Given how many scripts there are out there, how do people decide which ones to read? Script coverage.
There’s nothing more satisfying than typing “Fade Out,” but how do you know if your script is any good?
Each year thousands of people turn to script coverage services to get read. Who reads them? What are they looking for? Welcome to understanding script coverage.
Today we’re going to learn how to provide script analysis, we'll grab a script coverage template, plus get some tips as to how you can entertain the person doing your script consultation!
Let’s "fade in" on this topic and learn how to write script coverage.
What is Script Coverage?
It's an assignment given to script readers. "Coverage" refers to a document they prepare that summarizes your screenplay and gives the production company script notes, and advice on how to proceed with it. Script development like this is standard all over Hollywood. Agencies, management companies, production companies, and contests all use a coverage report.
Who Does This Script Analysis?
Back in the day, people paid and employed full-time script readers to write a bunch of coverage reports a week. There are still even script coverage companies.
Then, to save money, the task fell to the interns who do it for free.
When I was an intern, I was probably covering 5-6 scripts a week. And books as well. Now, it is either still done by interns (hopefully paid ones), assistants, and even some independent reading agencies, or script covering companies as previously mentioned.
Most places pay freelancers a specific price per coverage, and have readers they rush for overnight and expedited coverage.
What Is the Point of This Process?
It helps companies decide what screenplays to buy, and what scripts to further develop. It’s one of the most critical steps in the process of going from an idea to a movie or TV show. Just think about how many screenplays are written every day! Who is going to weed through all of them and find the gems?
Script reader comments truly move the needle in Hollywood.
Once you’ve done coverage, that same screenplay will get passed around where you work. Execs can read it, check out the summary, the script notes, and then decide whether or not the screenplay is worth their time. Frequently, they’ll pass or pursue a project based on this information alone.
That’s a lot of power, and it’s what makes excellent script analysis such a hot commodity.
Looking At Examples
Most coverage analyzes the script based on various criteria. And it’s not just whether or not the screenplay is good or bad.
The company or studio has to decide whether or not it’s right for them.
Disney is not going to make a horror movie.
Blumhouse is not going to make a rom-com.
Netflix... can make anything they want.
You don’t just have to impress the script reader when it comes to quality, but you also have to show them why their script fits under their banner.
We had Evan Littman, an Acquisitions Executive, break down who’s reading your script. You can check out his summation, but one thing was very clear.
Quality can get you to the top, but dollar signs can get you further.
Companies are employing script readers to find projects that can make money. If you want to take a look at prime example, check out this one from Hollywood Script Express.
Now that you understand coverage, check out or template to help you get started.
Script Coverage Template
If you’re learning to write coverage, script analysis, or considering becoming a script reader full time, you’re going to need this.
Screenplay Title - This is self-explanatory
Screenplay Author - We need to know who wrote it. Is it a hot name?
Attachments - Is there a director attached? High profile actors and actresses?
Who Submitted It - An agent? A manager? A lawyer?
Coverage By: If you’re trying to build a reputation as a script reader who provides good coverage, this is your calling card.
Logline: What’s the script about? Use 2-3 sentences max.
Plot Synopsis: This should be around one to one and a half pages, single-spaced unless informed otherwise.
Comments: These usually range from half a page to a full page. What was good, what was bad, is it marketable, what are some similar titles, did they make money?
Audience: Who is this script targeting? Moms? Dads? Families? Teenagers? Is it rated R?
Verdict: This is where you tell them whether to Pass, Consider with Reservations, or Consider. You might want to provide a sentence of explanation, but usually, it’s just one of the aforementioned summations.
Okay, now that you have your template, it’s time to find your script reading jobs!
Script Coverage Jobs and Script Reader Jobs
Script analyst jobs are hard to come by.
Usually, you have to work your way up to Story Editor at a production company to be in charge of coverage.
I used to do coverage for extra income while I was taking meetings as a writer. Lots of script readers are actually writers trying to learn more about their trade.
Or, as I mentioned above, you’re doing coverage because you work at a production company, management company, agency, or studio.
Script reader jobs go quick, so you need an in, or to be one of the first people to respond.
I know a few people who read regularly for some larger companies and can make a decent income off being a professional script reader. Their services are sought out by huge companies. And if you’re a professional script reader it means you have an excellent reputation.
But there are lots of places that pay inexperienced readers low wages to determine if your script is any good. Be wary of lots of contests. And beware any coverage service that offers notes and analysis for free.
You get what you pay for...
You can look for screenplay coverage jobs, or script analyst jobs, on sites like Indeed or LinkedIn, but most of those places hire within the industry. The best way to get this type of job is to move to Los Angeles, intern, and look from there.
Now You Know About Coverage... What's Next?
So you’ve learned a lot about screenplay coverage today. Professional screenwriter Terry Rossio supplied an entire checklist for aspiring writers to learn how to beat the script reader.
And we have an article all about what Hollywood script readers really think about your screenplays.
So get writing, get reading, and good luck!