Friday, December 6, 2013

Post #999 - "Script reader... NO MORE"


Okay, so maybe the blog title is a little dramatic, but I couldn't resist the Spider-Man allusion. If I could actually draw, you might have gotten a sketch of the Bitter Puppet walking away from a trashcan full of scripts.  Instead, you get the copyright infringement above.

[Update: a very kind reader, AP Quach, did a sketch much as I described.  It was kind of a kick to see!  Check out more of her work at http://www.sassquach.com.]


For some time now, I've talked about how the market for script reading is drying up. Sure, you can always hang out your own shingle and take payment directly from people interested in your feedback, but the days of supporting yourself on just a couple regular script-reading gigs with agencies, production companies and studios are fading fast, if not gone entirely.  It's why when people have written in asking how to become a reader, I've told them, "You don't want this job."

Things have been going down this road since the writer's strike.  For a while, I was able to compensate thanks to the sheer number of freelance jobs, but I've been aware of the ticking clock.  Each year, it became more and more difficult to make a full living off of just my reading gigs.  I've pursued other jobs within the industry, particularly with the goal of becoming a writer's assistant.  I got maddeningly close several times, close enough that I convinced myself I just needed to stick with the freelance jobs a little bit longer because surely my objective was within my grasp.

But as the years wore on, I enjoyed reading less and less.  The scripts seemed to get worse, and I found increasingly less satisfaction in what I was doing.  The companies I read for were unfortunately very stable in their development departments, which meant there was little opportunity to convert my reading gigs into some sort of Creative Exec position.  I'd love to work in Development if the opportunity presented itself, but I'm done being just "the reader."

So effective immediately, I'm ending all of my freelance reading jobs.  I'm not going to say no to any permanent positions that come my way, and you can bet your ass I'll be looking for writer assistant gigs come pilot season.  The difference is this time I'll be doing it without a net.

When I made this decision, I honestly felt like a great relief.  In the past, my writing has definitely been better for the brief hiatuses I've taken from reading.  But it's not even the reading that really wore me down. It's the futility of being that first filter.  Most of what you read is crap, and even when you find the good stuff, there's little reward or opportunity to develop it.

Fear not, this blog isn't going anywhere.  I've got a decade of experience in the industry and I'll continue to draw upon that here.  I'll always be willing to give the benefit of my experience.  But the days of enduring multiple scripts a week (most of them sub-par), being paid by the script and then having little stake in what happens to it afterwards are over.

You can't start a new chapter without ending the old one first.  As such, I have decided that, at least for my career as a freelance reader, this is definitely the end.

See you on Monday for Post #1000!

20 comments:

  1. Brave move. Good for you. I will miss the 2 minute screen writing lessons from the puppet. Some really good stuff there. I wish you would come take a job teaching Screenwriting at my university. They can't seem to find a good prof for the job.
    Good luck out there.

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    1. Fear not! The blog and the videos will continue.

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  2. Sounds like it's time for a new handle. If not the Bitter Script Reader, what should we call you now?

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

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  3. I remember someone's advice which (paraphrased) was "The best way to succeed with Plan A is to not have a Plan B".

    So respect and good luck!

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  4. I hope you have a good lead on a decent gig. You've got more guts than me. Cheers to all those who can say enough is enough, I'm dropping everything and changing direction, or moving to L.A..

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  5. Best of luck, bud, this is a good thing...

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  6. As Bruce Wayne discovers towards the end of Dark Knight Rises, to make the leap you must lose the rope. Best wishes on your next chapter, and thank you for all the insight you've provided here and on twitter!

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  7. Good luck. I'm glad you are continuing your blog. One of the few blogs I actually read! And I'm not exactly a script writer. Co-wrote one with my husband; but the experience we had trying to sell it was awful. So, for now, I'm sticking with fiction and non-fiction.

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  8. Working without a net takes courage. Best of luck.

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  9. But at least you still have your Black List promo gig, right?

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    1. I am not employed by the Black List, which I have stated many time quite clearly. My only explanation for how you still do not comprehend this is that you either have a reading comprehension problem or you enjoy being a dick.

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  10. Get busy living, or...you know the rest. Less reading, more writing? Congrats on the bold step forward.

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  11. When my writing avocation hit a similar wall, I ended up first setting tools then making them, in factories. For over twenty freaking years. I'm sure you can do better than that....

    Good luck, in any case. TALENT + PERSERVERANCE = "GENIUS" = A REVAMPED CAREER....

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  12. Hey man, congrats on the decision to drop the freelancing. Good for you. Listened to the Joshua Caldwell podcast the other day, you've really done a lot. Something will land for ya.

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  13. Wise move---it's across the board. I have friends who teach college and they would rather poke out their own eyes instead of reading some of the papers written by students. And if those same students are writing scripts, then you just saved your sanity (and your eyes). We'll all being waiting to hear the next chapter...and the happy ending.

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  14. Godspeed, Mr. Bitter. I hope you find everything you're looking for just over the horizon.

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  15. Here's to new beginnings, imminent successes, and the next thousand posts. Cheers.

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  16. Very best of luck! And thanks for the Blog, always a great read!

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