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I get paid to read and score Hollywood screenplays for The Black List — here’s how I got the job and why getting a low score isn’t the end of the world

typewriterAn evaluation at The Black List costs $70 for a 30 minute pilot, or $100 for a feature length screenplay.

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  • A reader for The Black List says there are a few things to keep in mind before paying for a read.
  • Screenwriters pay to have their scripts scored by readers at the reputable screenplay database site.
  • Readers at The Black List are only required to have a year of experience reading scripts.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a reader at The Black List. Their employment has been verified by Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

During COVID, I was working part-time and I wanted to supplement my income. I’m a screenwriter, so I felt that reading scripts would be great for me.

The Black List is the most notable site to launch a career as a screenwriter, where writers at any level of expertise can submit their screenplays for potential exposure to industry insiders. Black List movies have won 53 Academy Awards.

Writers can pay $30 a month to ‘host’ their scripts on the site, where agents, managers, producers, directors, actors, and financiers are known to look for their next project to produce. It’s a great way to get your script noticed — if you’re able to stand out from the crowd.

One of the requirements to be a reader is at least a year of experience at an agency or production company where you had to read scripts

The minimum requirement to be a reader at The Black List is a year of experience as a Hollywood assistant — so there’s a fair chance that someone at that experience level is writing your evaluation.

With a service like this, you’re paying to roll the dice — you might get a reader who gets what you’re going for and has great advice on how to improve. 

There’s a certain kind of clout that comes with getting a 10 from a Black List reader, because of the site’s reputation for hosting scripts that were made into notable films. Scripts that score eight and above by paid readers are sent in weekly emails to vetted industry folks who could potentially advance your career.

It’s still a long-shot that these email lists produce real results, but it’s possible (it’s certainly happened before), so it’s still a great opportunity for an undiscovered writer.

The application process is pretty simple and the work is flexible

I found the reader job at The Black List through their website and applied by filling out an online application. I had some experience with script coverage in the industry, so I felt somewhat confident applying.

An evaluation costs $70 for a 30 minute pilot, or $100 for a feature length screenplay. As a reader, I make $45 for a half-hour pilot and $60 for a full hour. It’s great that the company passes a good chunk of the fee to the reader.

I pick how many scripts I’m willing to read at a time — and once the script is in my feed, I have a week to read it and give notes on it.

I know people who have done this as a full-time job, so they’re reading a lot of scripts, which can be tough. I’ve never reached this level, but if you read a certain number of scripts per month, you get a 15% bonus for the whole month. That bonus makes this gig a bit more viable as a full-time job. You could probably make around $50,000 a year if you could keep up with that many scripts. 

Every reader has their own system for how they give ratings

A reader’s evaluations always get approved first. I suspect that someone takes a cursory look at my notes to make sure that nothing is obviously bad. If people complain about your review, you’ll get flagged to management. Getting enough flags could get you fired.

When I start an evaluation, I read the script and provide a logline based on my reading — then I fill in its strengths, weaknesses, and potential. I also provide a numerical rating.

1-2 Rating

If you’re in the one to two range, there’s probably formatting issues, like maybe it’s not even written in Final Draft (the industry standard screenwriting program). In those cases, I’ll put a free guide on how to format a script in my notes, or suggest some free software that will format it for you.

3-4 Rating

When a script is a three or four, there’s usually story or dialogue issues. I try to give the writer really thoughtful notes in these cases. There’s always a way to make something work.

5 Rating

As for a five, that to me means the script is perfectly … fine. It’s a good script, but maybe there’s just nothing special about it. 

6-7 Rating

A six or a seven means that I enjoyed it, it was good. I rarely go above a seven on the one to 10 scale. Sometimes I’ll review something and then after I send it in, I’ll go look at what other readers gave it. Oftentimes I’m surprised by how high of a rating it got. 

8-10 Rating

We give these out sparingly — a nine or 10 rating is supposed to be universally accepted as being really, really good.

The evaluations are highly subjective, but there’s no such thing as an objective evaluation of art anyway. I’ve given a script a nine because I thought it was amazing, and then I looked at the other evaluations and another reader gave it a four. Based on my own experience, if there’s ever that much of a discrepancy between two ratings, you’ll get a discount on another review.

There are 3 situations where paying for a reader is most beneficial

The Black List evaluations are a good tool if you’re in one of these three scenarios:

  1. You don’t have anyone in your life with experience reading scripts who can give you feedback 
  2. You don’t trust the people who give you feedback
  3. You want a perspective from someone who doesn’t know you personally

Your primary goal in submitting really should just be to get that feedback from someone who has read scripts before. It’s important to remember that it’s not going to make or break your career — even if you get a 10 on the rating scale. 

If anything, a 10 score lets you know you’re in a good place to submit to screenplay contests, send to managers for representation, or any industry connections you might have that can help get it made.

If you work in Hollywood and would like to share your story, email Eboni Boykin-Patterson at

Read the original article on Business Insider