A typical entertainment executive or agent is bombarded with written material on a daily basis. The amount of reading material is often staggering and simply way too much for a single person to get through within a reasonable period.
Often scripts that are submitted are under extremely tight deadlines, and if the executive or agent has a number of other projects under similar duress, chances are they will be spread too thin. Thus the need for a reader.
Writing Script Coverage
Being a reader is truly one of the most important, yet overlooked professions in the entertainment industry. A reader is not just someone who reads submitted material but is someone who provides a summary as well as a brief analysis of whether or not the material is something worth considering.
It is what is referred to as coverage. Script coverage usually consists of a one to three page summary of the material from start to finish which highlights all characters as well as any pertinent story points. Additionally, there is a one- to a two-page analysis by the reader which states what they thought of the material, whether or not it follows the guidelines of the people or company they're reading it for, and whether it's a project they would recommend the executive or agent considers for production.
Relish the Freedom
Most readers are freelance and paid a fee of anywhere from $50 to $500 per script depending on the company doing the hiring. It's a particularly great gig for writers or anyone looking to go into either feature or television development. It's also becoming more and more popular with actors because they can earn a living while still enhancing and broadening their craft by studying the written word.
Since the typical executive is bogged down with material, readers become an essential part of the cycle. Instead of having to read an entire screenplay (novel, stage play, etc.), the executive simply has to read what a reader said about a given project and then decide whether or not it's worth reviewing in-depth.
Finding a job as a reader is fairly easy to do; it's finding steady work that can be more difficult. That said, it's a great way to meet executives and agents at a wide variety of companies so that you're that much better prepared to take your next career step.