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Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Do I Become A Script Reader And/Or Script Editor?

One question I get asked all the time is, "How do I become a script reader or script editor?"

As I've said before, I never SET OUT to become a script reader. I did the BA (Hons) Scriptwriting for Film & TV course at Bournemouth University and part of the course covered it. As I detail in this post, when work experience came around (which you HAD to do, to pass), it made sense to script read; I was a single Mum with no childcare at the time and I was told I could do it largely from home. I never dreamt it could be - or would be - the start of my media career, though I'm very glad it was.

From script reading, it made sense to make the move into script editing. For those who don't know the difference, it's a subtle one, since yes, both involve actually - you guessed it! - READING THE SCRIPT! In script reading, you'll usually be reading scripts FOR an agency, prodco or initiative; you'll read a script just the once & compose a report on whether said script deserves a second look or not (and eventually, the agent representation and/or the filmmakers the money to make it, though that's usually out of the reader's hands). In comparison then, when you script edit a project, you're much more INVOLVED in the process not only of the writing/revising, but sometimes getting the film made too, like I was with Deviation.

To sum up: script reading is about ASSESSMENT; script editing is about DEVELOPMENT.

But *how* do you become either of these two jobs?

Well first off, I'd recommend being a script reader BEFORE being a script editor. It's not compulsory and I'm sure lots of people will probably think the total opposite, but I happen to think people are much better at script editing if they happen to have read a loooooooooooooooooot of scripts. It not only helps you assess where scripts go wrong on the page, but looking at the slush pile on a regular basis can give you a unique insight of the marketplace from the *inside*.

In the old days, when I started, interning was the sure-fire way "in" to script reading and this has not changed. Getting a few weeks' work experience at a literary agent's or production companies and being given a free rein on their mountain of scripts is a GREAT way to get started, even if it means being thrown in the deep end. I'll never forget one guy opening a door and I saw pile after pile of scripts, stacked up, like tall, Leaning Tower of Pisa formations in a room about the size of a medium kitchen. Eager to impress, I told him I'd get them all read by the end of the summer. "You won't get them all read by the END OF YOUR LIFE," he retorted "... And always plenty more where they came from!"

How the world of interning works HAS changed however since I started. Though university students are exempt, the average intern now requires paying by law. Whilst proper and good that people are not exploited - of course - this DOES mean the opportunities to intern, especially at small companies, have dwindled away. This then has the knock-on effect of work experience opportunities at the bigger companies being FIERCELY competitive. Then of course interning is not for everyone, especially if you have responsibilities and rent, bills etc to pay.

So if you're not a university student but want the necessary script reading training (but can't intern), then there's always a script reading course. These have sprung up in the last decade or so, starting first with The Script Factory, but now including Industrial Scripts and other related courses at Euroscript, London Script Consultancy, Straight Curve and no doubt many others. [PLEASE NOTE: Though I hear many good things about those places I mention from my Bang2writers, I have not done any of the courses so cannot formally recommend... If you can, please add your thoughts to the comments section of this post!].

But maybe for whatever reason you can't do a course, either. Script reading *is* one of those jobs you can do "on the side" and "build up" whilst you "learn on the job". If this is what you want or have to do, there's no reason in the world you can't. Join Peer Review sites and directories, like my Feedback Exchange. Check out sites like Talent Circle. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to find filmmakers who need your help. So help them. Learn with them. All build your credits together. Yes, getting that first job will be difficult - but perhaps you can utilise skills from other jobs or education to get "in" with the filmmaker: working with kids at other creative endeavours perhaps, or a degree in English could go a long way. You could try approaching people to help read for contests and initiatives. From there, the world is your oyster. These days I do far more script editing than script reading - and I love it!

So, to conclude:

There's many, many ways in and if you want to create and build your career this way, go for it. Do be aware it can be just as much a slog establishing yourself as actual scriptwriting, this is no "quick fix" or easy route. And don't think you'll earn megabucks, 'cos you won't! ; )


Brian Robinson said...

I did the Script Factory course earlier this year and can recommend it. Done in one day, it not only taught the necessaries about what script reading and coverage and feedback really involve, but it also gave vital info about how to get into it, who to contact and how to contact them. No point ion learning about a job if you don't have the first clue about how to get into it. Even my Screenwriting MA didn't cover the stuff they had to offer.

Damian Trasler said...

I did the Script Factory "Reading Scripts for TV" course a couple of years ago and it was very good. Hasn't led me to Script Reading godhood, but I think moving to a different continent nixed any useful contacts I might have made at the time. I say, do the courses but remember to shake hands and take names. You can't believe how important networking is...