Career Advice, Scriptwriting Advice

How do I become a Script Reader?

blog_monkA grad posited the question of how to find companies looking for script readers.  I found it a good question because it touches on the more general question of how does one get their start in the Entertainment Industry.

It’s a great avenue to start and usually interning is your best in.  Companies of all types (Studios, Networks, Agencies, Production and Management) will inch open their doors for Interns more readily than for anything else.

Here’s my response:

That’s a great question.  I wish I had a more by the numbers answer for you but in all honesty it all comes back to networking.

If you’re not in LA, that will be more difficult but find writer’s networks online.  Utilize Facebook or Linkedin to connect with groups too.  Take advantage of volunteering when local film festivals arrive.  Those are your best networking opportunities and as a volunteer you usually have the most access to events.  Also when productions come to town, getting staffed on them.

You could try to cold query studios, production companies and agencies regarding this but I can’t guarantee they’ll respond.

Here’s the most concise answer I found from a former reader from Sony:

“You need to be in the Los Angeles area, first and foremost.  Beyond that, readers usually start out as interns.  In order to nab such internships with studios, production companies, or agencies, you need to be attending a college.

If you’re beyond college or haven’t or won’t be enrolled in one, the next entry point is becoming an assistant at one of the aforementioned entities.

Both interns and assistants are jacks of all trades.  You’ll be getting coffee and lunch, answering phones, manning a desk doing various duties, and yes, reading incoming querries and screenplays.  You’ll be asked to write coverage, which is a certain formatted review document where you will give general ratings of the script, write a synopsis of the story, and give it a Pass, Consider, or Recommend grading.

Pass = Not worth considering

Consider = Contains elements worth considering, be it due to the writing, the concept, or a combination of the two.

Recommend = This is one of the best things you’ve ever read and the powers that be should strongly consider investing their time and millions of dollars in money to develop and produce this.

Becoming a script reader is one of the best educational experiences a writer will have.

If you’re an intern, you’ll get paid nothing more than the college credit.

If you’re an assistant, you’ll likely receiev anyway from $15-$25 per script.  Don’t expect anything more than that… but it adds up well and hey, you’re getting paid to read scripts.

You also need to learn to have a more objectivable opinion if you’re going to be a script reader.  This isn’t a job where you are being asked to be a critic.  Nope.  You need to dictate whether or not this project falls under the needs and wants of the powers that be.  Hence, “Black Swan” would likely be a pass for Jerry Bruckheimer Films while “Commando II” would be a strong consider or easy recommend (Bad example, but you get my drift).

How do you nab either an internship, or more likely an assistant position?  Network, network, network.  Exhaust ANY possible contact you have with established professionals in the film industry.  Whether once, twice, or thrice removed.

Keep in mind that script reading isn’t an easy job and its often a thankless position.  However, it is the BEST education on screenwriting you will ever get AND if you’re looking to move into development, producing, or representation (If you have the proper credentials), it is the first step to be made.

My time as a script reader for Sony was outstanding and I learned so much.  But it is a bitter sweat position to be in.  95% of the scripts you’ll read are horrible.  4% are maybe above that average.  And that 1% (Likely a bit less) is like finding a gold needle in a stack of yellow needles which is embedded within a landfill of hay and thorns.”

I know this isn’t the most optimistic answer but the industry tends to reward perseverance.  If it rewarded everyone, there wouldn’t be an industry.


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