A little over a month ago I received an inquiry about being a script reader from a person who is attending courses on screenwriting. He wanted to know how to be a professional script reader. Of course I was more than happy to share with him my information as a script reader. There are script readers that read for other entities such as a production company or an agency however my experience has been with an online competition and a festival.
What do I think of the job?
I love it! I love reading scripts. I started reading scripts seriously since I was 14 when I fell in love with acting and directing. Everyone has a story or more to tell. I want to help them tell it so people will listen, I want them to be heard and I want the audience to get something out of what the writer has put so much work into. It's a passion. When reading season comes, make sure you have a lot of time set aside for reading. It's very time consuming. I come from the point of view as a writer, I would want my reader who is reading my script to put great effort into reading it and take the time to give valuable criticism. I know as a writer I spend hours & days & years working on one script, I deserve your attention. So, make sure you have TIME to be a reader.
How's it going now?
I'm on off season now. All the time I took to read scripts I'm taking now to write and rewrite my own projects. (Actually, the season has opened again! Yikes, I better get my reading glasses!)
What got me into reading on a professional level?
I have a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance and a masters is in creative writing and screenwriting. You DON'T need a degree to be a script reader BUT it does help to understand the terminology. This is good that you are independently seeking information on how to be a script reader. This is your education that you are giving to yourself and I admire that completely.
As a professional reader, I've been at it for three years now.
Besides a masters I did screenwriting workshops. Here are some that I recommend to you:
Richard Walter is a former UCLA professor. He's excellent.
Cineshots are workshops that are in LA. It's great because you can network with industry professionals. You get information straight out of the mouths that are working in the industry. They are really cheap workshops however you just have to get down to LA! Btw, I have read for them just last year.
Here are some blogs. I follow a lot of blogs and read what others are saying about screenplays and writing/reading them.
Erik Bork also wrote a book, a good read, called The Idea.
BANG2Write is a great blog. Lucy V. Hay holds workshops in London, have not been to Europe yet but if you travel you may want to do her workshop.
InkTip is a great resource. I wrote an article for them. They offer tips on everything about screenwriting and reading. Best of all, you can read professional film scripts they make available. As a reader you want to do this. To read the kernel and then view the final step, the film.
Any Syd Field or Richard Walter books
Screenwriting For Neurotics by Scott Sublett
The Idea by Erik Bork
A book that people would never think of for screenwriting but I highly recommend is William Ball's, A Sense of Direction. This is a key book to building a character's inner conflict. I think it's the bible for the actor along with Sandy Meisner's book, On Acting. You'll know what good dialogue and character is once you know William Ball's ideas.
I can go on and on... but I'll save you some time!
If you're not a screenwriter then you'll become one after learning how to be a reader!
The most important key to being a reader is to be on gut level, be intuitive. I have created a criteria of how I evaluate and score scripts. You will find your own through your education but, remember, it's okay if writers break the rules or do things differently. In fact, it's exciting when they do! Always ask yourself; Are you finding yourself emotionally involved with their story? Is the writer making you feel strongly about what the character(s) and how the character(s) feel? It's on a gut level. Screenwriters don't have to tell the story in a traditional matter, they just have to tell a story that moves you. If you don't understand something in their script point it out to them. This will make them aware that they need to do something about it. Anyway, build your criteria but keep yourself vulnerable.
When you feel ready enough as a reader, ask local competitions if you can read for them like Cinequest, San Jose Short Film Festival, San Francisco festivals, Morgan Hill’s Jasper Film Festival, etc. There are many here in the bay area to choose from.
If I were you I would get that first screenplay finished. Complete a script and then send it out. There are competitions that will charge a little extra for feedback. However, whatever feedback you get don't, DON'T get frustrated if it's not what you wanted. Everyone has an opinion, take what works for you and leave what doesn't apply. You are in complete control of your work. Most of us have more rejections than accepted work! DON'T give up! PERSEVERE! Finish your script(s) and get feedback from multiple people in various professions as well. This will help you understand what it is like to be on the other side. Use constructive criticism and point out what you like. I think readers sometimes forget to do that, to point out what they really like in the script.
BEFORE you submit a script to anywhere make sure you register it with WGA-West (WGA-East if on east coast) to protect it. It's $20 for each script.