I’m heading to LA to begin the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA and would love to get a day job as a reader if possible. Where do you start looking for reader jobs being offered and what gets you hired as such?
For those unfamiliar with Hollywood parlance, a reader is someone who writes coverage on a screenplay — essentially a summary of the plot, along with a short critique of the the script’s characters, narrative, dialogue and structure. Along with answering phones and working in the mailroom, being a reader is one of the classic first jobs in the film industry.
In order to get hired as a paid reader, you need samples and references. The best way to get these is to intern somewhere. Pretty much any small production company would be fine for this. There are a few ways to find one:
When you get to Los Angeles, pick up a copy of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. In the classifieds section, you’ll find ads for “readers wanted.” Some of those are scams; some are real. You just have to meet with them to figure it out. (Trust your gut.)
Since you’re going to be at UCLA, check the bulletin boards in the film school. There will likely be some “interns wanted” flyers there.
The classic resource is the UTA job list, which is published every week and lists every assistant-level job open in Hollywood. Technically, you’re not supposed to get it unless you’re on the official distribution list, and if you call UTA, they’ll deny it exists. But if you’re already working one internship, chances are someone else in the office gets the UTA list, and if you ask nicely they’ll let you see it. A sample listing from this week would be:
Feature film production company with Academy Award-winning Producer needs one more intern. Candidate must have experience writing coverage and should be a student or recent graduate. In addition to assisting with daily office management, our interns take on the role of story analysts, evaluating our current projects. Must be available to start immediately and be present in the office at least two days a week. Unpaid. Please fax cover letter and resume to 310-555-5555 5/14
The goal with this first, unpaid reader job is to get experience, a recommendation, and stack of 10-15 good examples of coverage. You can have multiple internships at the same time, and you don’t need to stay with one for very long — not more than a few months. Everyone leaves; you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Take your good sample coverage and look for a paid job. The same resources listed above are good places to start looking, but hopefully you’ve made some contacts by now who can help you as well. Many of the more interesting jobs are never listed.