When the drama group I belonged to concluded plans to work on a movie on set, we were all elated that we would finally get to see what we looked like on video. Of course we video records our stage performances, but we felt that a set production would show us in a new light. Imagine the look of despair I put on when the director/producer-to-be announced that I was to be the continuity manager. The first question that came to my mind was, “No acting for me?” and then, “What in heaven’s name does a continuity manager do?”
The planned production was botched, but I had developed a curious interest in the duties and functions of a continuity manager. Then I found out that the continuity manager might as well be the most important person in a production whose only recognition is having his name roll by when the credits are shown.
A continuity manager is the red string that holds all the segments and sectors of a production together. What I mean is that it is the continuity manager that links the director of photography with the costume and make up unit, helps the director and the editor in keeping their heads straight while editing, and so on and so forth. But these are not what the continuity manager do, these are just manifestations of the job of the continuity manager. The continuity manager (just as the name goes) ensures seamless running of production. The continuity manager makes sure every shot continues from where it stopped, how it stopped and when it stopped. Simple? No, not really.
Every other unit of a production focuses majorly on the specific duty assigned to the unit, but for the continuity manager it is a different ball game. The continuity manager works with all units, keeping records of all that is done. The continuity manager is the ears and eyes of both the director and the editor. The impact of the continuity manager is second only to that of the director – well, the director also needs creativity and creative instincts while the continuity manger needs a mind of a god. A mind that doesn’t forget and pays rapt attention to details no matter the weight of his wallet. – But the appreciation received by continuity managers are…well…none existent.
Never (and I repeat for emphasis), never have I heard of an award given for the best continuity manager or movie most perfect in terms of continuity. Now you may claim that the job of the continuity manager is covered under the award for best production, but you must also realise that every other category awarded (be it best picture, make up, costume, director, etc.) are all derived and part of the production. What the award for best production does is to sum up all the categories. So if the costume, directing, make up, photography, et al. deserves to be recognised individually, I would argue for the right of the continuity managers to also be recognised so.
What’s more, no one has ever recognised or celebrated continuity managers. They are the pedals that help you rev up your car every morning that you do not check when you check your engines and forget they exist until they are unsuitable. The only recognition the continuity manager gets is having a slot at the end of movies when the credits appear.
True recognition doesn’t lie in awards only, nor does it lie with the cash rewards that come along with the awards. Sometimes all that is craved for is to be remembered. A couple of actors died this year and we all mourned their passing, but did anyone bother to ask questions about the continuity managers? Did anyone bother to find out if any of this rare class of intellects passed on? Has anyone (in Hollywood) bothered to award a star on the walk of fame to these class of geniuses?
True recognition doesn’t lie in awards alone, but in knowing that you have left irrefutable mark on the sands of time, and when you go to the great beyond (whatever your religious preference might be), no one would forget to remember you for the works you have helped give life to.
Continuity managers perform a task as important as every other unit performs in a movie. It is time we recognise them. I am not calling for the establishment of a new awards category for them (as nice as that may sound), but individually, take an extra effort to look up the name of continuity manager in the next movie you see and that movie you love so much, then search for the person and maybe leave a congratulatory message on his Facebook wall, Twitter account or email. Thank them for a job well done, because really, “kind words break no bones”.
Written by Innocent Ekejiuba