On Doing Script Coverage for Cannes and Letting Go

I’m dragging.

It’s been a wonderful week of creativity, celebration, and healthy goodbyes, and I wouldn’t have traded a moment of it.

A play I directed ended its run, and as per usual, the cast and crew did the strike immediately after the last show. While it sounds callous to simply rip it down like that, the practice allows for catharsis.

For those not in the know about theatre lingo, a strike is when you tear the set down, taking the stage back down to expectant emptiness. You also put away costumes, props, and clean up dressing rooms and the green room. It takes a big truck, lots of charged electric screwdrivers, closed-toe shoes, the ability to pick up heavy things, and a willing bunch of hands.

We had all of that at the end of this last show. I always try to be one of the last out when I’m the director, giving the floor a final sweep before I go. I usually drop a few salty tears as I do so, and Sunday was no exception. It’s done now, for good.

I’ve already started working on the next one.

Our oldest and youngest children also set off on wonderful new adventures this past week. Our daughter has been out of our house for a while, but it was great to finally give her a party and send her and her fab husband off on a delayed honeymoon. They went to San Diego, and I’m jealous. It’s one of my favorite cities in the USA. It’s certainly one of my favorite climates, nice and cool nearly all year ‘round.

Our son has headed back to DC with his partner. I think DC is more of a home than anywhere else to him after he spent four years there at GWU as an undergrad. As I dropped him off at the airport at 4.30 in the morning, his cat in a carrier protesting the travel, I was emotional. It’s not like we haven’t said goodbye many times before. This one felt different, though, a true next step. A moment we’ve been headed to since meeting in the Glendale Adventist delivery room nearly 24 years ago.

Ooof.

The balance to the waves of emotion the last seven days was being busy. I like to stay busy, but whew howdy, this past week was an exercise in time management and taking things one thing at a time while also strategizing possible roadblocks. You can’t catch them all, of course, but I inevitably try.

I’ve had the pleasure of being a reader for many years for agencies, production studios and private clients. This past week I got to work for a distribution company that was at Cannes. Basically, my job is to read and then give my thoughts as well as a synopsis of scripts for completed or nearly completed films. I give it one of three ratings: Pass, Consider, and the rare Recommend. Then the distribution company decides if they want to take a meeting with the producers of the film. (On board yachts at Cannes, by the way. I’m glad that a bit of ooo-la-la still exists in this business.)

I’ve gone out on the limb with that Recommend for only about ten scripts in the past twenty-five years of doing this odd but fun job. I’ve read thousands of scripts and books. The key to being a good reader is to have a moment of excitement before you open the first page of a script. If you aren’t excited by the possibility in your hands, you shouldn’t do the job. In general, a good reader will know what they have in terms of a visual story in the first ten pages, but we always keep going, even when it becomes dreadful, as sadly, so many do.

I want to add something here: I don’t know how YOU can become a reader. The journey to become one is weird and different for everyone. For me, I always loved reading, had taken a script writing course, had one of my film scripts made, and the wife of one of the actors in that movie was a reader for a big talent agency, and asked me to fill in for her when she was on vacation, and I got hired from there. I quick ran out and took an extension course on being a reader (this was before YouTube or google) so that I felt confident.

It’s been a great gig over the years and allowed me to meet a lot of artists I truly admire.

Here are some things that indicate you might like the job: 1. You love to read. 2. You understand story, script structure, character arcs, what constitutes good dialogue. 3. You see things visually in your head/imagination. 4. You loved doing book reports in grade school. 5. You have excellent grammar and spelling. 6. You can read until your eyes bleed and then turn around and type up 2,500 cogent words to meet a deadline. 7. You have good time management skills and don’t tell people you’ll do something when you cannot. 8. You love movies and television and can give several examples of what a script is like/not like off the top of your head, as well as a good handle on who the current bankable stars and up-and-coming actors, directors, and writers are.

I can also tell you that reading and covering five scripts in a twenty-eight-hour period will absolutely take your mind off of anything else going on in your life. You get to write sentences like; “The snake was the best-developed character in the script.” I mean, come on.

And then you sleep like a rock, your mind completely drained of all thought.

Balance achieved.

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