There’s so much to learn about script coverage — how to do it, why it exists, and how it can help you.
Although it often goes unsaid, screenplay coverage is at the heart of the entertainment business, and largely responsible for deciding which projects will sell and be greenlit.
If you’re pursuing a job in the Hollywood industry, knowing how to properly navigate this process is key.
Here’s how to get started with script coverage.
Every day, entertainment executives and agents are inundated with immense amounts of written material.
The expectation that one person can successfully comb through and analyze these concepts is almost impossible.
Well, that is unless you’re Benedict Cumberbatch.
If only executives had these kind of sleuthing skills, Sherlock, (2017)
That’s why the process of script coverage is so important; not only for executives but the readers themselves.
As Alfred Hitchcock once said,
“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.”
What Is Script Coverage?
If storyboarding is the foundation of the visual image, then script coverage is the foundation of the written.
Script coverage is a report that provides analysis of a screenplay.
It’s used by a variety of industry professionals including agents, managers, producers and studio executives.
These story notes allow decision-makers to prioritize the many projects they have on their plate; deciding which should move into production, and which should take a back seat.
It also lets them screen the enormous amounts of material they receive every day.
Now it’s easy to imagine the all-powerful executive sitting alone in a plush chair reading endless amounts of material and bestowing their script notes to the rest of the studio.
Even the biggest studio bosses need help with reading, Barton Fink, (1991)
Unfortunately this is a fantasy, and any executive worth their salt knows having competent readers who can produce comprehensive script notes is key.
One of the primary roles of the assistant is to provide those notes, acting as a kind of gatekeeper for the massive amount of material that moves through their offices.
Script coverage is not only a decision-making tool used by professionals but a mechanism to help writers shape their content to better appeal to the wider entertainment industry.
Let’s say you’re an aspiring writer. You’ve just finished the final sentence of your masterpiece screenplay “Moby Dick 2: The Ghost of Ahab,” and want to send it out to the world.
Good script coverage has become the elusive whale to many executives, Moby Dick, (1956)
Well, if you haven’t received industry feedback, or understand what executives and agents typically look for in material, then you’re selling yourself short.
This is why script coverage is essential for both the writer and the reader.
What's on a Script Coverage Template?
Now, you may be asking yourself what exactly does the script coverage template include?
The script coverage template is broken into four parts:
- A cover page that lists the script’s vital information (author’s name, genre, length of the script, etc.) and contains a logline and brief evaluation of the material.
- A 1 to 2 page synopsis of the script’s story highlighting the main characters and the events surrounding the tale.
- A 2 to 3 page comments section in which the reader provides their review of the story.
- A final ratings page rounds out the script coverage template.
On the ratings page of the script coverage template, the reader either recommends, considers or passes on the material.
Here's a closer look:
This is the highest rating a script can receive, but as you probably guessed, the rarest.
When a reader recommends something it’s like saying to their boss, “If we pass on this, then we’re passing on the next Old Yeller!”
A “Recommend” should only be given to scripts that are ready to be greenlit.
This is the second highest rating and one that is very beneficial to the writer.
Although the reader may not have felt their project was the next “Old Yeller,” their writing and concept impressed them enough to consider sending it along to the development team.
Unfortunately, the most common of the ratings is the “Pass.”
Now it’s easy to get discouraged when your script is passed on and want to spend the rest of your life hiding under a pile of blankets.
Instead of panicking, use a reader's story report to help with revisions, A Streetcar Named Desire, (1951)
But that is the wrong way to look at it.
Just because a reader passes on your material doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. It just needs a little work.
Study the script coverage template and see what areas the reader felt needed improvement.
Now instead of wondering how to strengthen the story, you will have a thorough report to help guide your revisions.
How Do I Write Script Coverage?
Now, of course, anyone can copy down a script coverage template, but the point is to understand the screenwriting process as much as possible to provide the most effective coverage.
Here are some tried-and-true practices to consider when writing screenplay coverage:
- If the story doesn’t make sense in the script, then don’t fill in the holes in the summary.
- It’s not necessarily about whether or not the script is good, it’s about whether your bosses would want to make it.
- Remember, you don’t need to include every plot detail in the summaries. Of course, you want the analysis to be thorough, but it should be economical as well.
- Don’t get too opinionated in the script coverage comments section. This isn’t about your personal tastes, but about presenting the facts of the story and whether they suit the needs of your company.
There’s a number of screenwriting blogs out there that not only examine screenwriting and script coverage, but also offer important ways to think about story when engaging with a screenplay.
Here are some of the most popular sites that offer additional script coverage templates.
Are There Script Coverage Jobs?
You’re probably thinking look, life’s hard enough. I have bill’s to pay and the dog just chewed up my favorite Patsy Cline record for the fourth time.
Is it even worth my time getting involved with script coverage?
Educating yourself on script coverage is well-worth the effort. Turner and Hooch (1989)
The answer is yes, of course! Since story is at the heart of most creative endeavors, being exposed to it, and having the ability to present key themes and ideas in a thorough yet concise manner is essential.
That’s what makes script coverage jobs ideal for writers looking to get into feature and television development.
Script coverage jobs also benefit actors who are hoping to hone their craft by becoming more familiar with screenplays.
Again, story is at the heart of all artistic endeavors, so whether you’re a writer or performer, familiarizing yourself with the narrative process is incredibly beneficial.
Now, show me the money!
Script coverage salary can range anywhere from $50-500 per script.
This is dependent on whether you’re hired on as a freelancer or an in-house studio reader.
Coverage For Writers
Okay, you’re a writer who wants honest screenplay coverage.
Yes, you’ve tried showing your mother your masterpiece but she just keeps saying, “Well, do they have to rob a bank? Can’t they just go to lunch instead?”
Mom knows a lot, but script notes may not be one of them. Throw Momma From The Train (1987)
You’re desperate, sweaty and you have no idea where to turn.
Well have no fear, the Black List is here!
Founded by former Universal Pictures executive Franklin Leonard, The Black List uses industry professionals, ranging from agency assistants to studio presidents, to deliver some of the most in-depth and trusted script coverage in the industry.
These readers rate Black List scripts on a scale of 1-10.
Those ratings are then aggregated to create a real-time list that’s filterable using a variety of criteria, allowing members to search for the scripts that will be most relevant to their needs.
As founder Franklin Leonard says,
“It's about making the work the focus and creating an infrastructure where the best of it can rise more quickly to the top.”
Over 300 Black List screenplays have been made into feature films, generating a jaw-dropping 26 billion in global box office.Also, The Black List’s official blog Go Into The Story is run by screenwriter Scott Meyers. With over 30 projects to his name, Meyers offers Black List visitors superior knowledge about screenwriting and story development.
additional script coverage services
Besides The Black List, there are a number of sites that will provide in-depth, studio-level script notes to meet one’s desires.
Most will have package-deals depending on what services you’re interested in.
Some, like Scriptshadow, will even offer the opportunity to have your material reviewed on the main site.
Writers can submit to Scriptshadow free of charge, and if selected, their script will be reviewed and posted in its entirety on the Scriptshadow website.
A word of caution though, make sure the service you choose is reputable.
If you can’t tell who’s running it, or if the site looks like it would be comfortable existing on the dark web, then stay clear.
Always consider customer testimonials, the interactions you have with site hosts and the fees. Remember, there is such a thing as paying too much.
Here are some of the best screenplay coverage sites and their price points:
With the rise of social media and online communities, outlets for obtaining reliable script notes and story coverage have risen. Enter Reddit Screenwriting.
The site offers a forum called Reddit Screenwriting that offers users the opportunity to post and have their material reviewed by fellow Reddit members.
Besides the script coverage itself, members of Reddit Screenwriting will recommend books, video, podcasts and provide script coverage samples to assist the writer in improving their work.
But wait there’s more!
Reddit Screenwriting also permits users to request and post both classic and contemporary screenplays, helping the budding writer to educate themselves further about what works and doesn’t work in story.
Perhaps more than most services, Reddit Screenwriting is beneficial in that it allows the individual to acquire story notes from a large social community.
Now Go Forth And Cover!
Story is the foundation of the creative process.
If any one of the screenplay’s complex components is out of place then the whole production suffers.
Every aspect of the story process is important. Modern Times (1936)
Ridley Scott once said, "Once you crack the script. Everything else follows."
For both industry professionals and aspiring writers alike knowing how to utilize script coverage is essential.
By understanding the script coverage template and its elements, one can be sure the story produced is of the highest caliber.
But why stop there? Check out more tips to help you better understand screenplay format as well!
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"A Complete Guide To Script Coverage" #scriptcoverage #screenplays
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