Painted Saint Entertainment’s first Mentorship Meeting convened at one of Eagle Rock’s favorite bistros – Fatty’s. And true to it’s name, the universal breakfast of choice was the Fat Elvis, an egg and cheese tower smothered in a rich special sauce. (The King would have been pleased.) Ana Maria spoke with us in the shade of a table umbrella as we greedily downed our diet killing calories.
The first thing you notice about Ana Maria is her infectious smile. Despite her high standing and 27 year career as a script supervisor with Steven Spielberg, among other top directors, Ana Maria was the model of openness and generosity. “I would have had you over to my place,” she whispered to us conspiratorially, “but my housekeeper hates it when I’m there while she’s working.”
She also confided with us how much simpler Hollywood was in the early 1970s. “When I started out nobody really knew what a script supervisor was. Back then all anyone talked about was producing and directing. I wanted to do something that no one else was doing. From the job description script supervising sounded a little like secretarial work. I thought, hey, I can do that! I remember going to some sort of class around the time that AFI (The American Film Institute) was just forming their school. This was before they were really up and running. I only went to the one meeting but I was sold. After that I just kept saying ‘I’m a script supervisor, I’m a script supervisor.’” With her decision made, how did Ana Maria get her foot in the door? “Well, it didn’t hurt to wear a short skirt back then!”
But what has kept Ana Maria in the game for so long is her unbelievable focus and her level of commitment. “I’ve always taken a lot of pride in what I do. I give the same effort if I’m working on a $10.00 project or a $150 million project.” Over the years she’s honed her skills so much that she can estimate the final running time of a script to within ten minutes. (During the course of her interview she gave us a variety of tips gleaned from her storied career. They are reproduced below.)
Since breaking into the industry, Ms. Quintana has developed a stunning string of credits that would be the envy of anyone. She’s been the script supervisor for many of Steven Spielberg’s films including Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan, and Jurassic Park. She’s also had scripty duties on other high profile film classics like American Beauty, Blade Runner, and The Natural, to name just a few.
Of course we put her to close questioning about working with all of these top directors. “Well, with some directors I can suggest things. But with Steven? Well, he’s Steven.” She also spoke of Spielberg’s connection with his Director of Photography, Janusz Kaminski. “They don’t really need to talk anymore. They just have an understanding.” And what about other directors? “If I’m working with a new director and DP there’s a strong chance that they will call on my creativity. They might ask me to help select shots or tackle issues of rhythm and pacing. But I get a lot of joy out of working either way.”
Over the years, Ana Maria’s appreciation for her work has grown with her. “In my twenties I was thrilled to find something I could make a living at that I actually enjoyed! And to be honest with you I liked being the only woman on set in a world that was almost all male.” There was also an element of crossing through the looking glass for Ana Maria. “I ended up working with many of the actors that I idolized, like Ida Lupino and Keenan Wynn. Part of me couldn’t believe it. It never really occurred to me that these people were real. When I got into my thirties, I made a decision to have a child. So I appreciated having a career that allowed me to do that. And of course I’d learned a lot about my trade by then, too. Now that I’m in my forties, I’m able to pass along some things to the next generation. But the days don’t get any shorter.” (And don’t even mention night shoots to Ana Maria.) “But when I’m on set I’m as committed as ever.”
It was clear from our conversation that Ana Maria has even higher aspirations. “Ridley Scott turned to me one day when we were working and he said, ‘you know, you should direct.’ And in fact years ago I had an offer, but the timing wasn’t right. Maybe I should have done it, but that’s when Pedro came along.” Pedro is Ana Maria’s son. She professes him to be an ‘artist bum,’ but it’s clear that’s she’s intensely proud of her precocious percussionist son. “He’s in a band and you should see the girls chase after him.”
“But, yes, I would love to direct. I would love to be offered something.” After over two and a half decades working alongside Hollywood’s best and brightest, it’s clear that Ana Maria would make a formidable filmmaker in her own right. We told her she has a supportive production collective at Painted Saint if she ever decides to make the leap.
She thanked us and said that she might take us up on the offer some day. “Hey, after Robert Rodriguez, you guys are the next generation of Hollywood filmmakers!”
During the course of our interview Ana Maria agreed to share some of the secrets of the script supervising trade with us. We reproduce them here …
1. A script supervisor must study the script. When the time comes for the director to make a spur of the moment change, the script supervisor is asked if it’s consistent with the rest of the story. This applies from the level of plot all the way to the level of character. (For example: It might not make sense for Steve to be reading Car and Driver magazine, when the director decides to give him some business, because earlier Steve had spurned all vehicles as examples of conspicuous consumption.)
2. Don’t sit behind the monitor all day. Get up close to the camera and view the set from the camera’s perspective. The eye will catch things that cannot be seen on the monitor but that will show up on the big screen. Objects like water bottles and stingers are easy to overlook otherwise.
3. Use a still camera to experiment with matching props, set dressing, eye-lines, and anything else that needs to be matched. This will tell someone on set if the continuity between two scenes is important or not. Matching key story props is essential. These objects are certainly going to be in the focus of the viewer and a mismatch will distract from the story.
4. If you are using storyboards, cross off the pictures as you finish the shots. That will help to show people what is left to shoot and what has already been shot. Don’t forget that storyboards are just a guideline.
5. Verify camera reports. This is especially important when the production is showing dailies. You need to make sure that the same takes have been ordered for both sound AND film. It’s a disaster when film is projected with incorrect sound or no sound because it wasn’t circled and no one ordered it.
6. Note all changes in the dialogue that occur on the set in the script you turn into the editor.
7. It’s important for a script supervisor to use a stopwatch to time each take. Significant differences between the duration of two setups which covered the same portion of the script could create problems for the editor. Differences might indicate a variation in pacing that could keep the two set-ups from cutting together well.
8. If the editor has a general idea of how he will attempt to cut the film before production begins, then it is very good to know this. Likewise, if the director has an overall plan about how he envisions the final cut of the film, it is good to know that as well.
Associate Producer – Painted Saint Entertainment