Aideen landed a development internship through MFJF and is currently working as a script consultant.
I was always very interested in art, creative writing and music, and loved watching films, so I thought a career in film, which combines all of my favourite things, would be perfect for me.
A lot of opportunities to work in development are not openly advertised so it comes down to being very proactive. My first internship came about because I volunteered at the London Screenwriters Festival, got chatting to a Development Executive there, followed up with her for a coffee afterwards to ask her advice about getting into development, which then led to my first script reading job - so go to lots of industry events and chat to people because you never know where it might lead!
The second approach I took was to identify all the production companies of the films that I loved and I created an excel sheet with the contact details of their Head of Development or Development Assistant. I would then write a personalized email to them, saying why I wanted to read for them and what experience/training I already had. This approach landed me an internship at a major production company. Another approach for new readers is to watch out for screenwriting competition deadlines, as the organizers will often need a team of readers to process the entries. The pay may not be very good but it’s a great way to build up a track record as a legitimate reader. I also signed up to MFJF and landed an internship that way too.
In the interview, I would say that it’s important to show that you have researched the company, and have watched the films that they’ve produced and liked them. As this is an internship in development it’s also important to come across as someone who has lots of ideas, is passionate about film in general, and is well-read.
Keeping current with recent film releases is also very important as you may be asked about the last film you saw and why it worked or didn’t – this way they can assess your analytical skills as well as find out how frequent a cinema-goer you really are. Lastly, as with any interview, it is important to come across as a nice person that they will want to work with.
In the office, I would say that enthusiasm and hard work goes a long way, as well as being a professional at all times – meeting deadlines, being reliable, and going above and beyond as much as possible.
Every development internship is different but generally tasks include; reading script submissions and writing coverage, keeping the submissions log up to date, reading projects on the slate and writing development notes, reading books and assessing whether they are suitable for adaptation and for the company you’re reading them for, attending development meetings, taking notes and potentially creating pitch documents or treatments for the ideas discussed, attending plays and film festivals to scout for new writing or directing talent, keeping the talent database up to date, and performing industry and creative research. As well as these development-focused tasks, the role may also involve assisting with the general administration of the office – answering phones, responding to emails, ordering stationary etc. An ability to multi-task and manage your time is a must.
There have been so many, but getting to meet Elton John through my MFJF internship at his company has got to be one of them!
Opportunity won’t come looking for you – you’ve got to search it out.
While freelance script reading can help build your expertise in analyzing scripts, it is quite an isolated role. Working as a development intern within a production company taught me more about working as part of a team and helped to expand my network of industry contacts. People skills are as essential to working in development as a thorough knowledge of the craft of screenwriting and one of the best ways to develop these skills is to intern within a company.
Initially you may have to read for free or for very little money until you have built up sufficient experience on your CV, so try and get a full-time paid job within the industry, ideally as a runner or as a personal assistant within a production company and read in your spare time. These runner and assistant jobs are also very helpful in expanding your network of industry contacts and hearing about script reading / development opportunities in your company before anyone else does.
As a runner or assistant, it may also be worth asking the development team if you could do some sample coverage for them or help with the submissions backlog in your free time – the development team will appreciate your help and if a position becomes available on their team, going this extra mile may help put your name at the top of their list!
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