Someone asked me for advice on being a script reader, so I thought I could write it up to share with others. While you are first trying to establish your screenwriting career, being a script reader can bring a little extra income and immerse you in story on a daily basis. Unfortunately, much of the time you’ll be learning what does NOT work in a screenplay!
The script reader is the first, entry level position in screenplay development. You should have a desire to read and write, and a love for story. It’s also important to have some background in film or screenwriting and knowledge of how to do basic coverage.
Your main employer, unless you are working for a studio, is the independent production company. Once you have some samples of your coverage work, you can contact them and let them know you are open to assignments and that you have samples. You won’t get rich doing this work, but it will be some income and will be helping you learn more about story.
In a nutshell, your work will be to read screenplays given to you and provide coverage. “Coverage” is basically writing up a logline and a one page synopsis of the screenplay as well as notes about how you liked it and why. What were problems and finally, what you suggest to the Producer (Pass- Recommend, -Consider). The Producer, without the time to read all the scripts they receive, relies on looking at your coverage to decide if they will take the time to read it, or if they will consider other work from the writer in the future.
You want to do this work?
1) Get samples of coverage to see how it looks and reads. Maybe you have coverage from your own work done by a paid service? Don’t mix up analysis and screenplay consulting notes with coverage. They are not the same thing. Coverage is not made to help the writer re-write. It is to help the producer decide if they want to read the script.
2) Study story and film. Take screenplay classes and even coverage classes. Sometimes these coverage classes are offered at AFI, UCLA, etc.
3) Write some of your own sample coverage.
4) Get a list of Production companies and contact them by phone, email or mail and ask if they want to see coverage samples and if they ever have the need for a freelance reader. Make it clear right away that this is what you want, and that you are not trying to sell them a script!
5) Make sure you make a great first impression if you are given an assignment. Get coverage back on time and written in a clear, professional manner.
This work will help you get into the mind of the one of your GKs (gatekeepers). You’ll start seeing screenplays through this perspective and perhaps it will improve your own screenwriting by understanding what a reader wants to see before giving it a thumbs up to the Producer.