I made my first visit to Hollywood a few weeks before production began on the first feature film I'd written. And one of the first people I met there was a high-powered agent.
He was the acquaintance of a mutual friend who, on hearing I was also starring in the movie but not understanding that the business in Canada wasn't the same as it was in LA, figured he'd better meet this unknown hyphenate -- at a time when that word was also pretty much unknown.
I dropped into his office on a Friday afternoon, immediately struck by two floor to ceiling walls of shelved screenplays, each with the title scraped on its spine in a thick Sharpie font.
I didn't recognize any of the titles, nor did I gain some early insight into the lopsided ratio between written and eventually produced screenplays.
I just marveled at the sight. It was more scripts than I'd ever seen in one place. The work of hundreds, maybe thousands of screenwriters. Proof that such a profession actually existed outside my homeland.
I asked the pert receptionist if she read them. She shuddered slightly and said, "Not since I got promoted to answering the phone".
That struck me as odd. Why would anyone not want to be among the first to experience a story that might one day thrill and inspire millions, maybe even generations of millions?
The agent was welcoming and enthusiastic, wanting to know all about me, a no-nonsense ex-pat from New York who'd been to Canada "For EXPO" and wondered why more of those "hot French-Canadian ladies" weren't movie stars.
During our chat, he sorted through a pile of scripts, selecting about a dozen that he stuffed into one of those briefcases airline pilots used to carry. His reading for the weekend.
I asked if any of them looked promising. He allowed that he'd much rather spend the next two days in Santa Barbara.
It confused me that such a supposed show-biz go-getter was less than thrilled at prospecting for what could be another gold mine.
It was my first insight into the reality that nobody either likes or wants to read a script.
No matter that no movie or TV show gets made without them. Despite all that rides on finding the next big thing, a fresh voice or a unique take on an old genre, the higher people rise in the business, the less time they spend searching for any of that. And what searching is done is treated as an agonizing chore.
The pain is somewhat relieved by resorting to "coverage", a three page, double-spaced precis of a script's plot, usually written by an eager and mostly untrained intern working at minimum wage -- with one of those pages dedicated to casting possibilities and/or market potential.
Sometimes, they'll pop an audio version onto an iPod to be consumed during a commute or at the gym. Anything to avoid full attention and concentrated appraisal.
Because maybe reading a script is hard work and they never really learned the discipline. Perhaps because that ratio of scripts put into play versus those green-lit is daunting. Per chance because writers have become just as jaded and don't try as hard to set their work apart.
Whatever the reasons, we may finally be at the point of peak-read.
From here on nobody ever needs to crack the cover of a script again. For veteran agent Scott Foster and software guru Brian Austin have teamed to create Scripthop.
Currently free, but soon to be provided to corporate subscribers for less than $30/month to manage their libraries, the software will read a script and do a complete character breakdown in under four seconds.
That's less time than it takes most of us to type FADE IN:
Scripthop also spits out a detailed character breakdown along with mapping each character's "cathartic journey" as well as their screen time and shoot days.
Never again wonder if Leonardo thinks your script is Oscar bait or can fit between the climate conferences and super model yacht vacations on his schedule.
You can test drive Scripthop here.
And the next time you submit something, you can let them know you've already done their reading for them.
You have no idea how much that will be appreciated.