Producers receive many scripts from writers or agents, and it’s impossible for them to read every script. For example, an average script takes about one-two hours to read. Read four, and the producer’s day is pretty much over. Producers don’t make money from reading scripts, they make money from producing them.
Hence, producers hire people to read scripts for them and to let them know what the story is about; its strengths and weaknesses.
I used to read scripts for a feature film distribution company. I learned a few things about the business.
What does the analyst do?
Basically, an analyst reads a script and writes a two-page review. The first part is the synopsis that captures the major plot-points and mood of the story. The second part of the review allows the analyst to explain where he thinks the story is strong and where it could be improved. Humility is the key here. After all, if the analyst was talented, why isn’t he a world-famous screenwriter?
Finally, the analyst includes a log line which describes in one catchy sentence what the story is about. An analyst may want to put in a rough budget estimate because a producer may love the story, but if it’s set in Ancient Rome with multiple battles, he may want to pass because it’s going to be pricey to produce.
How this crazy process works
The process is set up so that the lowest paid person with the least amount of experience can nix or push ahead a script in the production process. Crazy, huh?
Here’s the a potential path of a script:
- A writer sends a query letter to a production company wondering if they would be interested in reading their script
- The letter sits around for weeks because producers are busy people
- If the producer says, “Sure, send it in” the script is sent to an analyst
- The analyst reads it and returns the script along with their review to the producer
- Finally, the producer reads the coverage and from that will decide if they want to read the entire script.
Analysts are people, too; some people like westerns, others hate science fiction stories. A really well-written story may get a lousy review because the analyst found the genre boring and didn’t pay much attention while reading it. The producer will read the coverage and will most likely get a bad impression of the story.
Tips for Writers
- Sometimes luck is with you, sometimes luck is against you. You may have simply sent a love story to a producer who suddenly decides that she now likes police dramas.
- Spell correctly. Analysts get many scripts to read. Poor spelling immediately turns them against your script.
- Present your script in proper format.
- Photocopy your script on good quality paper. The cheap stuff cuts fingers and is hard to turn from one page to the next. Producing films can cost millions of dollars, spend more than two cents a page on presenting your blockbuster.
- Keep camera angles and direction to a bare minimum. Tell the story. Leave the film making to the film makers. Reading, “Close up hand, then reverse angle of murderer as we pan to darkness” can really distract from the story.