Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Become a reader...

***NOTICE: I am not advocating companies USING free labor, instead of PAID labor. I am not condoning WORKING for FREE. I do not advocate union companies hiring scabs, or skirting the law. I do NOT advocate or condone ANY Company who would try to hire FREE workers instead of PAID workers. In this post I am SPECIFICALLY talking about INTERNSHIP possibilities, where the goal of the work is to LEARN and EVOLVE. This
post is specifically designed to help people to BREAK INTO the industry if they do not have the requisite skills to do so, and to HONE their writing ability.***

No, I don't mean to actually read books, which is a given. I mean try to land an internship READING SCRIPTS. I will now explain why this is ONE WAY, an effective way, to help improve your writing.

These are some of the easiest internships to perform from outside Los Angeles/New York. Literary managers, agents, production companies, etc all need people to read scripts. They are desperate because they are deluged with scripts daily. On the flip side, because you're not intimately involved in the day-to-day, it's not an internship that will most likely lead to somewhere. With the introduction of the internet, scripts can be delivered over e-mail, depending on the company.

However, it can be done in spare time, and for those who want to be writers but may not have a critical eye, it's a great way to understand who the first line of defense is, how they operate, as well as establish what else is out there. Also, because it is a reader position, it is POSSIBLE to do outside of LA or NY, if you find the right agencies. Also, those of you who love to read, which should be everyone, have a read and an outlet for that love that will help further your career.

Usually, a company will not require you to finish your coverage in an 8 hour shift, but by a certain date, possibly handing you a script or 2 on Monday expecting them by Friday. Whether you are 65 and retired, 35 and working 80 hours a week, or 22 and just out of college, you should be able to find the energy to do this coverage. This is NOT a development internship, which is usually in the office. This is SPECIFICALLY doing reading for a company.

Internships are usually flexible on hours, and even how long you can commit. If you want to only do a "semester" which is 3 months, you can. It's not a long term commitment. So, you will most likely do 3 months, maybe 10-20 covers, have a better understanding, get your experience, and get out. And since it's not an office job, though you may have to pick scripts up, you can do it wherever, whenever. Trust me, they will not trust you with their RUSH or high priority covers. And if they do, RUN from that company.

In addition, most of these internships are relatively easy to accomplish, as most people won't trust you with many scripts, as they don't know how well you will cover the script. Most internship won't ask you to read more than 2-3 scripts a week. some may require more, but some require less too.

In return you will learn an invaluable skill of reading scripts critically AND writing summaries for scripts. This skill is imperative for your own writing, as a good summary can mean a company will read your script.

Now, you may disagree with me, and I'm sure there are going to be a couple comments telling me its not as easy as it looks to land one of these. However, I remember when I was first starting out companies were desperate for anyone to read scripts that understood coverage and the basics of plot.

I should tell you that MOST companies will ask you to send in a sample coverage, possibly even a sample PASS, CONSIDER, and RECOMMEND. So, if you don't have really should. You can go to places like for samples on how to write coverage. Then, take a script and get to writing. What companies are looking for is:

-Do you understand story?
-Do you make educated decisions as to the script?
-Can you speak in the language of the script?
-Can you accurately summarize the script to give a flavor of the story?

Because this is an internship, its job should be to teach as well, which makes this a great place for someone to start who may not FULLY grasp these but has a moderate to good understanding. And they are light on stress because if you do lousy coverage, your script will be covered by a professional, but if it's covered well, you will become invaluable.

so, let's skip ahead and answer your next question, this is a writing and production blog, WHY get an internship reading? How will this help MY writing?

First, because most success people this business, whether it's a writer, producer, director, or actor, know how to cover scripts. They may not know the correct format, but everyone who is successful can dissect a movies flaws, at least in broad terms. So, knowing how to talk about movies is incredibly important.

Also, as a writer, it's the easiest way to understand how much crap there is out there, and how much readers HATE reading bad scripts. Once you read 10-15 bad ones, you'll understand that a reader has to read this many a WEEK, and write extensive coverage on it, including a synopsis of a usually flimsy and convoluted storyline. They're whole job is reading terrible scripts...hopefully a decent or good on slips in every 50 or so. You will see what you need to do to get a script to a place where readers will not pass on it.

And, most importantly, when you start an internship you get a READER'S RUBRIC. This tells you what is a recommend, a consider, and a pass. OR if you have a grading system, what is a 0-5. AND, then you can transfer that to your own writing. See, when you actually KNOW what a company wants to see, you can go back to your script and say HEY, this is how I make this script better. One of the better rubric's I've ever gotten even showed the page breakdown of generally where they expect things to happen, and in what order. The READER'S RUBRIC is gold for a writer, esp. a new writer.

I should mention, under California Law in order to take an internship, you must be enrolled in a class. You can enroll in a class at UCLA extension which will allow you to get credit. However, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, do not enroll until AFTER you get the internship. While most companies in LA are strict about interns, some will not make you enroll for a class, Usually the smaller companies...but also some VERY SHADY ones, so make sure you are careful. I always recommend companies that work legitimately under the law, but I'm sure there are many companies that are legitimate that may not require credit, which is a savings of a few hundred dollars.

So, how do you find companies that need readers? Basically, EVERYONE. Now, most have readers, or want more experienced readers, or don't want to deal with interns, but if you call enough places you will have a shot. You can also try craigslist, or mandy, or any of the other jobsites. Trust me, if a company is small enough, esp. if they just turned out a hit or released a film theatrically...they need readers. Scripts are coming in faster than they can read them. And, they can't beat the

It may not be the PERFECT way to become a professional writer, but if you can READ, and you can LEARN how to give good comments. It can do nothing but help you. You'll be able to see why 130 pages is bad, why thematic changes are bad, and why all of the things you've heard but never understood is bad.

Now, let the deluge of comments about how this post is terrible and wrong