Looking for coverage work
July 8, 2008 9:34 AM   Subscribe

How does one find work as a script reader in Hollywood? What are other bottom-rung industry jobs for writers?

I've just moved to L.A., and am interested in finding work as a script-reader while I work on my own writing. However, I'm not sure how to get started. Does one query agencies? Write spec coverage? All tips and advice welcome.

Also, information on other industry jobs that are a good fit for professional writers is welcome.
posted by Bookhouse to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd urge you to go another route-- just get a regular day job and work on your writing on your own. Script reading is draining work which may make you turn against writing. I stand by my comments in this thread.

If you still want to do it, I'd suggest getting an internship at a production company in the story department. Do coverage there, get a portfolio of samples, then ask the execs at the company how to get some freelance reading jobs. I don't recommend being a reader for an agency as they usually want employees who want to be agents and who will put in the 10+ hours a day to make it.

Good luck.
posted by sharkfu at 10:16 AM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: Sometimes you can advance up the rungs by becoming a Production Assistant, but it HAS to be at a writing-heavy production, like a scripted TV show. I've seen a few PA's get scripts that way. Just make sure it's a show run by writers, not a reality show.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 10:42 AM on July 8, 2008

I have no direct answer but want to add this caution: Don't assume that getting in on the bottom means that there's an automatic (or any) path for advancement to more desirable positions for those who have that position.
posted by winston at 11:10 AM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: I just posted this query at LA Metblogs for insight:
posted by Unsomnambulist at 3:36 PM on July 8, 2008

Jane Espenson, writer for Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, and Ellen, is a big fan of using scriptwriter training program competitions to launch yourself into a career. If you win one of those coveted slots, you essentially get a working internship, exposure, agent interest, and great contacts which frequently can translate into jobs. But even without winning, a good script often can catch the attention of an agent or manager. It's one of the few ways that an unrepresented writer can actually get read.

Lisa Link, a prolific scifi tv writer, also speaks highly of that route while offering info on alternative entrees such as assistant jobs, or working your network to get a pitch mtg.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:38 PM on July 8, 2008

Best answer: David (aka Unsomnambulist):

I'm sorry you took offense at my advice, offense enough to post it at another blog and criticize me there, but I stand by it. Of course in your other blog post you neglected to mention the breakdown of agency vs freelance work that I pointed Bookhouse to, but that doesn't matter.

What matters is this: I am trying to help Bookhouse, whether you see it or not. I'm not sure if you've ever done large amounts of coverage work, but I have and I feel like if you're an aspiring writer it can be incredibly demoralizing. After reading bad script after bad script I started to get sick of the screenplay format and the drive to create my own material diminished. I was trying to warn Bookhouse about that. It does him no good to paint a rosy picture.

It's hard work.
The pay isn't great.
The work is erratic.

Furthermore, I found very few of the benefits you mentioned to be true. My contacts at the companies helped me very little, you could learn more about how to write from reading good screenplays not crappy ones, and you'll definitely make more money waiting tables (which means you could work less and write more). Add to this the fact that Bookhouse has never actually written coverage but wants to get paid to do it? Unfortunately, my experience is that there is very little forgiveness in this town for on the job training.

I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that Bookhouse was college-aged and I thought an internship might be a good start. At my internship a kind exec took me under his wing, gave me a packet on how to do coverage, and was forgiving when as I learned how to do it. (Incidentally, I looked through my files for this packet with the hopes of sending a scan on to Bookhouse but I've since discarded it). Doctor Suarez mentioned a PA job, but I will mention that friends that started as PAs complained that the 12+ hour days cut into their writing time.

So, yeah, I think it's a bad idea. I think it's a mistake to think there's a link between script reading and a career of professional writing. Perhaps I was just too sensitive to the monotony of reading scripts, but if I had to do it all over again I would stay away and work on my own writing.

Here are a couple places that would probably be better starts, once you have writing samples:
WB Workshop
Disney Fellowship
posted by sharkfu at 8:48 PM on July 8, 2008

Sharkfu, no offense intended, nor taken. As a matter of fact, I quoted your advice because I actually thought it was worthwhile... but still just advice.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 11:51 PM on July 8, 2008

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