My company Screenplay Readers has been reading scripts and providing script coverage since 1999, and we’ve run across all types of script readers who have been a part of our team, or who have applied to be part of our team, but didn’t make the cut.
Here’s a list of the script reader types you should watch out for when you order script coverage. If you’re getting any of these types of script readers covering your script, you might want a second opinion.
Script readers who are “Abusers” are those angry filmmakers/screenwriters/studio execs who never “made it to the top” and who feel the need to take out their cinematic failures and aggressions by writing script coverage that’s angry, insulting, and downright, well, mean, to the screenwriter. Their coverages seldom help the screenwriter, or the studio exec reading the coverage, and they seldom help The Abuser himself by purging his demons, because he’s always ready to dish out more anger in the next coverage.
The Fluffer is at the opposite end of The Abuser. He’s a positive human being, but doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so he goes real easy on the writer in his critique of the script. But what The Fluffer doesn’t realize is that the serious screenwriter doesn’t want to be fluffed; he wants his work to be analyzed and commented upon with a critical, not-always-necessarily-positive manner. But The Fluffer feels that by making the screenwriter feel good about his script, no matter how bad his script actually is, it will actually encourage the screenwriter with positive vibes and therefore the next draft will be automatically suffused by the ruddy glow of quality and goodness.
The Young Turk
The Young Turk, sometimes fresh out of college, sometimes still in college, is a script reader whose moxy and eagerness outweigh his actual script analysis talent, at least for the moment. Maybe he’s had 400,000 views on a funny music video on YouTube, or has enrolled in an established film school, or has any number of significant filmic achievements under his belt for his age, and may know how to put together a script coverage (and may even look at such a “simple task” in a condescending manner) but just simply isn’t seasoned enough to give a well-rounded script analysis. The Young Turk invariably compares films to Martin Scorsese films, but the real green ones are still in their Kevin Smith stage.
The Expert In A Totally Different Film Field
These folks may be 30-year veterans of the Hollywood trenches, having been on set with name directors and name actors on multi-million-dollar films, but the problem is, they’ve been in the wrong department. Rather than writing or developing or producing scripts for 30 years, they’ve been nobly serving in the grip, lighting, camera, wardrobe departments. They’re total uber-pro’s in their field, and know how to put a film together physically, but when it comes to analyzing screenplays, some of these folks aren’t able to offer the kind of solid analysis a script coverage requires, because they’re coming at it from a “I’ve been there, so I’m the expert,” point-of-view. They mistake their total expertise in their specialization for expertise in script analysis. (Note: A very large amount of these veterans make great script analysts)
The Expert In A Totally Different Profession Altogether
The other kind of expert you want to watch out for is the mid-life career changer. These folks burn out in corporate America and finally decide to “get creative” and somehow wind up reading scripts. Their level of expertise in their old field can give them a totally unwarranted chip on their shoulder when it comes to writing your coverage.
The Slacker isn’t interested in reading scripts full time. He wants to make a quick buck so he can buy beers Friday night. He usually reads your script at work at his desk, or worse, skims it, and turns in a half-baked coverage that tells you nothing you didn’t already know about your script. Watch out for wider margins on the page, perhaps a larger font, and unnecessarily long, padding sentences like “The problem that I found with this screenplay, after having read the screenplay and really given it a lot of thought…”
The Cut-And-Paster reads a lot of scripts, but takes lines he wrote in a previous coverage about a previous script, and pastes those lines into his new coverage. Worse, he attempts to “teach” the screenwriter, like so: “In general, you want to show, not tell. Be descriptive with your action lines, but not too descriptive. Keep them brief.” Even worse is when the Cut-And-Paster combines with The Fluffer, and you get lines in your coverage like this: “Any protagonist needs to have the odds stacked against him in order for the audience to care about him. I know you can do this. You have it in you. I can see your talent shining in every line of this script.”