Okay, so you want to move to LA (or New York) and start a career as a screenwriter? Great! So you’re gonna come to town, leave your Great American Screenplay at Paramount reception, then go home to wait for the life-changing call? If only it were that easy. That cliché thing they tell you in every movie about Hollywood is painfully true: it’s hard. You’ve got to go out and network, reach out to hundreds of literary agents, write every day, and probably get a side job to pay the ridiculous LA rent. A lot of screenwriters take a part-time gig at Starbucks or drive an Uber to keep the Netflix-bills at bay while they hustle, but that may not be the best option to get your foot in the door. A job as a script reader (also look for “script analyst” or any job with “script coverage” in the description) may be the best way to get your Hollywood career on it’s feet. So today we’re breaking down why you want a job doing script coverage and how you can go about getting one.
Let’s start with the basics.
Why you want a job as a script reader
Nobody gets rich reading scripts. At least not when their title is “script reader”. According to Glassdoor, the average hourly late for script-reading is $17. That may sound amazing, but consider this: you’re probably not working very many hours. It takes 4 to 5 hours to read and analyze a feature script, and less for a TV pilot. Considering you’ll often only read a handful a week, these jobs won’t exactly pay for your house in Malibu.
Am I telling you this to discourage you? Not at all. Because while you probably won’t get rich reading scripts, it’s still an excellent starter job. Here’s why.
- You’ll read a lot of scripts – This probably seems a bit obvious. And it is. But reading scripts is the best way to get good at writing them. You could, of course, go on a site like Script Slug and read famous movies. But there are two issues with this. (1), nobody’s paying you to do it, and (2), reading a bad script is infinitely more helpful than reading a great one.
- You’ll really analyze scripts – Reading a script is one thing. But if you’re just reading to read, it’s easy to zone out and pay little to no attention to what’s actually going on in the story. When you read scripts for a studio or production company, you have to develop real opinions about them. And you get feedback for your opinions. In a way, it’s like film school, but a film school where entertainment executives actually pay you AND give you free writing advice.
- You’ll make a lot of connections – One thing you don’t get from a job at Starbucks is connections. Sure, it’s likely that some (if not all) of your coworkers will also be in the entertainment business, but they’ll be hustling just like you. If you work as a script reader, you’ll be making connections with the very people you’ll eventually be pitching projects to.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Does a job as an assistant at one of these companies provide you the same benefits? Yes and no. Unlike assistants, script readers are paid to show their bosses their writing.
What is coverage?
As you go about applying for script reader jobs, you’ll likely come across the following terms: script coverage and script analysis. So what do they mean? It’s actually not all that complicated. Coverage and analysis are the same thing, they both refer to the second part of a script reader job. Once you’ve finished a script, you have to condense the plot and characters into a few short paragraphs and add your own thoughts to the mix, finishing off with an overall assessment of the work.
We have a section below that details how to go about writing coverage.
What to do before you apply
So you’ve decided to go for a job as a script reader (Yay!). But you don’t know what to do next. Hollywood isn’t like most other industries, it’s not as simple as putting together a killer resume and letting Indeed do the rest. There’s a lot you have to do before you actually send out any queries. Here’s a quick checklist.
- Read. A lot. Of Scripts. – Yeah, this one may seem obvious. But lots of aspiring writers don’t read scripts. This isn’t going to bode well for them when they’re going for a script reader job. Because other applicants will be reading lots of scripts. In 2021, it’s ridiculously easy to find scripts to read. My favorite place is the aforementioned Script Slug, but there’s also IMSDb (Internet Movie Script Database), SimplyScripts, and countless others. And if you’re in LA, you can also visit the Writers Guild of America Script Library.
- Write Sample Coverage – Every studio and production company has different things they look for in their coverage. Some places will want pages and pages of analysis (akin to a high school book report). Others are looking for only a paragraph or two. The exact format isn’t super important now, most places will want you to write sample analysis for them as part of the application, anyway. All that’s important now is to train your mind to get used to looking at scripts with a critical eye. If you are curious about what your coverage should look like, WeScreenplay has a great article on how to format your findings.
- Learn What The Industry Wants – At the end of the day, you’re not writing a book report. You’re telling a multi-billion dollar company whether or not they should spend hundreds of millions making a movie (don’t let it go to your head). It’s important to learn what the industry’s looking for. Watch TV and movies that align with the type of coverage you want to do. And lot’s of them (yeah, watching TV is part of your job, isn’t it great?). Read the trades (Variety, Deadline, and THR), subscribe to Get Me An Agent or similar services to keep up to date on the movers and shakers in Hollywood, listen to podcasts about the industry (Scriptnotes, The Big Picture, 3rd & Fairfax, The Director’s Cut). Soak in every detail you can.
Okay, it’s time to apply!
Great! You’ve done the work to make yourself the best possible applicant for a script reader position, now it’s time to apply. But before you do, make sure to have the following ready:
- Your resume – You still need a resume. I won’t talk much about writing one here because a quick Google search will tell you everything you need to know on that front.
- Sample coverage – Don’t send this with your resume. Most places will want you to do coverage on a script they have in-house. But have a sample in your back pocket before you apply. Re-read the above section about writing coverage. Double-check your spelling. Make sure to have a solid “take” on the script you’re analyzing. In terms of picking what script to analyze, DON’T use anything you wrote for another company. If you were paid to write it, they own it. I’d suggest using a movie or TV episode that’s well-known. Whoever’s reading your coverage will need to have knowledge of the piece you’re analyzing so they can tell whether they agree with you.
- Good old-fashioned references – A lot of places want these. So make sure you have them (but don’t send them right away). Keep them in your back pocket so you don’t have to scramble to find people to say nice things about you when when you’ve made it to that step of the interview process.
Once you have your application materials ready, it’s time to apply. Like everything else in Hollywood, applications work a little differently out here. Do the following (in order) when looking for jobs:
1.) If you have an “in”…
This is the best way to get a script reader job. If you live in LA, you’ve probably met somebody who can help get you a job. If you’re friendly with anybody who works at a studio or production company, ask them in passing if their boss is looking for script analysts. But don’t reach out to somebody you haven’t spoken to in a year to ask for a job. It’s rude.
2.) If you work at a studio or production company…
Lot’s of you reading this probably already have a low-level job at a studio, agency, or production company. Don’t be afraid to ask around your company to see if they’re looking for anybody to do coverage (unless you’ve only been there a week). Don’t outright ask for a promotion. Just float the idea. And try to float it to assistants one or two steps above you, they’re often the ones making the hiring decisions anyway.
3.) If neither is true…
If you have no “in” and don’t already work at an entertainment company, don’t fret, you can still get a job as a script reader. Here’s how to reach out cold:
- Entertainment Jobs sites – EntertainmentCareeers.net, Mandy
- The UTA Job List – This is a list of assistant jobs in Hollywood (including script reader jobs) created by The United Talent Agency that comes out on a weekly basis. Again, ask around. I’m sure you can find somebody who gets it (if you’re a GMAA subscriber, talk to us. We’ll see what we can do).
- Facebook Groups – There are plenty of script readers jobs to be found on Facebook. Here are some of my favorites: I Need A PA, Production Assistant Jobs In Film & TV, Awesome Assistants (Many of these require an invite or an application. Queue the mantra of this article: ask around. Somebody you know will be a member).
- Reach Out Cold – Here’s where we shamelessly promote our product. Many agencies hire readers. And the best way to contact agencies is with a subscription to Get Me An Agent. For production companies and studios, find a phone number and call. Ask if they’re looking for script readers. Speaking from experience, sometimes you get lucky with this approach.
- Job Sites – Getting a reader job off Indeed is extremely unlikely. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to try as a last resort. Some entertainment companies do post script readers jobs on Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Monster.com, etc.
And that’s it! Hollywood is definitely a competitive business, and lots of other people will be competing with you for a small pool of jobs. But if you keep pushing (loooooong after everybody else has quit, mind you), you will get a script reader job.
I’ll leave you with a quick parting thought. A successful showrunner once told me something that made me rethink my entire career trajectory. He said “these assistant jobs are just as competitive as writer jobs. So why not go for the writer jobs?” When that sunk in, it changed the entire way I thought of myself. And not long after that, I got my first paid writing gig. So instead of putting your blood, sweat, and tears into becoming a script reader, you could put your blood sweat and tears into becoming an actual screenwriter. If you want to go down that path, the best way to do it is with a subscription to Get Me An Agent. We have plans starting from $19.99 / month. Why not take a look?
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