Question: I keep hearing about these mysterious story analysts who will be charged, hopefully, with reading my script. Who are they and what are they like?
Marisa D'Vari responds: Story analysts (or readers, as they are sometimes called) come in two types. The full-time studio or production company reader is required, in most places, to read and analyze at least two scripts a day. They show up for work like everyone else, have their coffee, put their feet up on the desk and read. Many are exceptionally well-educated, and have advanced degrees, with law degrees particularly prevalent. Despite their education, however, few actually start off as story analysts. They often fast track their way from being lower inside positions by 'reading on the side' for free.
The other type of reader, the independent or freelance reader, is potentially your worst enemy because she gets paid 'by the pound.' Fast readers make very good money and working fast to accommodate more scripts can be the subliminal motivation to shout 'next' when they see the material isn't going anywhere.
Both types of readers, after reading or scanning the script, create what is called a story analyst's report or 'coverage,' consisting, at most studios, of four pages of paper. Page one is the cover sheet containing basic information like title, name, type of material, which executive it was submitted to, the analyst who's writing the coverage, and something called 'logline' and 'comment.' The logline is a TV Guide-type run-down of what the story is about. The comment is a summary of what the material has to offer. About two lines (a single sentence) is devoted to each.
Executives rely heavily on the loglines and comments, and if there is a flicker of interest, the executive will read the rest of the coverage. If the executives like what they read, they will read the script personally. Executives are looking for material for which to go to bat, material that contains universal appeal. The script must contain the emotional elements that drive us all and to which we can relate. It must be very compelling, with an unusual mix of highly intriguing characters. And it must be the right story at the right time, read by the right reader and given to the right studio executive. Synchronicity plays an enormous part in all of this.