Script Reader

  • Script Reader

In entertainment production, a script reader is the gatekeeper between the scriptwriter and the development executive with the power to greenlight scripts. This person keeps the crap off the boss’s desk and puts forward only the material with real promise.


Duties

The script reader is tasked with reading scripts submitted for possible production, or scripts submitted on behalf of a writer seeking representation from an agent. Typically, the script reader is given instruction on how to properly catalog each submission within an internal database system, detailing the title, author, subject, date, and other pertinent information. He or she will also be given some sort of rubric for making comments or notations for the executive concerning the merit of the story, characters, and setting. First, the script reader looks to see that the script is in the proper format for page layout. (A common trick is to look at the first page upside down.) Here, the script reader is looking for proper indentation and border width, and that loglines, page numbers, and spacing are correct. An improperly formatted script is not read and immediately trashed. He or she checks to see that the title page (cover) provides all of the required information (title, author, date, address, phone, etc.). Another rule lesser-known among rookie writers is that a screenplay (and usually a stage play) must always be three-hole punched with only two brass brads in the top and bottom holes. Anything else only demonstrates ignorance.

If the script passes the looks test, then the reader proceeds to actually peruse the story. The rule of thumb is that one page equals one minute of performance time. Therefore, in the first 10 pages, the reader knows if the plot is worth consideration. A screenplay is generally 130 to 160 pages, and a stage play or musical usually 90 pages. Continuing through to the conclusion, the script reader makes notes to himself or herself that point out exceptionally well-written scenes or terrible crimes against the written word. Those notes will include scene numbers and page numbers, and that information is then assimilated into a dissertation-like review of the material. Depending on the procedures in place at the company, this write-up may be one page to three pages of comments written in paragraph form. That review is then forwarded with the script to the development executive or agent for consideration.

Skills & Education

A college degree is not a requirement, though formal education in film and television production, theatrical production, scriptwriting, or related fields is beneficial. Courses in entertainment business and writing are also helpful. Most valuable to an employer is the script reader’s ability to quickly and succinctly summarize the material, pull out the significant points of interest, and understand how a script fits with the company’s current production aspirations. The script reader must understand the rules for proper formatting, conventions of story, and actually enjoy reading, of course. Moreover, this position demands you be highly discerning, critical, and analytical.

What to Expect

Being an assistant is the best film school you can ever have’

Read our interview with Justin Marks, screenwriter of Street Fighter, Super Max, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, who got his start as a Hollywood script reader

It is not the job of the script reader to give glowing recommendations only to material they would like to see or pan everything that is not in the style or genre of their choice, but to give honest feedback on the characters, plot, dialogue, and setting. It is up to the development executive to decide what could be profitable for the company and what audiences will enjoy. As for employment prospects, the positions may range from entry-level internships and temporary work to midlevel permanent roles; this depends entirely on the company. Positions do exist within agencies that represent writers and with film studios, production companies, and theatrical companies. Experience can lead to future advancement within production development and producing.

 

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