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Hollywood Script Reader

Hollywood Script Reader



|Views: 477|Likes:
Published by Julie Gray
Ever wondered who, exactly, is the first person to read a script being considered for a movie? Yeah, that's people like me.
Ever wondered who, exactly, is the first person to read a script being considered for a movie? Yeah, that's people like me.

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Published by: Julie Gray on Jan 31, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Life of a Reader: Between the Brads
I am a dreaded reader. Script reader, that is. Don't hateme. I amone of a rare, misunderstood tribe. Readers are usually writersourselves, we freelance reading scripts because it helps pay the billswhile we wait for our big break. And it keeps us "in the business".That is to say, it's better than shredding paper in some officebuilding. It sharpens our own writing skills. Everyday we get paid toanalyze scripts and break them down into what is working and whatis not working. We read everything from the sublime to the utterlyridiculous. Mostly, it's pretty bad stuff. We accumulate some prettyfunny stories. Like the Rouge Wave. It was in a slugline and wassupposed to read:
 A giant rogue wave sweeps over the oil rig
. Butthis writer didn't catch the mistake and instead I was left wonderingif it was rouge as in Chanel's Cherry Blossom or perhaps more of aClinique Sunkissed Peach. I wept for the oil rig workers. To bedrowned in a wave of rouge is just too cruel! I really think thewriter was going for a more dramatic feeling there. But Iappreciatedthe laugh, I really did.I read a script for a competition that had a slugline, about midwaythrough that said, simply: This scene not included pending rewrite.In a competition. I read a comedy about a veterinarian that was 530pages long. When scripts are generally 100-125 tops. It wasn't astory, it was 530 pages of pointless riffing. Oh yeah, and there was avet in theresomewhere.I read for several pretty big, pretty cool production companies and Iconsider myself lucky. I also read for an A-list celebrity, looking formaterial he can star in. The pay is no better but it's fun to say Iwork for him. I also do script consulting privately and that issomething I really love to do. Production company coverage is prettybrutal; we don't get paid to encourage a writer to do better, we getpaid to tell an exec, in about a page and a half, how much thescript sucks and why. Writers do not realize the pressure readers areunder. I have been called on the carpet for being "too nice" tomaterial. If I give a script a "consider" then that exec has to take ithome and read it themselves. They really don't appreciate thatunless the script actually has merit. There is no such rating forscripts as "Nice try!" or "Cool idea, but can you take a class?" or "Youseem really nice!" It's simple: PASS, CONSIDER or the rare blue-footed booby of ratings: RECOMMEND. C'est moi. Julie Gray. Hello.
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Over time, I have accumulated some pretty funny reading stories.The two or three up above are only the tip of the iceberg. If youstay tuned, I'll keep you plenty entertained with more. Just in case,god forbid, I have read your script, be assured I scramble theinformation a little bit. Sorry rouge wave person.Once in awhile - once in a GREAT while - I read a script that rocksmy world. But that's pretty rare. I thought that perhaps sharing mypoint of view might be helpful for writers trying to make it over themoat of snapping crocodiles called Readers. We may not be thehighest paid people in entertainment, but we are the vanguard. If you can't make it past a reader, you're not in good shape. But don'tbe discouraged; there are many ways to improve.Each week, I will post a tip of the week. This week the topic isACTION LINES.Action lines are not just paragraphs which describe the building, orthe car or the dusty street the character is walking down. Theyaren't just to tell us the character is wearing "khaki pants, a whiteshirt and dress shoes". Action lines are like paintings. They should bekinetic, pithy and evocative. What do I mean by that? If a writer isdescribing a mid-19th century street in Nevada and the day is hotand the bad guy is about to gallop up on his horse, then focus onusing that action line to really convey all of that. Let us hear acarriage creaking by. Let us feel the hot sun. Let us choke on thedust and hear the sound of the boots over the wooden walkways.Choose words, in other words, that match the mood of the sceneand the tone of the script overall. Read produced scripts and noticethe way a horror script will use dark, scary words in the action lines.Notice the way a romantic comedy will use lighter, funnier, bouncierwords in the action lines. Make the scene come alive. Don't beafraid to sound like you, not some pedantic machine who's read ahow-to screenwriting book one too many times.Here's a little secret: most readers, and by extension, executivesand producers, skim over action lines quickly. Particularly if theyare dense. We are only looking for key words so we can orientourselves. The dialogue is the primary place where the plot is goingto play out. Put yourself in our shoes: you are reading anywherefrom 5 to 10 scripts a week. You are tired. You have to synopsizethis story. And then write at least a page and a half of commentary.You just need to know what happens already. So don't write denseaction lines. We won't read them thoroughly anyway, and even if wemust or it won't make sense, we will ding you as a writer becausethe action lines were dry, overly detailed and poorly written. Don'ttell us things we cannot see. Action lines are not subtitled. Forexample, do not say "the viewer will notice immediately how richwith silver money Nevada has grown." Huh? Oh - you mean there's alot of silver being gambled on the tables? Okay, so just say that.Describe the saloon then. What kind of music is playing? Is themoney clinking? Are people shouting when they win and groaningwhen they lose? Is it a bunch of miners and roughnecks or guys incravats and monocles? We've all seen movies - describe the scene asif it's a movie. I know that sounds stupid but scripts are not justGet Text Alerts
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blueprints of movies, they are facsimiles of movies. We should readthem and almost see the scenes recreated in our minds. Anotherexample: a character shouldn't just "note" something. What doesthat mean? Do they raise their eyebrow? Blush? Look away? Changethe subject? Jot it down on a cocktail napkin? Action lines are likepaintings. They should move and breathe. They should be brief. Weshould want to read them because they are part of the pleasure of the script. When in doubt, challenge yourself to cut your action linedown by fully half. Review it for words that are adding to the moodand feel you want to evoke. Homework: read even a few samplepages of THE SALTON SEA by Tony Gayton. That is a writer withvoice to be reckoned with.Stay tuned for another Rouge Wave topic of the week!
jmraney1said...Hey! I get to leave the first comment...awesome! I think your blog isgoing to take off once some struggling young writers like myself findit:-)Keep em coming and keep up the good work!MatDECEMBER 6, 2006 3:09 PMbpsaid...nice bloggery, but what if they did mean a wave of mascara? it's apowerful imagesalton sea = great script, shite movie. so it goes.keep it upDECEMBER 27, 2006 1:20 PMLe Femme Joyeusesaid...
This post has been removed by the author.
DECEMBER 30, 2006 9:12 PMshecanfilmitsaid...Hey! I'm printing out the Salton Sea right now. I found your blogthrough Scott the Reader's blog. I'm always looking to pro readers toget reading recommendations. Something to consider posting - a listof your top 5 or top 10 screenplay reads, scripts that amatuersmight want to study. (That we can find on the internet or in abookstore.) I have made it an exercise to read pro scripts this pastyear, and I can see a big improvement in my own writing.
Weekend Box Office,Jan. 28–30
1. The Rite$14.8 M2. No Strings Attached$13.4 M3. The Mechanic$11.4 M4. The Green Hornet$11.2 M5. The King's Speech$11.1 M
Source: Box Office Mojo Click for more info.
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