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February 20, 2006

Top Hollywood script supervisor shares experiences with students

By Scott Rappaport

For the past 14 years, Ana Maria Quintana has worked as a script supervisor for director Steven Spielberg on films such as Munich, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, and Hook.

Alma Martinez and Ana Maria Quintana
Assistant theater arts professor Alma Martinez (right) met Ana Maria Quintana on the set of the 1983 film Under Fire.
Photo: Scott Rappaport

One of the highest-ranking Latinas in the film industry, she has worked on more than 100 movies in a career that has spanned three decades, also collaborating with acclaimed directors such as Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky), Sam Mendes (American Beauty), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Someone to Watch Over Me).

Quintana made a three-day whirlwind stop at UCSC last week to talk with students in a number of film classes about what it’s like to work with some of the most important directors, cinematographers, and actors in the business. The visit was arranged by assistant theater arts professor Alma Martinez--who first met Quintana in Mexico on the set of the 1983 film Under Fire, in which Martinez appeared opposite Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, and Nick Nolte.

Born and raised in Chile, Quintana was sent to a convent at the age of 12 when her mother took a job in the United States. Two years later, her mother moved to New York and sent for her. “I arrived in New York in 1962 and spoke no English,” recalled Quintana. “We were very poor and four of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment; my mother worked in a button factory and my stepfather worked for the Lionel Train company.”

The family eventually moved to Los Angeles, and she studied cinema for less than a year at L.A. City College. But Quintana said she was able to break into the film business because she spoke Spanish.

“A lot of the major films at that time were being shot in Mexico, so I was very fortunate from the beginning,” Quintana explained. “And I had to learn my job quickly because I was working with big people. But there was always someone on the set who had more experience—that’s how you really learn the business.”

“I never pictured myself working for people like Steven Spielberg,” Quintana added. “I was in total shock when I received a call to do an interview for Hook.”

At one of her discussions that took place in the UCSC Second Stage Theater, Quintana took questions from students about her job responsibilities and how to break into the business. She advised the aspiring filmmakers “to work on anything and everything you can: home movies, student films, independent films…and try to get a job as an extra—particularly on a big film—so you can watch and see how the directors, actors, and crews work and prepare.”

Quintana said her biggest responsibility as a script supervisor was continuity with regard to hair, wardrobe, props, sets, time, and dialogue.

“You have to make sure that things match, that the film has the same look, the same rhythm, and that people appear the same,” she explained. “For example, Almost Famous with Cameron Crowe was one of the hardest films I’ve done because there were so many different time periods that we shot in.”

Quintana--who has worked with such actors as Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Glenn Close, and Kevin Spacey--said she still loves the fantasy of films—even after 30 years of behind-the-scenes work in the business.

“It’s very addictive, I don’t know what else I would do for a living,” she observed. “I even put myself in all the films I work on. I was a maid in Almost Famous and Catch Me If You Can, an inspector in The Terminal, a bystander in War of the Worlds, and in Minority Report, I’m the computer voice that lets Tom Cruise in the building.”


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