[AS PUBLISHED ON MOVIEPOOPSHOOT.COM]
DAY TWO IN THE LIFE OF A HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT READER
By Tiffany Stone
5:00 AM - 2:00 PM
I skip into John’s office. The piles of screenplays are overflowing. He gestures to them and circles his finger, signaling, “I’m crazed”. John can’t play solitaire and talk to execs at the same time. John squashes his hand over the receiver, “Whatever you want,” he hisses. Lovely. I feel so very important now. Hell, tomorrow I will wake up and be a Creative Executive. I always loved that title.
I want to be at a party and have someone ask “What do you do?” so I can smugly say, “I create.” They’d laugh and say with an equally smugly response, “What do you really do?” “I am a Creative Executive at Warner Bros.” I win asshole.
I cop a squat next to a pile. I pass up a “true story” because they suck 99% of the time. Another pass on a 144-page script: amateur. It must be over 150 pages for me to get that extra 10 bucks reserved for the “long script.” Who said editing is overrated? Remember that writers. Do you want to sit through a 2-1/2 hour movie? The next one is formatted wrong. What the fuck? Ever heard of Final Draft? How do these people get agents?
John chimes in, “What about a book?” I cringe. I am not one of those kick-ass readers who can slam a novel in three hours. I can slam a martini. “John, I’ll take a Grey Goose straight up.” Oh, I didn’t really say that out loud. I am a snob, too. Yeah, I’ll admit it. Books are not meant to be speed-read. Well, maybe a Grisham novel.
“You aren’t a whore yet?” John crosses his feet on his desk. I have not yet succumbed to his book bidding wars. In his reader pool, there are no speed readers. However, there were people more desperate than I was for money, ones who would read a book for not much more than a script. I’d rather starve.
I go to the lame-ass reader’s appreciation party. I do have more important things to do with my time (like getting over writer’s block), and come on, if it were a real party we would be at The Palm eating steak and getting drunk. There are a few bowls with chips and pretzels. I go to the soda table and grab a Dr. Pepper. Nothing like a conference room soirée. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. The stomach flu? Oh no, it’s that reminder of the 9-5 office job…better known as jail.
I wonder if anyone writes better coverage than me. Nah. Well, except for maybe the staff readers.
I survey the scene: A woman who could be my mom, a fat guy who
looks 15, a collegiate guy, a nerdy girl with glasses, a wool striped sweater
(honey, you are in Cali) and greasy hair. Am I in a John Hughes film? I was
expecting hipster types like myself.
An Andrew McCarthy type walking in. I am pretty in pink. My smile radiates.
Nerdy girl speaks just as Andrew reaches out to shake my hand.
“CJ got fired last week because she had a typo in her log line and the script sold.”
College boy chimes in,” John’s getting an assistant.”
Nerdy girl glowers, “How do you know?”
“Karen’s my best friend.”
“That means...” I can’t help myself.
“Karen is the new reader’s coordinator.” College boy brushes off his ironed Diesel jeans.
Fuck me now. College boy was going to mess with my income. This was too much.
Okay, time to split dullsville. I grab Andrew’s hand.
We find an empty office and make out.
Andrew takes me to a screening at The Writer’s Guild of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. I am overjoyed at the originality. Todd Solondz rocks. I am in a good mood now.
At the adjacent after-party I see Oliver Stone and Alison Anders. Alison is with Tom Ford. What’s up with that? TF is so conceited. I don’t recognize anyone else except for a fashion stylist to the stars who can’t dress himself. I decide to pretend that I know him. It works. He never even asks my name. I get him to critique my dress.
“It isn’t all that flattering. The color, I mean. Magenta would suit you much better. I love your bracelet, though.” Rick flashes me a fake smile.
Rick is wearing a cowboy hat with rhinestones and a white jumpsuit. I’d like to get paid $5,000 to take him shopping.
While Andrew is in the bathroom, an ugly guy in a suit with a
vacant look chats me up.
He asks the requisite, “What do you do?”
I roll my eyes internally. I bet he’s a producer that does not have an ounce of creativity in his being. I wasn’t going to say, I work in development, or I work for New Line Cinema like another reader I knew (disclaimer: I never worked for New Line Cinema).
“I’m a reader.” Suit looks at me with mild contempt.
“What? Are you 20? Didn’t go to college? Your cousin Julie is an agent? Think you should have the power to veto my script? Do you know how long I have worked in the biz for?”
The thing about Hollywood was that everyone down to the dishwasher
at my favorite coffeehouse had a script. Thus, I was the enemy. “I am 22. I
graduated with a BFA in creative writing and literature. And none of my
relatives, thankfully, work in the film industry.”
He rambles on like I didn’t say anything.
“You have no fucking incentive to like anything you read and recommend it to anyone...”
I don’t bother to admit that I want to be a development exec. My gaze turns down as half his martini spills on his shoe. Suit has abnormally small feet. Now I get it.
“I may as well give my script to a monkey.” Suit points to a hipster catering woman. “Maybe she should be a reader.”
“You are dissing the entire movie-going public. Your average Joe isn’t well-read or versed in film history. They tend to have an okay idea about what sucks and what doesn’t.”
I didn’t completely believe this, but it was the best comeback I could think of.
Three Cape Cod’s later Andrew and I decide it’s the best idea ever to tear down two WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE posters. We don’t get caught.
I pick up the script that is due at 10AM. It is a broad comedy by a well-known director. It is his first script and my first script for his production company. It is off the mark. I’m sure it will make millions. In this case I will have to do some creative lying. I turn up my screenplay-reading music, techno. It gets me to read faster. I ignore my comfortable bed, begging me to lie down. That is the problem with living in a single. The bed is too readily available.
I start typing my comments page. Thankfully, I don’t have to do a synopsis. Instead of saying the characters aren’t well-developed, I lie and say they are. However, they could be slightly more original. For instance, Walter could have a nervous tick instead of stuttering. The pacing is off, too. I was falling asleep during the first 30 pages. I know readers who won’t read past page 10 if the script isn’t good by then. I try to treat writers with the same respect I want. I always read the whole script. The worst thing about the script is the dialogue. I read well-written dialogue in about 1 in a 100 scripts.
I ponder over a piece of cheesecake how to say “the dialogue sucks” in a PC way.
I dance for a few minutes for inspiration. Okay, I really change the CD to Dramarama. I need a break from techno. “If you just marry me, marry me…” My voice is not mellifluous, but I sing loudly anyway.
I cite examples of pages where the dialogue works and is from the characters POV (point-of-view). Perhaps the dialogue could be slightly more polished.
I pop two Advil for a headache. Trying not to step on famous director’s ego is very stressful.
This has taken me way too long: balancing positive remarks (trying not to sound like a kiss-ass) with constructive criticism.
I take a break. I go to my window and eavesdrop on the condo people who always fight. They are addicted to arguing. When I was younger and a romantic I thought fighting was passionate and always led to great sex. Hey, I was very young. I wonder if Andrew and I would fight if we lived together.
Finally finished. Set alarm for 10 AM, my deadline to have my coverage faxed in by. I always check it one last time before sending it in. My mind needs time to recover from the few hours of intense thinking. I think I will splurge on breakfast this afternoon. I doze off imaging exquisite eggs benedict from Geoffrey’s.