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WORKING HOLLYWOOD

Script supervisor Emily Pendas Sobel

To her, there is no such thing as a minor detail.

April 12, 2009|Cristy Lytal

When Emily Pendas Sobel was interviewing for her first job as a script supervisor on the TV series "Miami Sands," director Andrei Zinca asked her to describe the room she was sitting in.

"He was basically wanting to know my observation to details and things like that," she recalls. "We argued over what color the couch was and I was right. And I told him what color socks his receptionist was wearing, so at that point he hired me. They were purple, by the way."

Born and raised in Miami, Pendas Sobel attended Miami Dade College while holding down a series of jobs, the last of which was doing customer service for a wholesale distributor of eyeglasses.

"I had this little cubicle with half of a window outside, and it just kind of dawned on me, like, I really don't want to be here anymore," she says.

So she transferred her credits to the University of Miami, where she pursued a communications degree with a concentration in directing for film and theater.

After graduation, she sent her resume to everyone in the production guide, and Zinca asked her if she wanted to be a script supervisor. "I said, 'Of course! Yes!' I did not tell him, but I had no idea what a script supervisor was."

Eleven years later, she's still happily employed in the profession. She's serving as a script supervisor on her second season of TV's "Burn Notice," and she recently worked on "Sugar," a coming-of-age baseball drama about a Dominican player, currently in theaters.

Total breakdown: Pendas Sobel's job begins during preproduction, when she breaks down the script and approximates its running time. "I'm tracking what happens to the actors, what happens in the script, breaking it down scene by scene and just doing my own cheat sheet so I can refer to it instead of having to go through the whole script," she says. "I take notes as to what's going on continuity-wise, meaning if the actor gets into a car crash in Scene 25, and he gets cut up and bruised up, we carry that through the rest of the show. And also, we do page counts, so I have to see how many pages are in a certain scene. And we keep a running tab on how many scenes there are in a script."

Attention must be paid: During the shoot, script supervisors "have the film on paper," says Pendas Sobel. For each take, she keeps a written record of its location on the film rolls and sound rolls, the director's opinions of it, the running time and all the details to ensure continuity. "You're paying attention to what the actors are saying, to where they're crossing, to if they are taking off their sunglasses," she says. "If the actor doesn't remember, they'll ask you. You're making sure that everyone knows this actress had a purse when she walks in. Or if you shot the exterior three weeks ago, and now we're doing the interior, let's make sure everything matches."

The paper trail: Pendas Sobel has been known to get writers' cramp. "We have all different kinds of forms," she says. "My script is lined. And then you have another page where you write all your notes down. And then you have an editor cheat sheet log where you write everything down in one page. And then I do another production report that goes on top of that, which tallies up everything that we've done for the day as far as what we've shot, how much we still need to shoot. But when you look at a script supervisor's script, there are all kinds of squiggly lines and numbers and little notes in the margins, and it's a mess. Only editors and script supervisors can decipher the little hieroglyphs."

Batting an eye: Part of Pendas Sobel's job on "Sugar" was to ensure that no one was out of position on the baseball diamond. "I'm not a big baseball fan," she admits. "Of course, I've watched baseball. I've gone to several Marlins games. But I had to talk to the coaches to get more insight into the game, where players need to be and what would be happening at this time during the game, and things like that. And I would ask where would the referee be standing, just so that we could be as true as possible" -- illustrating her dedication, although a scorekeeper might have to give her an error for referring to an umpire that way.

?Hablas Espanol?: Even though Pendas Sobel is bilingual, she learned some new Spanish words on the set of "Sugar," which was filmed in Arizona, Iowa, New York and the Dominican Republic. "It's funny, because the Dominicans have their slang," she says. "They had to teach me some stuff because I'm Cuban. I was teasing them one time, because the boys were being smart, or they were saying something silly and just kind of naughty. And I said something my grandmother, who is Puerto Rican, actually, would say: 'Tu eres un bicho malo.' The literal translation is 'you're a bad bug,' but it's more like 'you're a naughty boy.' But to them, 'bicho' means 'penis'! So it was like, 'Ah, no, that's not what she meant.' We did have a lot of fun."

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