Finding Work as a Script Reader
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Okay, so now you want to get out there and find a job reading scripts. Let me show you the several different routes you can go, when looking for work as a script reader, and then you can choose one, or several, or mix and match as you like. Keep in mind, if you’re a screenwriter, there are many different things you can do to augment your script reading income, a few of which I recommend in my article about screenwriter day jobs here.
The first route is to do it yourself. That is, you set up a website, set up your rates and your shopping cart, and open for business online.
This is definitely a great way to go, and this is one of the ways I did it. But it’s a lot of work.
Not only to get your business up online and running, but to build your contacts, set up your infrastructure, etc. There’s a lot of blood and sweat equity that goes into it. From services, to customers, to promotion, you name it and it’s a bitch to learn and get right.
If you’ve got the stomach for starting your own online script reading business, go for it, but remember, it’s take a while to get everything working, and there’s a lot of “moving parts.”
Another way to do it is more of a hybrid way, where you do script coverage online, but you don’t have to set up a complicated website, or worry about traffic, or graphics, or anything like that.
And that’s by simply interacting on Facebook, or blogs, or on Twitter, or discussion forums, advertising your services. Let people know you do script coverage, or script consulting, and then have them send you payment via Paypal email.
You can also simply print out some business cards, then circulate at writers groups, or expos, or clubs and get the word out the old fashioned way.
If running your own business sounds a bit daunting, you can always just try to get a job at a talent or literary agency, or a production company, or a studio even.
My best advice for one of these places: Make sure you have several sample coverages ready to go that are just amazingly well written. Make sure they’re error-free and formatted beautifully. And, of course, make sure your resume is in tip-top shape. If you can highlight your film experience, or anything even related to film, it helps.
And, while you may not want to hear this, I have to mention it just the same:
Your chances of of landing a paying gig with a production company, agency, or even a small studio go up exponentially if you’re willing to intern.
I know. It sounds terrible, right? What? Work for free? Are you crazy? But without hesitation, I can say it’s honestly the single best way, to get your foot in the door in the film industry.
After a while, you’ve made some friends, built some connections, and then next thing you know, you could be on their full time script development team as a paid staff member. I’ve seen it happen. Many times.
And what’s great about this method, is that it puts you more in control, in two ways:
The first way, is that, if you’ve decided you’ve got enough socked away in your savings, and are willing to work for free, for a little while, you could, for example, make a list of the top ten companies you’d like to work for, and then hit them all up, in order, to read scripts for them.
For an example of my example, if you really like the movies Drew Barrymore produces, you could put her company, Flower Films, up at the top of your list, and inquire there first. Cold. (Instead of just waiting for a job or intern listing to open up on Craigslist.)
And the second great thing about the interning method is: if you work for free, you can basically set whatever hours you want, generally.
Because if you’re working for free, they’re probably not going to bust your hump to be there 8 hours a day, or for any set specific amount of time. (Although most will.)
Of course, keep in mind, the less you’re around, the less you’re in mind, and the less they may depend on you. And them knowing whether or not they can depend on you weighs heavily on whether or not they offer you a paid position that may open up.
So while we don’t work with interns at my own company, I’m a huge advocate of interning, but only temporarily, and strategically. The keywords being temporarily and strategically.
No, I don’t expect anyone to work for free indefinitely and no, we don’t have interns or unpaid employees at my own company. But I get it if you can’t work for free for a while, or don’t want to. Trust me, I get it.
But just as a sidenote, that’s how I got my start reading scripts for the first agency I worked at in 1994, and for legendary B-movie maverick, Roger Corman in the late 90s.
Had I not gone in and volunteered to answer phones, I’d’ve never worked my way up to script coordinator, and started doing coverage.
But all that aside, if you can’t do free work, again, I get it. You’re just probably going to need to really pound the pavement for that paid script reader gig.
Check Craigslist for job listings, religiously.
And I mean, keep Craigslist open, in your browser, all day long, and just keep hitting refresh, refresh, refresh to catch those new listings as they’re posted.
And be ready to shoot off your resume and sample coverage, because jobs do open up.
And speaking of which, I haven’t even mentioned one of the best ways to make money as a script reader….
Fact: There are oodles of script reading companies online – some good, some bad – which may have a reader spot open, at any given time.
Google SCRIPT NOTES or COVERAGE and hit them up, one by one to see if they’re hiring. When you do, you might want to make sure you send in your sample coverage and resume right off the bat. At least, that’s what we prefer at Screenplay Readers.
Congrats! You’ve reached the end of the beginning.
Remember, this is only a quick, broad overview of the art and science of script analysis and coverage. We’ve only scratched the very surface in this book.
But hopefully it’s enough to get your juices flowing and your eyeballs jonesing for more script learnin’.
So what have you learned (hopefully)?
- You should now know the basics of what it takes to be a script reader, the basics of how you get paid as a script reader, and what types of places you can work for.
- You should know the basic anatomy of a script coverage, and how to write one.
- You should know the basic criteria to look for and analyze in a screenplay – character, concept, conflict, dialogue, readability, etc. I’ve given you a few books to read that should kindle your interest in expanding your screenwriting / script analysis education.
- You should know a few of the basic script reader career paths you can walk down, either one at a time, or all at once. Which are: Set up your own website, and/or do it without a website, and just market to Facebook/Twitter/Forums, etc. And/or, just get some business cards made and pound the pavement at expos, writers groups, and film clubs and/or go to work, or intern, for an agency, production company, or small studio. And/or work for an online script coverage company such as Screenplay Readers. Mix and match all four. However you like. It’s your business. And it’s your script reading career.
Remember: The more you learn, the better your chances of providing great script coverage.
And finally, by dipping into this brief overview, this paltry primer, you’ve taken your first step, towards becoming a paid script reader.
Whether you keep things part time, or quit your job and do it full time, script reading is a great way to boost your income, while largely working from anywhere, and helping the film industry and your fellow screenwriters improve their scripts.
Keep me posted. And happy script reading!
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