How to Please a Story Analyst

by Susan Kouguell

Way back when, I was a story analyst for production companies and studios. Here is my story. And this is the story you should know.

script consultantsMost scripts submitted to agents, production companies and/or studios will get coverage, which is a story report written by a story analyst (also called a “reader.”) Many story analysts are recent college graduates, looking to break into the film industry. Most are smart, overworked and underpaid. Many are aspiring screenwriters who are reading for a company to support their own screenwriting and are paying their dues in this job to get their foot (and their own scripts) in the door.

Story analysts are the lowest people on the film industry totem pole. They are often the lowest paid, yet they have one of the biggest tasks – to find that winning screenplay! Story analysts might get three scripts (or more) to read overnight after a full day of reading. It’s your job to grab their attention and make them want to check a READ on your script’s coverage.

Story analysts are looking for talent, not just the winning property. They may PASS on a script because it’s not the type of project their company is looking to produce at that time, but will hold onto to it as a writing sample for other projects they currently may have in development or for future assignments. Or, the production company, studio or agency might contact the writer to see his or her other work, which might lead to a writing job or a script sale.

“I’m tired of rewriting so I’m just going to submit my script now,” If you are saying this, then you’re not passionate about your script – and in turn, story analysts will share your sentiments and reject your screenplay. Story analysts read countless scripts per week. They must feel your commitment to your script. They want to like what they read.

Story Analysts’ Confessions

Years ago, when I worked as a story analyst for Miramax Films (Harvey Weinstein), Punch Productions (Dustin Hoffman), Paramount Pictures and Viacom, I befriended my fellow story analysts. Of course we commiserated (okay, complained) about our low pay and long hours, but once that kvetching session ended, we revealed what was really annoying us. Most of the scripts we were covering were weak. Okay, honestly, many were just plain bad.