Practice makes perfect. The saying applies to sport, as it does to screenwriting. Moreover, it’s important to practice what works and what does not.
You need to identify your weakness and make it better. But to do this, you as a writer would need to know what’s working in your writing and what doesn’t.
It’s very hard to scrutinize your own work. We get too attached to our own screenplays and consider them as our “babies.” This is especially true in our first attempt at screenwriting.
This is when we would need a third party or an objective eye to review our work. Friends and family might work, but they might be too kind in their constructive feedback. What you want 👉
The stone cold truth.
What sucks? What doesn’t suck? Are the characters too cliche? Do I need to review a guide on script formatting?
And this is why screenwriters turn to script coverage 👉
Script coverage entails the grading of the script by a third party. The grading should come from someone who is not part of your friends and family to avoid bias error and maximize impartiality. Script coverage grading is based on various elements, like plot, characters, movie concept, dialogue and commercial viability.
Someone in the production company reads the script and notes his thoughts in an oral or written report. That person is usually a manager, agent, producer, or executive.
However, it’s not always the case that this group of people will actually read the script themselves.
Because of a busy routine, they may pass it off to a third-party professional to read and cover the script. After which the latter writes a synopsis giving his views on the matter.
It’s not an exact science. The assessor follows this guideline to come up with a score. That may not be an exact point system but something along the lines of good, excellent, etc.
Script coverage rubrics generally vary across companies, but certain elements are usually taken into account across the board. Key elements include the estimated script budget, its summary/synopsis, a logline, and the identification.
A common, simple grading often comes down to 3 levels:
❌ Pass – script is not good enough to be passed to a director or producer. 90 percent of scripts receive this grade.
✔️ Consider – the writing is good enough. It could use some polishing, but worth considering. The script deserves to be on the upper end of the slush pile.
🎬 Recommend – Oh baby, we got a hit! Let’s get Spielberg on the phone and get him this script immediately. Meryl Streep could win another Oscar with the lead role.
The turnaround for screenplays might take a day or two but the actual evaluation of a script can take a few minutes. A paid script reader or an agent can tell right away from your logline and/or your first ten pages, if it’s worth more than a PASS.
Aside from the company route, screenwriters can also seek script coverage from paid service providers.
Moreover, some screenplay competitions even offer script coverage with notes for a nominal fee. I cover this in my article on the Nicholl Fellowship.
The cost of these services can range from $40 (reader notes from the Nicholl Fellowship) to $199, as per WeScreenplay.com (one of many script coverage services).
Outside of script competitions, there are numerous screenplay coverage companies who offer script coverage for a fee.
The film business is a highly competitive one. Thousands of people believe they can write a script and as such agency and studio inboxes are flooded with people trying their luck.
Everybody wants a piece of the cake. Everyone has a dream of hacking it at the box office.
Check out our article on becoming a screenwriter from one of our writers. It’s hard.
Everybody sends in spec scripts knowing it is the best of the bunch. However, the chances of your script being read in the first place is really low.
Specifically, only 1 out of 10 passes through the hands of script readers.
That means there’s only a 10% chance that the script you’ve worked so hard on even gets a look. There are just too many darn screenplays between your script and the reader!
For the handful who are lucky, their scripts may be read but coverage may not be offered. You’ll not get feedback on your writing and won’t know whether it’s good or bad.
The screenwriter remains in the dark on story problems. You keep on trying your luck, attempt after attempt, without fixing script errors. Criticism goes unknown and your script keeps changing avenues without addressing glaring issues.
Here’s an inside look at the life of a screenplay reader:
That’s where professional script coverage services become useful. A reliable coverage company tears apart the screenplay, deep-diving into the details and setting aside the good from the bad. This experience makes for an invaluable dry run.
Many of these paid readers go through dozens of scripts a day. Most stop after a few pages. It takes a lot to impress them. Although they’re not the ultimate decider on what movie gets made, they are the gatekeepers to the hallowed halls of Hollywood.
Your screenplay rarely gets a second chance to impress. A producer or agent seldom seeks a do-over. They have their mind made up the first time. That is the cut-throat nature of the film making industry.
You may only get the one chance to prove your worth, and script coverage ensures you make it count.
Script coverage breaks down your story. It lists the primary developments and beats usually in the synopsis section so that a future reader can know what it’s about without spending too much time on it.
Just by going through the summary, the reader gets a good idea of what he’s in for as opposed to spending countless hours going through dozens of pages of script.
You’ve probably spent months, maybe even years, working on a script. On days off and evenings from work, you’ve squeezed every precious moment you can set aside.
You’ve invested a lot of effort and time into your script.
With so much time in your work, you’ve undoubtedly gotten too close to the material. Your judgment on its quality is impaired and your assessment of it will certainly not be impartial.
Maybe you’ve focused so much on polishing the dialogue that story problems are creeping right under your nose.
That’s when another pair of eyes come in handy: to offer an unbiased assessment of a script.
When working on a script over a long time, it’s easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. You focus too much on the trees and forget the forest.
Overarching story problems pass undetected as you concentrate on the nitty-gritty.
Third-party coverage gets you a bird’s eye view of this forest. This independent analysis lets you know if your story is coherent and is coming across via the synopsis.
For the solitary writer, an impaired judgment is one of the biggest problems to overcome because you don’t know you have it in the first place.
You’ve got a killer script, the characters are incredible, the story mind-blowing, and everything seems flawless from start to finish.
You know you have something great on your hands!
📽️ It’s destined for success. A script reader may not think so.
He may agree to the quality of your writing but not on whether it’s ready for the current market. While there’s absolutely no doubt in your mind, a script can fail simply because of its timing.
For instance, at an age where Marvel movies have become so successful, many new writers are determined to tap into the superhero sci-fi fad.
Everyone wants to try their hand at the genre because of what they presume the audience to most enjoy at that time.
The market hence becomes flooded with many knock-offs inspired by a hit blockbuster.
Everybody wants to follow in the footsteps and that means the level of competition in that niche is through the roof.
Your script may be of outstanding quality but market conditions may be against it. A professional script reader has tons of experience in what works and what doesn’t, depending on prevailing circumstances.
They have gone through hundreds of amazing scripts, just like yours. Experienced script coverage gives screenwriters market perspective, in addition to objectivity and insight on story problems.
Commercial viability is an important factor that script coverage also brings to light.
As writers, we’re often afraid of the truth. We’re afraid of sucking at the thing we love to do.
However, this is the process of becoming great at something. Just like with sports, it takes practice. It takes work ethic.
Knees will be bruised. Ankles twisted. Self-pride dunked on by the competition. These are just some of the things athletes go through to be better.
Don’t take my word for it – Here’s Kobe talking about self-improvement:
So swallow your pride and seek out notes for your script. The longer the notes – the better!
Very few people turn out like Quentin Tarantino and sold their very first script. It’s a winding road to be a long-term success in screenwriting.
So keep writing. Seek out notes from friends, family and professional script coverage. Keep the dream alive and get that screenplay perfected.
And once you’ve got that “Recommend” grading, CONTACT US to get your movie made!
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