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8/31/2009
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Amazon Kindle's New Role: Script Reader

Lions Gate, the studio responsible for the film and TV hits "Crash" and "Mad Men," is using the Kindle e-reader to distribute scripts.

The Amazon Kindle has landed a hot new role in Hollywood as a script-reading device. At Lions Gate Entertainment, instead of lugging around briefcases and satchels stuffed with 150-page scripts, some personnel are now reading scripts on their Kindles.

Executives, top script readers, and producers are among the lucky ones getting Kindles from Lions Gate's IT department, with many more employees hoping to eventually get them, said CIO Leo Collins in an interview. "We're getting heart wrenching requests almost hourly," Collins said.

Amazon markets the Kindle to consumers for reading electronic versions of books and newspapers, but their use at Lions Gate -- an independent studio known for such films as "Crash" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the Emmy award-winning "Mad Men" television series -- shows Kindles can also have a role in the business of Hollywood.

Because of its dimensions, the Kindle is better than a laptop for viewing scripts that follow the entertainment industry's standards for typeface and page format. It's important not to deviate from those standards, since they let a studio exec read a block of dialogue and, based on line count, know how many minutes it would run on the film screen.

Executives have long been able to get scripts as .PDF attachments on their laptops, but a typical laptop's 4X3 display makes reading them cumbersome, since a whole page can't be viewed at once. More typically, assistants print out PDFs and distribute them to studio execs. It's not uncommon for a film script to run over 100 printed pages.

Now production assistants are sending .PDFs of scripts in attachments directly to registered Kindle users' email addresses that are set up through Amazon. There are fewer steps required to open an attachment on the Kindle compared with a laptop, making it as easy to read as apaper version.

Those reading scripts can also make notations about them on their Kindles. "The Kindle completely transforms the whole experience," Collins said.

Not to mention the trees and money that can be saved. During weekends and holidays, it's not unusual for Lions Gate to send out paper scripts to executives' homes via couriers. "Now we're at a place where the script just shows up on their Kindles," Collins said.

Lions Gate's use of the Kindle is more of a test than a rollout, but Collins sees the potential for the device to have a bigger impact at the studio in coming months, as well as the rest of the film industry.


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