I admit it. I am one hundred percent; without a doubt; no questions asked; a total movie geek. Actually I need to be more specific. I’m not just any movie geek who has filled up a terabite hard drive with movies (there are plenty of those people), I am actually a very specific movie nerd: I am a continuity hound.
Now for all of you who do not know what a continuity hound is, it’s someone who tries to pick out all of the mistakes in movies/tv where someone or something looks different in certain angles when they are supposed to look the same. So if the main character was pointing with his right hand from one angle and then suddenly is pointing with his left hand in the exact scene from a different angle, that’s a continuity mistake and I put a huge smile on my face and write the mistake down in a little note-book. As you can probably see, I am a whole different type of movie nerd.
Before I go into some of my all time favorite movie gaffes, let me explain why continuity mistakes can happen during production. Unless you are working in film, it is some times hard to understand how movies are made. In general, movies and tv shows are shot in non-consecutive order extending from a few days of shooting to over a year. So the opening scene of your favorite movie could have been the last scene they shot almost a year after they started initial production. On top of that, each scene is shot from multiple camera angles at different times during the day. This requires the crew to reset every detail of the shot based entirely on memory or any handwritten notes. As you can imagine, constantly shifting equipment after hours of being on set can lead to a whole bunch of mistakes if they are not careful.
The script supervisor is the main note taker for continuity on set and is primarily responsible for the details. A good script supervisor will take notes on clothing, the hair, the background, and even direction the actors are looking in each scene. These notes among others are taken throughout the day and are consulted after each new setup. The script supervisor then tells the different crew members (hair, wardrobe, set design) which details must be corrected to ensure that everything looks just right. The director then looks over the set, checks with the script supervisor and then begins shooting. While most mistakes can hardly be noticed, the big ones are pretty obvious and get a lot of bad press from continuity hounds like me.
So by now you are either saying “Woooh continuity is awesome; I remember when they messed up in this movie” or most likely, you are probably saying, “OK OK show me where they have actually messed up.” Without further ado here are three examples where my continuity nose was going wild.
Yep. Even Mr. Francis Ford Copolla can make a mistake. In fact, this one is pretty big. The scene in question is after Sonny’s car gets pummeled by bullets as he drives through the toll booth. In the first scene, bullets are shown flying through the windshield decimating the car and ending the life of the supposed to be godfather. As the car comes to a halt, and blood begins to pour out the side, surprisingly the windshield of the VW which we just saw get totally destroyed is now fully intact! How is that possible!? It’s not. Clearly this was a pretty big gaffe by the crew. And Shame on you Francis Ford. Shame on you.
HBO the News Room
At the end of episode 1, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterson) approaches Will McCavoy (Jeff Daniels) at the news desk, pours two glasses of whiskey and sets the bottle down in front of them. The first angle is from behind Charlie and we can clearly see the label, “Oban” across the front of the bottle. The two begin their conversation as the camera shifts to just behind Will. Interestingly, the label, “Oban” is now clearly visible from Will’s perspective even though neither of them had moved the bottle. Uh OH Looks like that’s a mistake time to mark it down.
Ok so this one isn’t so bad but being in an office with people who quote Mean Girls every day, I needed to post one about this movie. While there was no mistake on whether or not Regina George wore army pants and flip flops, it is bit odd that her hair keeps switching sides when she starts to yell at Cady Harren. In the first scene, Regina’s hair is in a pony tail on her right side but a split second later the hair is now behind shoulders. Regina wasn’t flipping her hair in this scene so it should have remained on the same side.
Now that you have heard my confession about my nerdiness, and have been given a small taste of continuity mistakes in film, I implore you to take up this game and start rewatching your favorite movies. Start looking out for these mistakes and you will quickly be hooked to continuity hounding. I guarantee it. Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite movie/tv continuity gaffe I will be thrilled to read them.
Bernard Berkman (The Squid and the Whale)
Bill Johnson (Pleasantville)
Harry Dunne (Dumb & Dumber)
Will McCavoy (The NewsRoom)