Question: Can you tell me what the process is once I've submitted my screenplay to a production company? Where does it go once it's been delivered? Who reads it first, who next, and what exactly happens to my script next? Leticia R., Toronto, Ont.
Larry Brody Responds: When you send in a screenplay all by your lonesome, without an agent, the odds are it gets tossed out, or you get a letter saying the company can't consider your submission without a release. If this happens to you, request a copy of their release form and sign it.
The release will use language to the effect that you promise not to sue them if they steal your idea, but it's their game and their ball, so if you want to play you need to make that promise -- and then sue 'em anyway if push comes to shove.
Once the technicalities have been taken care of your script goes into the slush pile, where an assistant delegated to do all the 'first reads' will look at it -- after the assistant has looked over material sent in by people known to the head of the company or head of development at the company and by agents. This can take a while, so be patient. The good news is that even though most companies say they use professional readers, they really use interns, who are people just like you -- young men and women who want to be writers. They understand your situation. The bad news is that since they too want to be writers they're rivals and therefore not inclined to recommend anything up the ladder unless it's so great that discovering it will make them stars.
Remember that the definition of a good script in our current corporate showbiz environment is 'one my boss will like.' The boss has told the reader what he or she wants or thinks the company needs, and if the reader refers too much material that doesn't fit that description the reader will soon be out of a job.
So -- the intern reads it, then whoever is the lowest person in the development chain. Then the head of development. Then the Big Boss, whoever that is. Piece of cake, right?
I'm not being cynical here, just realistic. You've got to know what you're up against. Knowledge is power.