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Q & A: The Accidental Script Reader

If you’re wondering what I’m up to and I’m sure you are judging by the amount of emails I’ve had in the last week asking if I’m “still here” since I’ve “hardly written anything”, then I can assure you, my lovely bloggers that indeed I am. Just stressed. And ill, thanks to James Moran. No, we’re not having an affair, it’s his blasted Space Virus. Somehow he’s managed to transmit it over the radiowaves (or whatever the internet works on) and on to me. Cheers. Mate.

The lovely Anya, whom I read for recently, emailed with a few questions about being a script reader amongst other things, so here are my answers for your viewing pleasure. I’m hoping that once my brain has stopped melting and my cats have stopped tearing up my new carpet, I may have two seconds to write an in-depth article about something (anything!), so if you have any requests too, you just let me know on the usual address. Ciao!

How did you become a script reader?

Danny has a few thoughts on this over at his site and I’ve answered a couple of his posts, the most recent being last thursday, but to reiterate, I became a script reader completely by accident. I had no idea any one could make a living reading (okay, half a living) and when I went to university, I had no idea jobs like this existed. For my course I had to do a six week work placement – most of my class had places booked at amazing places like London and evn abroad; my then-boyfriend went to Scala, a chap went to some prodco in Amsterdam, two other girls went to ITN. I drew a complete blank however: I was a single Mum with no money and no prospect of making any: I couldn’t afford the childcare to work for free: my parents did not live in Bournemouth and all my friends were on work placement too! In short, I freaked, because without this work placement I would not pass the course. Then one of my lecturers hit on the idea of asking the Script Factory to let me read for them – I could do it from home. Whilst the uni said this was okay, The Script Factory said no. No matter though, because it gave me the idea and I wrote to a whopping 79 literary agents and production companies begging them to let me do something similar. Of the 79, only 16 replied, 15 of which said no but thanks anyway, though about five were nice enough to let me have a look round their offices, meet people, that kind of thing, including Working Title. However, the sixteenth said yes and the rest is history. I read most of the summer from home, though I would usually go in on Mondays for the day as my son’s father unexpectedly moved to Bournemouth that summer around July-time, which, though stalker-ish, came in quite useful.

Can you REALLY tell a bad script from the first page?

I would love to say no to this question, that I’m not prejudiced against various things, but you know what? I’m only human. All readers are. I do groan when I open a script and there’s a ton of black on the page. Why? Because I know it’s going to take twice as long to read and possibly not be as interesting as a lean one. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised; an idea is so good, it shines through despite the dense scene description. Most of the time though I am confused as to which are the signficant bits of the story because there’s too much distracting stuff and that does, in my view anyway, obfuscate even the best and/or most original story.

Since you say horror is your favourite genre, does that mean you get bored by others like drama, sci-fi and comedy?

Absolutely not. Whilst one of my favourite scripts ever that I’ve read through Bang2write, lit agents and initiatives WAS admittedly a horror, of the other two that share that fabled spot, one was a straight chase/thriller and the other a period drama. Story matters most to me, not genre. Another script that particularly sticks out in my mind is one about baseball, something I know absolutely zilch about plus I HATE sport, yet the story was so good I was gripped from start to finish.

How do you like to work?

In short sporadic bursts, mostly because I have to. I have no childcare which means I do the majority of my work in the evening at the moment, which is a mega-pain, though this will change hopefully when I move house and a nursery place becomes available for the little one. Having said that though, I DO still believe you can get far much more done in short bursts than sitting in front of your PC for hours on end. I would far rather do the washing up or even the ironing (yuk!) and think about my script – or even someone else’s. I’ll often read clients’ work, then clean the house. (So I’ve probably come up with ideas for YOUR development notes whilst cleaning the loo! Nice thought.)

Do you read novels as well as feature and short scripts?

I read a lot of novels – or rather what some Lit Agents call the “starter pack”, which is a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters, usually totalling approximately ten to fifteen thousand words. The idea is, if you can’t interest someone with the starter pack, then it doesn’t matter what the rest of the novel is like. I do this for Bang2write clients if they want me to as a “trial run” before they send off to Lit Agents. Once, a chap sent me his starter pack privately, then sent it to one of the Agents I worked for, so I got the revised version too! Publishing seems to be a small world. Occasionally I get huge tomes, unsolicited through the post, bound in Leather on that parchmenty paper and I freak out slightly when that happens, because it’s such a labour of love for the author I wonder why they want feedback? When I first started I would read these manuscripts, but I just don’t have the time any more unfortunately, so I send them back with a polite note saying the “starter pack” is the usual way to send stuff out. Also, asking first is kinda nice.

And finally, the best one in my opinion:

Do you really have children and a mad woodcutter-type husband, or is your family made up? (Well, you are a writer!)

Lol! Thanks but not even I have a twisted enough imagination to come up with their antics!

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14 thoughts on “Q & A: The Accidental Script Reader”

  1. I wish Lara! Only just sorted this place out for the valuers coming this Thursday. Should hopefully be on the market next week, bloody housing prices taken a dip cos of HIPs – arggh! Still, should be plenty of choice when we get to Bournemouth! Anyone who wants to buy a 2 bedroom flat in Devon for a resonable price, EMAIL ME! It’s in a v nice, quiet devlopment (I’ve run the chav neighbour out of town) and it looks far better now than it ever was when we moved in, pity we’re such slobs in real life, but hey ho: all the junk is gone! I’m SERIOUS! Can I tempt you Lara?!??! ; )

  2. Sorry about that – I sneezed when I was reading your blog, so some of the Space Virus strands must have stuck to that day’s post. I blame yuppies for mine, they’re always coughing and spluttering on the tube and trains, spreading their yuppie scumminess around everywhere.

  3. Lucy – after all the building work I have just had done? ‘Fraid not, my dear! Have the prices seriously taken a ‘HIPdip’ though? Shocking state of affairs.

    I see James is intent on spreading more ‘city sneezes’ on your blog. [sniffle, splutter] Those bloody Tube suits, they do like to share and share alike. ;0)

  4. Anya, I know full well that tho your ass might well be in NY right now, you come from sodding Barnstaple, so sort yourself out gal ; )

    James – that’s okay. I suppose (P.S. I don’t think anyone’s suspected our affair, our respective spouses or bloggers, nice one! I’ve booked us in next saturday at our usual place, but I thought we could be Mr. and Mrs. McClane this week, Die Hard-style: I’m bored of Smith).

    Lara – You don’t know what you’re missing. Naaahht!

  5. We’re having an affair? Blimey, we kept that amazingly quiet, I might never have found out. Am I any good??

  6. I’d love to say yes Dah-link, but for a squillionaire writer you remind me of my first boyf who was the son of the owner of Woodpecker Cider – in a word, desperate and slightly cloying. Perhaps you haven’t written enough of “those” scenes yet??? ; )

  7. Oh yeah?? Well you’re a MAN. You can wear the frilliest frock you want, and insist on keeping the lights off during the “activity”, but I know what I saw the moonlight glinting off that time, and it wasn’t a discarded hotdog, let me tell you. Unless it was, in which case I apologise unreservedly.

  8. Oh, Lucy. Have you been eating your dinner in bed again? James has been lucky if he got away without you chewi…anyway…

    Tsk, tsk 😉

  9. James – it was. Grovel. Bitch.

    And Lara! How would you know I eat in bed?? Well done for giving away OUR affair, didn’t you know discretion was the better part of valour??? I’ve half a mind not to have that DNA test over the paternity of your baby now. (What??)

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