Leslie writes: I'm very good with story development, and I'd love to read for a living. Do you think it's possible to work as a script reader from Atlanta? And, how in the world would I go about this?
I've gotten a number of emails from people who'd like to be script readers - and unfortunately, it is not an easy gig to land. There are a lot of experienced coverage writers floating around LA (and beyond), but the demand is shrinking. Many companies that used to use freelance readers now simply farm out the work to assistants and interns. The Bitter Script Reader has blogged more extensively about this. Even with years of experience, he has trouble finding enough work to sustain him. I was working as a reader for two different companies, but one recently decided to focus on their current development projects instead of looking for new ones. No more books for me. Luckily, my friend who works at the company passed my coverage samples on to a friend at another company who was looking to replace a reader who quit, so I may have a new gig. There are some jobs out there, but in my experience, the only way to get them is through friends and word-of-mouth. You're not going to find these jobs posted on websites anywhere. They generally don't even make it to tracking boards (email groups that Hollywood assistants and execs use to share information). Similarly, my other reading job came about through a friend I used to work with at the agency.
Script reading can pay decently, though many companies have not raised their rates in several years. My writing mentor says that I get paid about the same as what she was paid as a reader in the mid-90s. Also, it's unlikely that you would get enough work to make it more than a supplemental income. The majority of my (small) income comes from working as a tutor and exam proctor, and I also do some paid blogging (which is also a hard-to-find, low-paying job).
On a practical level, there's no reason that you couldn't read from anywhere. You can get PDFs by email and send your coverage by email as well...but I'm not sure you'll be able to find a reader job from outside of LA, unless you have some really solid contacts here. I think companies will want to see that you have some kind of industry experience that informs your coverage. You might be able to identify strong dialogue and a fun concept, but do you know how much it would cost to make? Do you know if there are similar development scripts floating around? Would actors want to attach themselves? I think it would be hard to know what companies are looking for in a script if you haven't at least had an internship in Hollywood. (My coverage has certainly improved a lot since my first internship!) So the practical, short answer to the question is: Be an intern or assistant first.
For more about script coverage, check out my post How to Write Script Coverage.