Chinese Water Torture: A Day in the Life of a Hollywood Script Reader

By Tiffany Stone

12 Noon

Roll out of bed. Hit Memory 1 on phone to call Story Editor, John. Attempt to schmooze, even though I just woke up. At least I have sexy morning voice. Talk about: baseball (yuck), John’s latest favorite websites (who knew there was a website devoted to stars picking their noses?) and about how dumb morning shows are.

“You’ve got to see the new one. The chick’s hair is insane, her voice is like a man’s. Do you think she is? “

“I wouldn’t know because I am never up before 11. I am sure they are still atrocious.”

“…and she was asking Matthew Perry on a date!!!” John always said things that required more than one exclamation point. I hated exclamation points.

John brings up for the (10th?) time how there should be subways in L.A.

. “Yes, but it will never happen,” I lament.

I am a good listener, so I let John talk incessantly. I turn on the TV and channel surf. The Food Channel has gourmet French toast. My stomach churns with desire. I want to dive into a cloud of powdered sugar. After ten minutes, John finally admits that no scripts have come in yet.

“Sorry, darlin’. When are you going to finish writing your “Hollywood” screenplay? Then you wouldn’t have to be scrambling for scripts.”

Well, duh. I laugh it off. Being bitter and cynical isn’t attractive, I remind myself.

2:00 PM

Peek at checkbook and throw it at wall. Get out of bed and eat half a banana Power Bar. I would rather see a matinee than go out to breakfast. Pick up my copy of THE INFINITE JEST, read two pages and put it down. Being a script reader has made me illiterate. Decide seeing a movie will achieve desired relaxation. Read LA WEEKLY, pretending that I haven’t seen every movie out and will not be forced to see the new Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Maybe it will inspire me to write a non-cliché one. Bullshit thinking.

4:00 PM

Go to Vidiots to rent some arthouse movies to cleanse my palette after said movie. Also, am sick of using standard comparison’s on my comment’s page of coverage. If I have to say another script is a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS wannabe, I will puke. Rent THE ADJUSTER for the 3rd time, Mira Nair film and THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE. Why can’t I live in a French film? And John wonders why I never like anything. He joked with me last month about my esoteric movie references. I though no one read past the cover page. John admitted that he got so bored sometimes he would read the comments page of the readers’ coverage. I am glad that I don’t have his job.

5:00 PM

Jen calls to see if I want to go out to dinner. I would love to, but know as soon as I get to the restaurant John will call with an overnight read. That’s the only way I make any decent money doing this. I pull out my vat of candy.

5:20 PM

I pop a Milk Dud in my mouth and the phone rings.


John starts laughing hysterically. It wasn’t that funny.

“Up for another Holden?” I was so sick of that name. How many coming-of-age screenplays were wanna be’s? The last one I had seen that was amazing was RUSHMORE. It was about time we stopped referencing CATCHER IN THE RYE.

“It’s from Rich Stein” he says dangling the carrot, as if I had the luxury to pass on it. Rich was German and always wrote these really wacky scripts. They were definitely not material for a major studio. Rich was the only screenwriter’s work that I consistently read and actually rooted for. I knew he would be famous one day, though not anytime soon. Wasn’t that the story with all of us?

6:30 PM

The courier arrives with the script. I watch him from my window walking up the stairs. He must be 6’6. Giant would be cute if he straightened his teeth and got a nose job. Just then, I start feeling guilty for such L.A. thoughts…I mean, it would be one thing if I were in casting. Maybe I should be? Giant rings the doorbell, which causes me to jump. I open the door just enough to stick my hand out, but it stays hanging. MY LITTLE MERMAID pajamas are for my eyes only.

“Need a signa ..”

“Right.” I grab the pen and scrawl my initials. I pull at the script, but it doesn’t budge.

“You must have an important job, “Giant drawls.

“Not at all.” He takes my honest reply for sarcasm and lets the script go, which causes me to fall back.

“LA’s all bout attitude. Try bein real one day o’ yer life.” Giant stomps off as I rub my ass, which I am sure has a gigantic bruise on it. If only he knew my real life.

7:00 PM

After the courier incident, I am mildly depressed, so I go to Insomnia. I am preparing to read the script. Double mocha latte, check. Comfortable and well feng-sheid space, check. No actors around me, check. I cross my legs and sigh.

7:45 PM

“Are you a producer?” Damn. I was almost finished reading the script. I pretend not to hear him. That worked some of the time. Then I feel a tap on my shoulder. I lift my eyes to glare at the pushy guy.

“Can I just give you my headshot?” Actor says, giving me that I-am-just-a struggling-actor-but-cute-as-a-puppy-look.

“I am only a reader. Can’t help you.”

“Reader?” Actor’s green contacts perk up.

“Bottom of the food chain,“ I elaborate. Yet his eyes still have hope. I take his headshot and stick it in my bag.

“Thank you.” Actor says sincerely. “Sorry to...”

“Yeah, it’s okay.” I wave him off.

8:15 PM

Add actor’s picture to my headshot wall. It is almost filled to capacity. Should I start throwing away pictures or find more space? Throw them away.

9:30 PM

After doing all my procrastination activities: showering, eating, cleaning dishes in sink, picking up apartment, returning phone calls and checking my emails, I pull out my notes and the script.

9:45 PM

Reading over my notes, I start typing my synopsis. The screenplay ended up being boring. I am disappointed in Rich. His work was getting progressively better and then this. Every writer has a vampire story. At least the vampires were in touch with aliens. That was a twist. The only thing worse than reading a bad script is doing a synopsis of one. You aren’t allowed to editorialize and you must make the dull story sound exciting in case an executive has to read it. My typing speed is moderate, which is an endless source of contention. I tried to reteach myself to type faster, but that was tedious and boring. Soon I will have an assistant typing for me, I always remind myself. You have to think positively.

11:00 PM

Finish coverage. Decide to sign up for an AFI weekend workshop, “Creative Coverage.” Let’s face it; I am a professional script reader, not a professional writer yet.

The preceeding is just one sample from Tiffany's journal from her days as a script reader...