yourself with people who are encouraging, supportive, creative, and will push you to be even more encouraging, supportive, and creative. Get to know those on set and how each department works, because having a better understanding there will allow you to be better at your job. Keep figuring out what works best for you and be confident in that process. Trust yourself!