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View Full Version : Does anyone here know a reader/analyst?


K.C.
05-09-2005, 09:56 PM
I'm recently transplanted to L.A. and was wondering if any of us know a reader/analyst currently in the industry. I'm looking for reading work myself and was hoping to pick someone's brain about the experience.

jimjimgrande
05-11-2005, 08:57 PM
i read. send me a pm if you like.

Carlton Redford
05-12-2005, 06:24 AM
Hit the link below for a good article about the story analysts who are unionized. Then hit the "Guild Home" option box at the bottom left of the page to learn about the guild and how to contact them.

Even if you don't end up as a union member, you can request info about reading in LA and pose whatever questions you'd like to this professionals' resource.

http://www.editorsguild.com/newsletter/MayJun00/story_analysts.html

-- Carlton

kullervo
05-12-2005, 10:28 AM
In my experience, what most confuses outsiders about coverage (especially those looking for reader gigs) is that coverage is not about how to improve a script. It's strictly about what's there on the page. It is not like one of those read-and-review peer sites. This is what ends up frustrating the bejeezus out of readers. You also have to know how to write coverage with your employer's goals in mind. Which means you will often have to pass on those rare good scripts if they are not what your employer is looking for. In all, it's a study in frustration.

kullervo

ExtHollywoodDay
05-12-2005, 11:44 AM
This is as good a primer as anyone would need on looking for reader work for the first time.

Indeed, CE and Kullervo are right about coverage changing based on the company's goals. One of my favorite pieces of coverage to this day is my coverage on American Beauty which I read for Bruckheimer in 98. The fact that it wasn't exactly their type of movie was a footnote, however, in an overall rave review of the writing.


-ExtHollywoodDay

-www.bartgold.com

ExtHollywoodDay
05-12-2005, 12:09 PM
PS: You may find that the 'constructive input' factor varies from company to company as well. At one of my early gigs, the story editor literally told me 'we need you to be an assassin. The less of this pile we have to read, the better.'

When I was reading for Team Todd and New Regency they were pretty specific about the reader embellishing upon the script's good points. Team Todd was hard to read for because they wanted you to make the coverage better than the script.

By that point in my reading career I had developped a pretty specific style in writing my one-two page synopses. I felt I was accurately recreating the experience of reading the entire script in these synopses... for example a plot might be confusing since the reader was missing key information on someone's motives until such was explained the final scene. I would not go back and plant the information at the beginning of the synopsis. I would put it at the end so the exec would experience the same confusion.

Mostly, folks appreciated the accuracy, but a few of them wanted the reader to go the extra yard and fill in the holes. There's no predicting which way any given executive would lean until you've written some coverage for them.


I would add that contrary to some of the reader lore I heard about when I first started... I would NOT describe the average reader gig as the type of situation where the threat of firing and thrown coffee hangs over your head if you don't agree with the executive's call on every single piece. There is room to learn and adjust.

Once I passed on City Of Angels, feeling that the angel character played by Nic Cage felt sort of creepy and stalkerish to me. I was called on the carpet by my executive V.P. of production, who was quite touched by the script. I explained my take and she said she saw my point. That was that. They didn't make the film.

Years later when it showed up on Siskel & Ebert, the critics called Nic Cage's character creepy and stalkerish.
:rolleyes:




ExtHollywoodDay
www.bartgold.com

kullervo
05-12-2005, 12:58 PM
Very satisfying, Ext!

k

NiteScribe
05-13-2005, 06:53 PM
The snarkier and more dismissive my coverage was, the happier and more enthusiastic the studio was about that coverage. Sure, I snuck in some good points about scripts and was even applauded for doing so--as it gave the executives something nice to say to the agents. But, by and large, they really wanted me to do a Willard on those Kurtzes (scripts). Guess what? Many of those scripts deserved far worse. So much dreck makes its way around town. It's truly puzzling. The upside is that a writer can learn from reading. However, reading 97 horrible scripts for every 3 good scripts can seem like purgation or damnation. Take your pick. That's the reality.

AnconRanger
05-13-2005, 09:26 PM
dreck.

subjective business.

knowing dreck when you read it.

Willoughby
05-14-2005, 01:25 AM
Wow. Thank you guys so much! This has been a wealth of information!

I'd written a cover letter and updated my resume, but I wasn't sure where I could pull scripts to cover from. I never thought of using recently sold specs!

I'm glad to hear about the different experiences you've had in doing coverage. I feel like I have a better handle now on what to expect and how to go about things.

Cesahr
05-14-2005, 06:55 AM
that goes double for me. Thanks everyone.

NiteScribe
05-14-2005, 03:02 PM
dreck.

subjective business.

knowing dreck when you read it.

Yes and no. You know dreck when you read it, usually by page one, but you hope you're wrong. You hope for a good script, every single time. No one wants to read dreck. You want a good script and you get excited and enthusiastic when you do read one. That happens all too seldom, between 1% and 3% of the time, and most script analysts would agree with that.

It's not hard to recognize a sub-standard script, just as it's not hard to recognize a good script. The better or worse a script is, the easier the coverage is. In the case of an awful script, the hard part is reading it. The real challenge of the job occurs on scripts with strong merits that are compromised by other weaknesses. An almost-good script can be the toughest to cover, and there are more of those than there are good scripts. Dreck rules the day though. There is an ocean of mediocrity out there and being a script analyst is like pearl-diving in that ocean. There are a lot of pearl divers, very few pearls, even fewer good pearls, and an endless amount of ocean.

Landis26
05-14-2005, 04:39 PM
NITESCRIBE -

Did you ever give bad coverage to a script that was bought by another company, and even made into a good movie? Can you cop to the fact that maybe you just didn't SEE the film on the page, or you just didn't get it.

I've read coverage from legit prodcos and studios that passed on one of my scripts, and in the synopsis of the story they got things wrong - Things in scenes didn't happen the way they said. So me thinks that they didn't really read it carefully. This script by the way, ended up getting me a few options and a good amount of writing jobs, one that was made into a low budget movie.

Just wondering...

Landis

NiteScribe
05-14-2005, 04:57 PM
Did you ever give bad coverage to a script that was bought by another company, and even made into a good movie?

I've never given bad coverage to a script that was bought by another company. However, I have made a point in coverage that certain scripts would sell elsewhere. Those scripts did sell elsewhere.

If anything, as a script analyst, I've been too generous.

AnconRanger
05-14-2005, 06:50 PM
NiteScribe, you've never given bad coverage to a script that was bought by another company?

Wow.

NiteScribe
05-14-2005, 08:16 PM
NiteScribe, you've never given bad coverage to a script that was bought by another company?

Wow.

It's not that impressive a feat, really. To put it in perspective--a studio may make about 12 films per year. Factor in that 8 of those 12 will be sequels, adaptations, or re-makes. Consider that 2 or 3 of the remaining 4 will be made from pitches that came from established writers. So, that leaves 1 or 2 spots for specs. The studio may get 4,000 pieces of material to choose from in a year. Sometimes higher.

That gives you an idea of how good a script has to be to get through the system. While it's true that there is a vast amount of sub-standard material out there, that is an advantage to a truly good script. Isn't it? You are competing against quality as much as, or more so than, you are competing against the sheer number of screenplays out there.

Specs, nowadays, really serve as writing samples more than anything else...particularly at the studio level. A few get bought, but most do not. Some excellent scripts don't get purchased for a variety of reasons: too similar to something already in development, too low of a budget for a studio to consider, too arthouse an aesthetic for a studio film.

There is more competition out there today than there ever has been before. There are good scripts that just aren't movies, but the writing is noted as being good. There are good concepts that are poorly executed, and that is also duly noted. Some scripts have great dialogue, but nothing else. Similarly noted. Unfortunately, there really is a lot of bad writing out there. I'm not saying that to be mean, or to act superior in any way, shape, or form. It's just the truth. Maybe that's for the best, as it makes it so much easier to recognize a great story that is well-executed across the board--on those rare instances when they come along.

Not trying to sound harsh here, but it is a buyer's market and a script has to be perfect or nearly perfect if $80 million are going to ride on it. Does that explain why so many mediocre movies get made? Of course not. But mediocre movies have always been made. The fact is that it is very difficult to make a good movie. People aren't trying to make bad movies, they are trying to make good ones. May seem like a no-brainer, but I get as bummed out as the next viewer when something falls flat.

I also get as bummed out as the next reader when I realize that instead of reading the next AMERICAN BEAUTY, I'm reading the next METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED SYN--IN 3D. Script analysts really do want to like scripts. Certainly, that may be tough to believe...but it's true.

If I can be so brazen as to offer any advice, it would be this: write script after script after script, read, know your craft, get attachments before you go to the studio level. Try to get your name and writing into the system in the hopes of getting an assignment or selling a pitch. Yes you can sell a spec, but the odds are very, very long.

DrumDog2112
05-14-2005, 09:35 PM
NiteScribe, very nice. Thanks for the info.

ExtHollywoodDay
05-15-2005, 06:10 AM
I think the original question was bad coverage on a script that went on the be a good movie. If it's bad coverage on any script that was sold/made that's a lower hurdle. I've done that a bunch of times. It took about 4 years of being a reader before a lot of scripts I had read made it to screen.

Scripts that I gave bad reviews to as a reader that were later made:


Totally hated:

The Big Hit
Boat Trip
Chill Factor
The Brave
Music From Another Room

Marginally disliked:

City Of Angels
The Sixth Day (Two great reveals supported by too much unmotivated
stock action. Thought it had potential, though)
The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet hereafter is maybe the only one where I could at least see something on the screen that I didn't get on the page, but the pace is still too slow for me to say I liked the film.

Landis26
05-15-2005, 10:11 AM
AMERICAN BEAUTY is a script NITESCRIBE uses as an example of a great script/movie.

I liked the film. Was it great - no. It felt like an R-rated MOW with big movie stars. It had the predictable - the nutty/creepy-kid-across-the-street in the end is the only sane one, gimmick. The tough ex-marine, latent homosexual angle. Annette Bening was way over the top.

I know it went off to do big box office, but HITCH just did $100m, too.

NiteScribe
05-15-2005, 12:50 PM
I haven't given bad coverage to any scripts that either sold elsewhere or were made into films. That doesn't mean I'm a superior analyst. It means I've only been reading for a couple of years and I'm too generous in my coverage. Maybe some of those scripts will sell or have sold. Haven't noticed any. I have passed on scripts that have sold elsewhere, but that's not the same as bad coverage. The scripts were good, I knew they were good, and mentioned as much in my coverage. They were passed on for other reasons. Having said that, as a relatively new analyst, I've gotten many lower priority screenplays and fewer higher priority screenplays.

Can't say I would have given bad coverage to HITCH, though I probably would have passed on it. Still, it's better than half the stuff that floats around out there...believe it or not. Yes, AMERICAN BEAUTY made a lot of money and I cite it as a good script and film, and I believe it is. It struck a nerve with audiences and lacerated the myth of an ideal suburban America. Granted, THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW does the same thing, but not quite so poetically. Then there's that Academy Award for best original screenplay to consider. Studios love that sort of thing. Can't say I would've liked to have been the analyst to pass on that one. Taste is subjective, as is being a script analyst, but I stand by my contention that there is a lot of sub-standard writing out there, and that it can only help a truly good script.

jimjimgrande
05-15-2005, 01:04 PM
I have a taste for sub-standard material and abhor intelligent, well-crafted work because it scares me and I don't understand it.

I will go far and never want for reading work.

kidding of course.

We're just the front lines of a grist mill and even if my superiors pay attention to my comments and recommendations (which some do) that still doesn't mean that my opinion counts for anything because, as was mentioned above, so many factors weigh more heavily in the script to screen process.

More often than not, reader comments are only used to support somebody's argument for or against a project, or buried if they aren't of any use.

My postiive comments may get the next person in the food chain to read the script, but with only a few rare exceptions does what I say have more influence than that.

ExtHollywoodDay
05-15-2005, 01:15 PM
CE: Out of curiosity, in what context did you pass on Gladiator?

Was it a 'should this agency represent this script' situation, or have you read for a film company somewhere in your way up the ladder?

For a film company reader there's a lot of arbitrary limitations based on films being right for the company, as Nitescribe and I have attested to.

Obviously for an agency there are different imperatives.


Thanks


ExtHollywoodDay
www.bartgold.com

Willoughby
05-15-2005, 01:38 PM
Unfortunately, there really is a lot of bad writing out there. I'm not saying that to be mean, or to act superior in any way, shape, or form. It's just the truth.

Don't apologize! Everytime I hear someone in the industry say that I dance a merry jig*! It's bust-out-the-dollar-store-can-o'-root-beer time whenever that idea gets hammered home!

It means one of two things:

1. I am better than most writers out there.

or

2. If I keep working like a dog, I will be.

Factor in my love of pitching, marketing, and all things salesmenship related, and my ability to dress professionally and arrive at places on time and I figure that puts me ahead of at least half the pack.

Never apologize for spreading the good news on a Sunday morning!

Yours in Final Draft,
Willoughby

(*UK Writers: Is that Monster ad driving you guys crazy, too? Or is that just a Virgin Radio thing?)

JungleLuv
05-15-2005, 08:18 PM
CE

Just out of curiosity what would you say is your prevailing priority when considering a screenplay? Those you represent and their personal interests or the quality of the work itself?

JL

JungleLuv
05-15-2005, 08:28 PM
The Sweet hereafter is maybe the only one where I could at least see something on the screen that I didn't get on the page, but the pace is still too slow for me to say I liked the film.

For Atom Egoyan it was Gone in Sixty Seconds.

JL

AnconRanger
05-15-2005, 11:08 PM
"I haven't given bad coverage to any scripts that either sold elsewhere or were made into films. That doesn't mean I'm a superior analyst."

My god, I would think it surely would.

Surely would in such a subjective business.

Wouldn't it?

NiteScribe
05-15-2005, 11:46 PM
"I haven't given bad coverage to any scripts that either sold elsewhere or were made into films. That doesn't mean I'm a superior analyst."

My god, I would think it surely would.

Surely would in such a subjective business.

Wouldn't it?

There's a difference between "bad coverage" and "passing" on a script. Bad coverage means an analyst is either not doing their job or is quashing a script, or both. I do my job and I only quash scripts that deserve it. It's pretty easy to tell the difference between a script that deserves quashing and one that just deserves a pass. When a writer draws in little doodles as wrylies...the script deserves more than quashing, it deserves assassination.

JungleLuv
05-16-2005, 10:10 AM
Thanks CE.

JL