How I became a script reader
One question I get asked all the time is, “How do I become a script reader?” So, once and for all – here is the lowdown on how my consultancy Bang2write started – plus make sure you check out my course, Breaking Into Script Reading, back for its seventh year in 2021!
As I’ve said before, I never actually 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 also detail in this post, when work experience came around (which you HAD to do, to pass the course), 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. I’m very glad it was!
Script Reader to Script Editor
From script reading, it made sense for me 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, ASSASSIN and many of the other projects listed on my Films page.
To sum up, then:
- Script reading is about ASSESSMENT
- Script editing is about DEVELOPMENT
But *how* do you become either of these two jobs?
1) Do a script reader training course
Following popular demand, B2W now offers a script reader training course, Breaking Into Script Reading, in conjunction with LondonSWF. I ran this for the first time in 2015 and it was a huge success. You can see photos, read delegate feedback and book for this year’s course, HERE. See you there!
2) Be a script reader FIRST
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*.
3) Interning can really help
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 like family, plus rent, bills etc to pay.
4) Collaboration can work just as well as interning
BUT 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. 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.
5) Look out for high profile gigs
Alongside getting credits on actual produced projects, volunteering for high profile schemes, competitions and so on can really help smooth the road for you as a script reader. LondonSWF uses volunteer readers for many of its contests, though this DOESN’T mean we take *just anyone*, either. LSF readers must prove they can analyse screenplays to a certain standard, but if I think that reader is a good one, then I do all I can to help them with their own endeavours. My colleague Michelle at WriteSoFluid is a (goode) example, here. She started as my student “back in the day” and now we are allies.
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! 😉
For more details, check out my further post, How Do I Get Work As A Script Reader?
Book tickets for my 2 day workshop, Breaking Into Script Reading
How To Write A Script Report (And Why It’s GOOD For Your Writing)
What Does PASS, CONSIDER & RECOMMEND Mean On Script Reports?
How Do You Script Edit Without Turning It Into Your Own Story?
Hi lucy, what a fantastic blog you have here! I’m just here bascially to ask for some advice. See I’m in a bit of a predicament at the moment, I’ve just finished my first year of College and I’m looking into getting some sort of entry-level job/internship with a company in the script department. I don’t mind if its TV/Films/Games. I’ve looked into university courses, but I’m not necessarily sure its worth it if there is a way in without a degree (Ironically I’ve been looking at Bournemouth). I’ve sent off letters to two local TV productions for work experience as well. So I was just wondering if you have any advice for me? Whether a degree would be the best way (What was the work experience like there?) or if theres another way what other things can I do to stand a better chance into gaining the necessary skills to break into this sector? If you could email me please and let me know, sorry for such a long-winded message. Many thanks!
Hi Hannah, glad you like the blog 🙂
I’ve written extensively on university and whether it’s worth it – it is for some people, isn’t for others (so I can’t say what the best path would be for you) – but I did a round up in this post: http://www.bang2write.com/2011/04/learning-writing-go-to-univer
Also, if you check out the labels at the bottom of the post and click “university” you will find more articles on the subject, including others’ experiences of writing courses and of course the dreaded aspect of MONEY. Hope that helps! LV x
Excellent advice, Lucy. A couple of things I would add:
1) Whether you do it for pay or do it for research/interest, script reading is vital for any screenwriter – not so much for big things like story construction (you can get that from watching the film) but more for seeing how to successfully commit a story in words on the page. I think this is sometimes the important craft that so many books/workshops/courses omit: the first audience for your screenplay is a reader and you have to know how to communicate the emotion, style, tone and pace of your story on the page. Also how to write dialogue that creates an “inner story” (off the nose). You can really only learn that by reading lots of good (and bad) screenplays.
2) It might be worth saying that nobody is ever going to make their fortune as a script reader. Most people do it for love or ambition rather than money. The average fee for a script reader report is £50 so you have to read an awful lot of them to make a comfortable living! Just in case anyone was thinking “I’ll give up my job and become a script reader”!
As you say Lucy, script development/script editing is a different beast altogether and the money is different.
Hi Lucy, interesting blog and very helpful! I was wondering if I could get a quick bit of advice. I am just about to graduate with an English Literature degree and was hoping you could recommend companies that provide work experience/internships in the script editing/reading area? Although I have taken creative writing modules and have done a creative writing dissertation, I don’t have experience in dealing with scripts first-hand. It’s an area that interests me, but I am not 100% sure it’s what I want to go into, and although the courses you recommended sound brilliant, I don’t have the money to take one right now. Thanks for your help!
Hi Victoria, in that case I would recommend getting a Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook and checking out the literary agents and prodcos in there and contacting them all. This is what I did back waaay back when I started, before courses etc were available. Be warned – I sent 79 letters and got 14 replies, with 11 of them saying they didn’t have anything & 2 asking if I’d like to come in for a chat; only 1 actually had any scripts for me to read!. But one is all you need, so good luck!
I was curious, where does the script editor fit in on the staff ladder in the writer’s room? Would one progress from being a staff writer to a script editor? Or are they on completely separate tracks with very different responsibilities?
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Script editing on TV can be a different beast to script editing for film, plus it can depend on the individual show (such as whether it has a dedicated show runner). At its heart though, it’s about development just the same.
Hi Lucy, I was wondering if you knew of any courses you would recommend in the US for Script Reading?
Hi Caleb. Yes, mine! It is now available by Zoom, so accessible all around the world. CHECK IT OUT HERE.
Great blog and insights!
I’m working at getting my foot in the door into script reading and editing. It’s been VERRY challenging.
I’m doing your 2 day course on script reading this weekend,so, i’m sure it will give me some great hints and tips!
It is SUPER challenging, agreed! Thanks for booking on the course, I am sure I can help with more in-depth details for you. See you soon!