Guardian at the screenplay gates
Freelance script reader for Creative Artists Agency
Between the lines: “You read scripts and then you do about a 1 1/2 - or two-page synopsis hitting all the key points of the script. You do a comments page where you write down what works and what doesn’t work -- like if the dialogue is good. You basically evaluate the script so the agent doesn’t have to read it, and then you pass, consider or recommend it. The ones you pass generally don’t get read, but if you recommend them, they go on to someone else.
“I read about four to seven scripts a week. At CAA, it’s probably 60% [unknown] writers and 40% you can find on Internet Movie Database where they have worked on a sitcom or worked on a script before. I haven’t read any TV scripts, but I have read several manuscripts.... Some of them have been published, but I have read one that hasn’t been published yet. I will read it and do my comments that ‘This would be a good movie because ... ' or ‘It wouldn’t because ....’
“There are different agents at CAA and they will all have scripts submitted to them. From that point they go to the story department, and then we go pick them up. Every once in a while I’ll get requested by a specific agent, but for the most part it’s just a big stack and you go in and pick a couple of them.”
Numbers: “I think there are 15 to 20 readers. There are some on staff and they get paid significantly more. There is a story analyst union, which is part of the editors guild, which is part of IATSE. I am not that familiar with it, but once you are in it, you get a certain amount per script.”
Project greenlight: “Usually it takes a year or a year and a half to see something you have read actually make it toward being released or go into production. A couple I have read I have checked up on on IMDB and seen that they are in production and they are getting made.”
Back story: “I went to [the University of Massachusetts] and was a communications major. When I was in school I decided, like a lot of people, that I wanted to make movies, and my ultimate ambition was to direct horror movies. I especially like psychological thrillers -- things that make me think.
“I graduated in 2003. I worked at home for a little while and I saved up money and drove out here. ... I worked as a production assistant and things like that, but then I started to realize I was more interested in the story side of things. I am not a very technical person. I didn’t have any interest in set decorating or production assistant work, so I submitted a writing sample to CAA and that’s how I got the job.”
The grand scheme: “I definitely want to direct. I sort of realized how difficult that is; it is sort of an entrepreneurial thing. You just don’t come out here and move up until you become a director. It is something that you kind of take time off to do at some point. At this time, I am working on a script; most script readers you find are writing a script. It is sort of a thriller. I haven’t read that many good horror films. I find a lot of the ones I read are your typical slasher movies where there isn’t a lot of thought put into them.”
Resides: Los Angeles
Salary: “You really have to love to read because they only pay you between $40 and $50 per script. The money is not very good. I am always doing things on the side. I did a little tutoring awhile back -- I tutor writing for high school students. I was with a tutoring agency for a while and I think I might be going back.”
-- Susan King