Transforming words on a page into the final product you see on your TV screen takes years and none of it would happen without script coordinators. Think of script coordinators as the liaison between the writers’ room and the production crew. A script goes through many, many, many drafts before the final version because a lot of people in Hollywood have big opinions and circumstances often change throughout the production process.
Every writers’ room operates slightly differently depending on the showrunner’s (that’s the “head writer” who’s typically either the creator and/or Executive Producer) preferred modus operandi. I worked as the script coordinator on a few different television shows over the years, and every showrunner I’ve worked with runs his or her room slightly differently, but this is the typical journey an episode of television will take from script to screen.
The Lifecycle of a Script
First, whichever writer was assigned to write that particular episode will distribute the script among the writers’ room and everyone will give notes on it. After a few days (or weeks, if the script needs a lot of work) of the writers making changes, the showrunner will make final adjustments to the draft before it’s ready to be sent to the studio for notes. That’s where the script coordinator comes in.
Since every showrunner runs her room differently, no script coordinator’s job is exactly the same, but most script coordinators follow the same sets of rules when it comes to proofreading, editing, and distributing scripts. Scripts are delicate creatures, especially once they get in the hands of the production crew, and there are protocols that have to be taken in terms of confidentiality (most shows use software that digitally watermarks scripts to prevent them from being leaked), pagination, and scene numbering.
Script coordinators proofread each draft to ensure that there are no errors.
Script coordinators are in charge of proofreading each new draft of a script to ensure that there are no typos or continuity errors and that the scenes are numbered and ordered correctly. The first external (outside of the writers’ room) distribution of the script typically goes to the studio, where the producers of the film will read it and give their feedback. After the notes call, the script’s writer will implement the notes, the showrunner will hopefully sign off on the changes, and then the script coordinator sends the next draft over to the network.
The network executives will have their own set notes on the draft. It may need to be adjusted based on time, the network’s differing vision for the episode, or a violation of Standards and Practices. The Standards and Practices (S&P) rules will vary depending on whether this is a network, cable, or streaming show. For example, there’s typically no cursing or nudity on network shows. Names of characters and establishments also can’t be too similar to real people and places. Essentially, if the network’s lawyers have a problem with something, it needs to be changed. The script coordinator is in charge of relaying all of the S&P issues to the showrunner and helping to come up with alternatives.
Staying Organized Is Essential
Once the studio and the network have both signed off on the changes, the next draft of the script will go to production, and that’s where the real fun begins. The script coordinator will then do an in-depth breakdown of the script and list out every location that is used, which scenes take place during the day vs. the night, and what characters are in the script (lead characters, secondary characters, and even non-speaking roles). This helps the other departments (such as location scouts, casting, or hair and makeup) keep track of everything that’s needed for the episode.
When a script is finally sent to production, the pages are “locked.” This means that if there are any more changes (and there definitely will be!), the scene and page numbers cannot change. So if a new scene is added between scenes 37 and 38, that new scene is now scene 37A and if a new page needs to be added because it’s a long scene, that new page (let’s say it’s overflowing from page 40) is now page 40A. There are a few reasons for this, but the biggest one is that the directors map out their shots very thoroughly according to scene numbers prior to filming, so changing a scene number during filming would muck up their entire process.
A script might need to be adjusted during the filming process for any number of reasons. Perhaps a location fell through, so a scene that was supposed to be filmed in a bar is now set in an office. Or maybe the story has changed as the writers are working on future episodes and now a line has to be adjusted in the current script to reflect it. Every time a script is edited, the script coordinator is the one in charge of making sure the edit is made in the correct draft, the change tracks with the rest of the script, the pages are paginated correctly, and that the script makes it into the hands of everyone who needs it.
If you panic every time you have to send a mass email, then script coordinating is not for you.
Because the pages are locked, adding new scenes and deleting old ones can all get very complicated very quickly, which can result in a stressed-out script coordinator. There will probably be angry calls from production at 10pm because you accidentally paginated the script incorrectly and now there’s a scene missing on page 40C, and they’re shooting that scene first thing the next morning. Call time is at 6am so now you get to spend your Thursday night frantically pouring over the draft to figure out how the misnumbering occurred and how you can fix it. And now the showrunner is calling you because she made a dialogue change in a different scene, but she accidentally made the change in the wrong draft, and can you please fix it?
Script coordinating is a stressful job. One of the most stressful aspects is simply the fact that every time you send out a draft of a script, you’re emailing it to hundreds of people. Everyone working on the episode needs to read the script, from the directors and producers all the way down to the production assistants. If you panic every time you have to send a mass email at work, then script coordinating is definitely not for you.
It’s not that the panic disappears when you’re mass emailing the script multiple times a day, you simply get used to living in a constant state of anxiety. If you send out a draft and there’s a mistake, hundreds of people are going to see it. And even if they don’t spot your mistake initially, they’re all going to get the next email you send out with the corrected draft and know you made one.
Aside from the mass emailing, another stressful part of the job is that you’re typically working on multiple different drafts of multiple different scripts at a time. Let’s say production is currently shooting episode 108. That means episode 109 is in post production, and you may still be getting emails about that script like “the audio is a mess in scene 41, we’re going to have to re-shoot it.” Episode 107 is in pre-production and probably already circulating through the production crew and receiving notes. And episode 106 is likely in either the studio draft or the network draft stage, so you’re also circulating that draft as well.
The script coordinator is responsible for keeping track of which stage every draft is in and how many revisions it has gone through, which is typically denoted by color. The color sequence is usually something like white, blue, pink, green, yellow, then the sequence repeats. If a script goes through a lot of changes, then you could get all the way to triple yellow. When I was a script coordinator, I kept a whiteboard up on my office wall with every episode number for the season and where each episode was in the script lifecycle. It might look something like this:
101: Triple Pink
103: Double Blue
104: White Production Draft
105: Network Draft
106: Writers’ Draft
Each Day Is a New “Adventure”
Every day in the life of a script coordinator is different, but it typically begins very early and ends very late and you are always on call. When a show is in production, there are a lot of people who need things. Script coordinators serve as the liaison between the writers’ room and production in more ways than merely distributing scripts. People on the production crew who might not feel comfortable emailing the writers directly will email you instead since they’re so used to getting emails from you, and you’re responsible for figuring out how to help them or at least put them in touch with someone who can.
Your day typically begins very early and ends very late, and you are always on call.
Film and television production also adheres to strict deadlines. Typically, episodes are filmed in a matter of days and the crew is working around the clock, which means you are too. No matter how late it is, if there’s a deadline coming up (like they’re filming a scene in the morning or the studio needs to see a draft ASAP), then you’d better get to your computer. Once, I went to visit my family for Labor Day weekend and ended up carting my laptop with me to a theme park because the showrunner was spending the weekend working on revisions and I needed to expeditiously send the scripts to their various recipients.
Despite all of this, however, there are some really fun aspects of being a script coordinator. Most showrunners (the nice ones, anyway) allow their script coordinators to sit in on the writers’ room sessions. So you’re in the room as the story is being crafted and can offer up ideas. You can also give feedback on various drafts, since it’s your responsibility to proofread them all. It’s cool to be on the ground floor of the creative process and sometimes see your ideas play out on screen.
Although I no longer work in Hollywood, I learned a lot during my time as a script coordinator. I met some incredible people, worked in really interesting environments, and learned how to focus and get things done when the going gets tough. I grew a lot as a person and had some incredible experiences, for which I’m extremely grateful. I still get a flash of panic every time I have to send a mass email though.
Love Evie? Let us know what you love and what else you want to see from us in the official Evie reader survey.