Those whom have not been on set during the shooting of a film or television production lack an accurate understanding of its complexity. An army of various skilled professionals work in unison to capture individual scenes that result in a story that is both entertaining and cohesive. It’s true that every member of the production team from the director and stars down to the production assistants are vital and valued; however, no position is quite so misunderstood and overlooked as that of script supervisor. Liam Hooper is masterful in his role as script supervisor precisely for the reason that he has such a vast understanding of the process. He’s known as a director, an editor, a writer, and these experiences have combined for his personal approach that is extraordinary as a script supervisor on productions that range from the work of Jane Austen to epic fantasies about the space between science and religion. The literal interpretation of a script supervisor is certainly true but this general definition is far too vague to communicate the importance of the position. In addition to adherence to the script, a script supervisor keeps a vigilant watch on any continuity issues and respectfully reminds directors when the on-set changes they make will reverberate throughout the story and require additional changes. Many productions owe an ample portion of their success to Liam’s commitment to the most minute details.
The PBS Masterpiece series Sanditon (also available on Amazon Prime) is a testament to the power of a loyal fan base. Based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel and created for television by the Primetime Emmy Winning producer Andrew Davies, Sanditon fell victim to constraints that included finishing its first season as the pandemic forced an industry wide shut down. When it appeared Sanditon would not return, fervent and committed fans of the show launched a campaign that convinced the network to greenlight season two. Director Charles Sturridge and producer Ian Hogan were adamant about bringing Liam back as script supervisor for the show’s return to help guide it. A prime example of high art in the realm of television, Sanditon provides numerous opportunities for continuity issues, demanding an omniscient state from Mr. Hooper. From boat scenes with the entire cast and thirty extras conducting multiple conversations to more intimate ones with the show’s lead character Charlotte Heywood (played by Rose Williams) in a carriage, the successful shooting and reshooting of these scenes weeks apart often hinged upon Liam’s oversight and insight.
Liam confirms that it was his work on Sanditon which led to his being asked to join the script supervisory team for HBO’s BAFTA Awards (Wales) winning series His Dark Materials. Known for its grand cinematography, large cast, and impressive VFX, the show requires immense scrutiny to perceive any possible issues that might derail the audience’s belief in this alternate reality where magic, science, and theology are intertwined. The script supervisor’s vigilance on every detail of this series allowed the actors performances to excel and flourish under stressful circumstances with the large, often Visual FX heavy set pieces. This experience was a strong contrast to the work Liam had done on the ITV drama MotherFatherSon with Richard Gere. Starring the Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Nominated Mr. Gere in addition to BAFTA Awards (Wales) Winning Actress Helen McCroy and Billy Howle (of Dunkirk), MotherFatherSon is a thriller with a far more intimate and personal tone. Recalling the experience of working with the legendary Mr. Gere, Liam communicates, “Working with a huge Hollywood icon like Richard Gere made my job a lot easier as he was an absolute professional who always gave an identical performance between takes. I never had any continuity issues with him and he would always double check his takes with me after shooting so, because of this, my job was more focused on working with the director and taking notes for the editor. Working with both Richard Gere, and director Charles Sturridge for the first time was such a fantastic experience.”
The range from the world of Jane Austen’s seaside village Sanditon to the otherworldly fantasy of His Dark Materials spans a wider chasm than most not, but one which Liam Hooper is exceedingly familiar with. The era and location of Sanditon requires a very strict adherence to the script in order to manifest a specific tone while a huge network like HBO often conducts an ongoing series of script tweaks which can cause a world of problems for actors learning lines, costumes, set creation and of course, continuity. The balance to keep the scale even for both of these and many others is the scrutinous eye of Liam Hooper which is equally discerning about the past, present, and future…all for the sake of entertainment.
Writer: Arlen Gann