Getting Past The Gatekeeper: The Reader

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Getting Past The Gatekeeper: The Reader

When you submit your script to a production company, it'll be evaluated by a reader. Readers are usually young people trying to break into the industry. More often than not, they're freelancers working for about $50 a script. They're stressed. They read tons of scripts, and they read them fast. It doesn't take them long to get pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff.

The reader is the first person to see your script. He acts as a gatekeeper between you and his boss. His job is to "cover" your script by writing a two-page summary, rating the different story elements, and checking one of three essential boxes: PASS, CONSIDER, or RECOMMEND. If he checks PASS, that's it. Your script is rejected. If he checks CONSIDER or RECOMMEND, then your script goes to his boss, who will evaluate it for himself. The majority of scripts rank no better than PASS.

So how do you get an overworked, underpaid reader to recommend your script? By delivering a professional, well-written, original script. Here are some things to keep in mind:

• Turn in a flawlessly formatted script with lots of white space. Respect the page count.
• Deliver a good, lean story and a satisfying emotional experience.
• Be clear in your writing, but never dumb it down. The reader isn't stupid.
• Grab the reader's attention on page one, and keep grabbing it on every page.
• Establish the central conflict by page 10.
• Create characters we care about with goals we root for.
• Keep increasing the stakes throughout the script.
• Deliver a surprising but inevitable ending.
• Wrap up (resolve) loose ends in five pages or less.
• Write with confidence and hone your style.

Adhere to these guidelines and your script will stand out as professional. Even if a reader passes, at least he'll remember you fondly.



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