The role of script supervisor is an integral part of any television or film production, but it’s also a craft that is seldom recognised with awards. Emma Thomas is widely regarded as one of the best in her field and has made an incredible impact on British television and film across her 30-plus years in the business, not least for her mentoring of other women in the industry. At the British Academy Television Craft Awards, held on 28 April 2019, both her work and her craft were recognised with a Special Award. Words by Rachel Ward
It was in the studio audience of Terence Frisby’s 1976 sitcom Lucky Feller where a young Emma Thomas would get her first taste of the television industry. Regarded as a dry run for Only Fools and Horses, the early David Jason comedy, about two brothers in south-east London, piqued an interest and perseverance that would serve her well for a career spanning more than 30 years.
“I just knew I had to find a way to get into all this using what skills I had,” says Thomas, recalling her wide-eyed excitement at experiencing the intricacies of making a television show. She applied to college four times, eventually training at Central TV in Nottingham on its Script Supervisor course, specialising in drama production. One of her first jobs was at Elstree Studios on Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show, where she would meet Hollywood stars including James Coburn and Gene Kelly. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven… although I was essentially working for a bunch of puppets,” says Thomas, with a giggle.
This Special Award, one of the Academy’s highest honours, is not only for Thomas’s excellence in her work but also puts the spotlight on a craft that is seldom honoured or celebrated, despite being an integral part of any television and film production. Thomas fluctuates between television and film and has worked on more than 50 productions to date. “I’m still pinching myself,” she says. “People keep ringing me up and I keep saying, ‘Yes!’” Her credits include Goodnight Sweetheart, Birds of a Feather, Teachers, Boy A, Luther, Bad Education and The Boat That Rocked, among others. Thomas also spent 10 years working intermittently on The Bill, where she first met director Sam Miller (This Life, Luther) who helped to propel her career.
Thomas is the first script supervisor to receive such an award from BAFTA, and is cited as being one of the very best in her field, actively mentoring other women in the industry. She is a volunteer board member for Women in Film & Television and is passionate about spreading the word of female achievements in the industry.
“It’s wonderful to be on set now and see female camera operators and lighting technicians – there’s no department that doesn’t have a female presence,” she says. “I’m so proud to receive this award. This is going to be amazing for all the script supervisors out there.”
Watch Emma Thomas’s wonderful acceptance speech here.
And read the full feature in the British Academy Television Craft Awards 2019 brochure here.