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What does a Script Reader do?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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A script reader reads scripts for the purpose of providing what is known as “coverage,” a brief critique of the script which is reviewed by producers and other members of a production company. If the script reader's review is favorable, members of the production staff may explore the possibility of developing the script into a film or television show. If it is not, the script may move no further along the production process.

Scripts pour into production offices at a steady stream every week. Of these, only a fraction will be picked up for production. Producers do not have the time or the inclination to read through every script which reaches the office, so they farm this work out to assistants and script readers. Script readers are usually third parties who work on a contract basis, and they may cover scripts for several production companies as needed.

The script reader reads through the script, sometimes several times, making notes along the way. She or he identifies strong and weak points in the script, and considers whether or not it is a developable project. Script readers need to be knowledgeable about the development process so that they can cover scripts effectively, but they are still very much at the bottom of the production food chain.

After reading the script, script readers summarize the story for their coverage. They also make recommendations about the script on the basis of marketability, budget, and casting concerns. In addition, recommendations for changes may be made. For example, a script reader might think that a story could be marketable if it was altered in some way, or that if steps were taken to reduce the budget, a film could potentially be profitable.

Reading screenplays can be hard work. A script reader is usually expected to read more than a script a day, and fast turnaround may be required from the production company. Script readers need to be able to work quickly but effectively, as no one wants to be the script reader who recommended taking a pass on the next blockbuster. The hours can be variable, with script readers usually setting their own schedules.

Some technical schools and colleges offer training in production which includes script reading, and some script readers move into the industry this way. Others may start as assistants and work their way up the ranks. Before someone can be hired, she or he generally needs to have work samples which demonstrate a capacity for writing accurate, clear, and useful coverage of scripts.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SarahGen — On Nov 14, 2014

I worked as a script writer part time a few years ago. It really was a lot of work. Final scripts are usually around 100 pages and on most days, I was reading four or five. It might not seem like a big deal but reading a script isn't like reading novel. I requires paying a lot of attention. One has to find discrepancies in the writing, and also imagine the story throughout to decide if this is something people would want to see.

The biggest problem I saw was that most scripts were very boring. But I couldn't leave it half-way. I always had to read through everything because I had to write a one paragraph summary of what it was about. Some scripts were dreadful to go through.

By ZipLine — On Nov 13, 2014

@bear78-- Yes, that would be the best way to start.

You might actually want to consider taking a few classes on the topic. I realize you have a lot of interest in this and some experience too. But reading a script for fun is different than critiquing a script and trying to understand whether it could result in a great film or show.

Taking a class on script reading or in fact, screenwriting, will make you better prepared. In order to understand whether a script will work or not, you have to first know what makes a script good.

By bear78 — On Nov 13, 2014

I would love to be a script reader but I have no idea how to go about it.

I have immense interest in films and scripts. I've read quite a few scripts until now purely as a hobby. I watch a ton of films and also review them on my blog. I wish I could do this as a profession though. It's always nice to make a living off of something one enjoys. I'm just not sure how to get started. I guess I should start out by applying to production companies to be a script reader, right?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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