Gary A. Berg, 10/27/2014
Current Occupation: University Administrator
Former Occupation: Reader
Your Short Biographical Statement: Gary A. Berg is the author of eight non-fiction books and has an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA.
I stopped at the entrance of Warner Brother’s Studio and stated my name to the too handsome guard wearing an oversized police hat, as if he too were out of central casting. “Go ahead.” I drove down the studio streets wet with rain, past the large sound stages that looked like airplane hangars, past the cute bungalows filled with producers and executives “the suits”, and into the studio facades used for shooting New York City streets. I finally pulled up to a curb in front of a suburban-looking home in the section built for a wholesome television series in the 1960s. It is common for directors to order that streets to be watered down before shooting because of the noir, reflective look it gives. As I step out into the hard rain, I don’t think this technique will be needed today.
Out of college with a degree and living in Los Angeles, I fell into the ranks of the marginal entertainment industry workforce. I became what is known as a “reader,” or more formally, a “story analyst.” My assignment was to quickly read scripts, novels, plays, treatment summaries, and write short summaries with an analysis of the viability of the project.
I entered a modern two-story office building at the edge of the lot, dried myself with paper towels in the restroom, and climbed the stairs to the office of my main contact, the story editor. She was the daughter of a famous writer, beautiful, and looked like she should still be in high school.
“I want to ask you about this last one you did.”
“Yes, the Civil War one.”
“You recommended it.”
“That’s right. Thought it was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read.”
“But it is set in the Civil War. Nobody wants to see that.”
“Nobody. And you marked it “Recommend”.
“Is that bad?”
“It’s not ‘Consider’.”
“I see, ‘Recommend’ is not ‘Consider’.”
“If you ‘Recommend’ then we have to contemplate buying the property. Never, ever, ‘Recommend’.”
“Or ‘Pass’. You caused a lot of trouble around here.”
“If I like something I either ‘Pass’ or at the outside say ‘Consider’.”
“Basically, your job is to ‘Pass’ on everything. It’s simple. Don’t fuck it up.”
Outside it is pouring rain when I came out. I step into the fake street covering a stack of scripts with my old raincoat. I almost slip on the slick paint in the crosswalk. The gutters are filled with rain water rushing down the imitation neighborhood streets. I run across the lot to my car. Opening the door, the scripts slip out of my hands and fall into the streaming gutter. I lunge for them as they swirl down the fake drain pipe and out to the sea.