SAE Industry Insight: Freelance Script Reader, Tara Snelling

30 Oct 2019

Tara Snelling is a freelance script reader for Sister Pictures and Fable Pictures, who interned on Killing Eve and recently interviewed for a role to be David Yates’ assistant at Warner Brothers. 

What does a freelance script reader do? 

Her day-to-day role involves being given a script or book roughly once a fortnight. She then writes a script report, focusing on different aspects like characterisation and structure etc. If she is sent a book, she will talk about whether it would make a good adaptation or not. She said: “Big companies hire freelance readers because they receive so many submissions, and want an easy way to get an inkling about a particular idea or writer without having to read 100 scripts a day themselves! Often, I will also write a summary of the script or book, and I will usually do this in about 3-4 days.”

How did Tara become a script reader? 

She acquired the role by emailing the company info account and displaying her keenness. She had already done some work in Development, so had experience of script reports before. She made sure to compliment the company’s own work and stress other relevant experience she had (such as student reviewing). 

What’s next for Tara? 

In the long-term, Tara aspires to be a Development Assistant or an Agent's Assistant. She said: “It involves being in the right place at the right time and knowing lots of people, so I'm networking a lot at the moment and freelancing/doing pub work in the meantime.”  

When she was first starting out, she had no idea this role even existed. She messaged a girl from her university who had her dream job on LinkedIn, who helpfully mapped everything out for her. If she was to go back in time to when she was starting her career, she would tell herself the following: “Realise you can only throw yourself in the right direction! Jobs you don't even know existed will only become clearer once you do more, and the strangest things help you out later, so keep doing things like student journalism/student film-making/runner work etc. I would also have told myself to try to not avoid looking at careers earlier, even though it's so scary! If I'd have even done semi-relevant things with professional companies, I think I would have figured out Development existed sooner, so ultimately throwing yourself in the right kind of direction will hopefully ease up the career 'fear factor'.”  

How can you fast-track your career in the film industry?

We asked her what you guys can do to ensure you are industry-ready by the time you graduate, and she recommended sending emails to people in your chosen career area asking to go for a coffee. She said: “It's so frustrating if you don't live in London, but if you can find anyone nearby who will just sit you down and talk you through things, you will save months of your life by what someone can tell you in 5 minutes! In the film/TV industry especially, many people are so lovely and asking for a quick 15 minute coffee with a lot of people can really help you understand an industry so much better.”

You should aim to meet up with a range of people across the film/TV industry. Tara has met up with a range of people, who have been incredibly successful to people who are just starting out. She recommends joining relevant Facebook groups such as runners and women’s filmmaking groups, and making a post to introduce yourself. She said: “People have been where you are, they’re so eager to help!” 

What happens when you encounter negativity or setbacks? 

Whilst many people will be friendly and go out of their way to help you understand the industry better, the occasional person can be rude. Tara experienced this early on, and felt discouraged. She said: “Most people I've met are very lovely, so if you meet anyone who isn't as immediately kind, please don't take it as an immediate reflection of that industry and go get some second opinions!” 

The final advice Tara had for any of you who are interested in pursuing a career in development is to look at rejections positively - each interview experience is a chance to get better and improve. She has set herself the goal of getting 10 interviews before the end of the year rather than expecting to get her dream job instantly. She has had two so far, and she feels that viewing the experience this way is a far more positive way of looking at the application process in the competitive industry. She said: “When I first started looking for work experience, I set myself the goal of sending out 100 emails - by email 30, I got a reply! Stepping stone goals can be the way forward.” 

One way of meeting and connecting with potential employers is by attending SAE Extra events, where not only can you learn a lot from an experienced industry professional’s talk, you can chat to them afterwards in an informal networking session. 

Note: SAE Industry Insight is an interview feature where we talk to people working within the creative industries about their roles and how they got there, with the intention of providing SAE students with career advice. The people we interview are not necessarily affiliated with SAE in any way.