The Gatekeepers – Hollywood Script Readers


I am a dreaded  Hollywood  script reader. One of a rare, misunderstood tribe. Writers hate us, executives underpay us and the average movie viewer doesn’t know we exist. We read, synopsize and rate the scripts, either PASS, CONSIDER or RECOMMEND. Most scripts receive a PASS. We “pass” on scripts because they are boring or poorly written or clichéd. We “pass” on scripts because the story is not in line with that particular movie company is looking for. We “pass” on scripts because we’re afraid that the executive won’t agree that it’s good and fire us. It’s not an easy job, being a reader – but somebody has to do it.

I read for several pretty big, pretty well known production companies and I consider myself lucky. I also read for an A-list celebrity, looking for material he can star in. The pay is no better but it’s fun to say I work for him. I also do script consulting privately and that is something I really love to do. Production company coverage is pretty brutal; our job is not to be nice to the writer but to quickly summarize what is and is not working in the script. When I analyze scripts for my own clients, I encourage, educate and motivate writers to do better – instead of tear them or the script down. It’s a nice change.

Writers do not realize the pressure readers are under. I have been called on the carpet for being “too nice” to material. I have read screenplays written by relatives or friends of the executive who assigned the script to me only to get in trouble for being critical of the material. Our job is full of pressure and politics. We readers try to simply read the script and be honest about whether it would make a good movie. At some production companies, once every few months we have meetings and the executives review their slate of movies and what they are looking for going forward. Other production companies barely know our names; we pick up the scripts and go home with barely any contact. We have to do all the driving; if you’re a reader, you make sure to work for production companies that aren’t too far away. Otherwise the hourly rate after gas and drive time isn’t worth it.

We may not be the highest paid people in entertainment, but we are the vanguard. If a script can’t make it past a reader – that’s it for that script. At that company. Opinions are like snowflakes – no two are alike. Readers strive to be as professional and objective as we possibly can. On some days, being paid to read stories is pretty amazing – how many jobs are like that? Other days, when you’ve reached your saturation point, it’s pretty tough. But despite everything, it’s hard to imagine a job I’d enjoy more.

Copyright (c) 2007 Julie Gray

Source by Julie Gray

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