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Script Coverage: The Ultimate Guide on What It Is and How to Navigate It.

A complete tutorial on what script coverage is, where to get it and how to use it to your writing career's best advantage.

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by Script Reader Pro in Script Coverage
February 4, 2021 18 comments
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Script coverage: an introduction.

You’ve finally written the words “fade out” on your script, but how do you know if it’s good enough to send out into the industry?

The tried and trusted way is to first get feedback in the form of “script coverage” on your story.

This article, therefore, is a comprehensive, no BS prep-course on how to use coverage to gain the best advantage for you and your career.

In this post we’ll shine a light on:

What is script coverage?

Script coverage gradings.

Who provides script coverage?

The four main types of screenplay coverage.

Why should you get coverage?

How to get the most out of coverage.

How to get free script coverage.

Script coverage vs. script doctoring.

And more. So let’s jump on in.

What is script coverage?

How are you to truly know if your finished masterpiece stacks up with the absolute best in the business? That it’s absolutely, positively ready for the tough scrutiny it will face in its journey ahead?

Your friends and your family will give you a “It was fun. Good job.” But that’s not what you need.

As most seasoned writers know, any writer who expects to have success in their writing career will be (and must have) their material tested and evaluated by pros who know what they’re doing and can help you answer that question:

Is my script any good?

Simply put, script coverage is the summary and analysis of a script’s writing quality and narrative components.

Let’s start by answering some basic questions about coverage. Then we’ll take a look at a script coverage template of each type.

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Script coverage 101.  

Script coverage is a written document consisting of a reader’s feedback on a screenplay or TV script (teleplay). Another term given to it is “script notes.” They can be written by a variety of different people for a variety of different reasons.

Overall, screenplay coverage sums up a reader’s thoughts and emotional reaction to a screenplay/teleplay. It usually includes notes on all or some of the following:

Concept
Character
Story
Plot/structure
Scenes
Theme
Genre
Pacing
Tone
Dialogue
Marketability
Writing style
Formatting/presentation/grammar
Title
Final rating: “Recommend,” “Consider” or “Pass”

Script coverage is used by managers, producers, lit agents, and studio execs to discover new projects, but mostly to discern whether a submitted script is worth their very valuable (and limited) time to read.

Think of coverage as a job interview for your screenplay

And given the thousands of screenplays (applicants) pumped into the film market yearly, and given the fact that films are multi-million-dollar investments, only the top applicants will be “recommended” for the limited open positions.

Your screenplay will be scrutinized and then graded on every positive and negative trait it contains.

For seasoned writers, coverage is the norm and expected. For new writers, receiving it may come as a shock.

Script coverage gradings.

There are three words in the screenplay coverage universe that ultimately pass judgement on your submitted script: “Pass,” “Consider” and “Recommend.”

All scripts that have been stopped and frisked during the coverage phase will finally
be assigned one of the three, after all the grading and comments are done.

Recommend.

This is the highest rating a script can receive and are extremely hard to come by.

When a reader “recommends” something, it’s the Holy Grail. It’s them saying to their boss, “If we pass on this, we should be fired!”

Most readers can read a years’ worth of scripts and only assign three or four Recommends.

A Recommend is only given to scripts that are ready to be green-lit. Again, this is rare, so don’t quit your writing career if your first script doesn’t receive this golden crown.

Consider.

This is the second highest rating. A Consider can be a script that, with the right adjustments, could be a commercial hit.

Or it could be a script that could be a Recommend with just some tweaks. 

It also means the script either has some interesting characters, or a good concept, but just needs to be strengthened in other areas.

Sometimes a Consider script is just as good as a Recommend, depending on who’s reading it, their experience and depending on the ratio a company ordinarily receives of weak to quality material.

Getting a Consider on your screenplay is a huge compliment, and proves that your skill, hard work and due diligence has paid off.

If you’ve sent the script in to a studio this will usually result in it being passed up the chain to the development team for review.

Pass.

This rating is stamped on most scripts being covered at studios, production companies and paid consultancies. (Our script coverage at Script Reader Pro uses the moniker “Development Needed” instead.)

To some writers, a Pass is a soul-crusher. But more seasoned writers see it as an opportunity.

This is because it means the reader found areas for improvement and has detailed things to process and rework in the next draft.

One professional studio reader states, “Some readers will give a Pass to a script after just two pages. Some, after just one page. Because most readers can tell right off the bat whether or not the writer is a complete pinhead or has anything to say that’s worth their time.”

Yikes. But it happens. Hence: “Get coverage before you get coverage.

It’s easy to want to take a hammer to your laptop when your script is passed on, but think the opposite.

Highly paid, professional writers get passed on all the time. Even Star Wars was passed on and re-worked several times before getting picked up.

As with most things to do with screenwriting…

Bear in mind, there is no one “right” way to write coverage. Nor is there such a thing as a “standard” script coverage template.

One may include a synopsis of the script. Another may not. Some screenwriting coverage comments on all of the elements listed above. Others only two or three. Some are only one page in length. Others run to fifteen pages or longer.

As you’ll see in the script coverage examples below, it can vary greatly in intent and purpose, according to who it’s written by. And who it’s written for.

Who provides script coverage?

In the industry world, coverage is used by busy professionals to evaluate loads of screenplays in super-fast fashion.

A “script reader” (usually an intern or paid assistant) is tasked weekly to read stacks of submitted scripts and fill out a “coverage report” of each script.

Coverage reports are a single page summary and grading system of a screenplay’s strong and weak elements. The reports are then passed up the chain to be reviewed by the decision gods.

It takes an exec or rep two hours to read a script, and two minutes to read a coverage report.

The exec or rep will read the coverage and if the submitted script gets high marks, the exec or rep will feel more inclined to give the screenplay a read over.

This system of coverage has been in use for years, and is done all down the line, from producers to reps to contests—all with varying styles of doing their reports.

The four main types of script coverage.

1. Studio, exec, producer script coverage.

2. Manager, agent script coverage.

3. Paid coverage from a reputable script consultancy.

4. Contest coverage.

Let’s dive on in and take a look at each of these in turn.

1. Studio exec, producer script coverage.

Let’s say your newest action-thriller found its way into the hands of someone at Blumhouse through typical industry channels (agent, manager, referral, met an exec at a party).

Before it takes a step anywhere in the building, it will first be stopped and frisked.

Back in the day, scripts were often sent to script-reading companies for coverage or farmed out to their in-house story department where a team of script readers were on the payroll to do nothing else but read scripts and do coverage reports.

Nowadays, most companies hand that task to interns and/or assistants.

And assistants aren’t hired willy-nilly. They’re often vetted before hiring on their skills and industry knowledge and then groomed to be strong script readers (a skill necessary if they hope to advance to an exec or rep position).

Thus, your script will likely land in the hands of an assistant. The assistant will read it and write up coverage on the script using an industry standard grading sheet (explained further down).

The script coverage will get passed up to their boss. Said boss, based on the coverage, will decide whether or not he or she is interested in reading the material.

If the boss does read the script, your phone may or may not ring, depending on his or her own opinion of the material.

Studio script coverage example.

You can find a typical template for a producer and/or exec coverage report here. It’s a great example of what lands on an exec’s desk first, before they open the actual submitted script.

(Note: This is not a script coverage sample from our company.)

2. Manager, agent script coverage.

By the time your script hits the studio system, most producers and execs are expecting to receive the absolute best version of your material.

They’re trusting that for it even to make it to their desks, it has gone through the proper channels and has been vetted to near perfection.

The same can be said for reps. With one slight difference.

Where execs and producers are reviewing material for purchase and/or with the highest possibility for future development, managers and agents are looking to develop and represent writers whose scripts will ideally land on those execs’ desks.

And like production companies, agencies and reps also run incoming material through the screenwriting coverage washing machine—weeding out weaker works that get bad coverage from their readers and advancing stronger ones that receive good coverage.

The small difference is that, unlike Blumhouse or Dreamworks who are looking for perfection, reps are okay with “almost perfect, with strong potential.” 

Their job is to develop and assist writers and their masterpieces.

Therefore, reps will primarily be looking at the writer’s potential as a client for the manager or agent in question.

But first you have to get through that door. And the quickest way is to have a well-polished key. Reps are no dummies.

They’ve read hundreds and hundreds of scripts (and hundreds of drafts of those hundreds of scripts) and have most likely done enough script coverage in their early days to wallpaper Spielberg’s mansion (twice).

Thus, they know when a script has been rushed and sent in. Or if it has been elevated by outside input/notes/screenplay coverage by professionals and then polished until it’s the brightest diamond in their inbox.

(For more info, see our blog How Do You Know If Your Script’s Ready to Send Out Into the Industry?)

When an agent or manager decides to take you on as a client, you’re be handed the script coverage or a set of notes (or both) for your screenplay, which the rep feels your material needs in order to get past the gate keepers at the studios and/or production companies.

Remember: if your screenplay landed on a rep’s desk because it placed well in a contest or won, they’ll probably request the contest coverage as well.

Script report example for managers and agents.

You can find a sample report here. You’ll notice in this coverage template that they’re written in a similar style to those written for execs and producers. Very direct, short and lacking any “how-to” feedback for the writer.
(Note: This is not a script coverage sample from our company.)

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3. Paid script coverage.

This may be one of the most invaluable resources available to both new and seasoned writers.

In the past number of years, the need for top-notch screenplay consultancy services and paid script coverage has soared as the entertainment industry wall has gotten higher and harder to scale.

There’s a reason the quote, “Get coverage before you get coverage” is passed from seasoned writers to newbies. And this is why.

All the examples above of script coverage were in service to someone else: an assistant, an exec, an agent, a manager.

This section here is all about you, the writer. Paid coverage is one of the best ways to prove to yourself that your script is as good as you think it is.

Because the resource allows you to test your material for strengths and weaknesses, utilizing the opinions of expert script readers whose sole aim is to help you get outstanding feedback on your script from reps, producers, execs, etc down the line.

With paid script coverage, you don’t just get one chance to make an impression—you get as many as you want to check and double-check your product, to make sure it’s a wall-buster and a door-opener.

With this resource you get unbiased, expert input on how you can strengthen your script and maximize (with total confidence) the opportunities ahead of it.

When you’re asking other people to believe in your work and invest a pretty sizable amount of their time and money into it, perhaps a few dollars investment on a writer’s part for script coverage is a small price to pay.

This, in essence, pays for a higher advantage in the market and for the peace of mind that your absolute best work is representing you to the decision gods.

How to choose a paid script coverage service.

There are dozens of script coverage companies and individuals out there offering feedback on screenplays. 

However, not all are created equal.

When choosing a reputable company and paying for screenplay coverage, be sure to take the following into account:

1. Avoid anonymous readers. Most companies use anonymous readers—usually interns—whose skills, experience and background are not easily researched or tracked, if at all.

2. Choose your reader if possible. You don’t want your action script being read by someone who hates action movies. So, if possible, pick a company wherein you can match your script’s genre and style with a script reader who enjoys that genre.

3. Check out their script coverage examples. If there aren’t any coverage samples available on the website, email them and ask to see some. You want to know what you’re letting yourself in for and this is a great way to suss them out before paying.

4. Peruse their testimonials. Don’t just rely on testimonials on the website that could have been faked. Also read what former clients have to say about their coverage on Facebook, Google and review sites.

Here’s the bottom line: Good script coverage companies are hard to come by. However, we believe we’ve done a pretty good job of assembling a team that can really help you out if you’re looking for feedback.

Script Reader Pro: script coverage from professional screenwriters.

First, Script Reader Pro only hire professional screenwriters who’ve actually sold scripts and/or have produced films and know how the industry works.

Second, we also pride ourselves on being transparent, listing all of our script consultants and their pedigrees front and center on our site.

This means you’re allowed to pick your own experienced consultant to suit your script’s genre, needs and goals. Click on the meet our team page to read about their backstories and specific talents.

 

What our clients say…

script coverage services

You can read more of our clients’ success stories here.

script coverage services

Our average client rating is 5 out of 5 stars. Have a look at hundreds of reviews on Facebook and Google.

script coverage services

Paid script coverage example.

As you’ll see in the following script coverage example, these notes are designed to guide a writer on how to improve their screenplay and also their craft in general.

Check out a Classic Feature Script Coverage sample below or download it here:

What Script coverage services are available and which one is right for me?

Script consultancies like ours provide a huge variety of script coverage services for writers.

FEATURE SCRIPT COVERAGE. 

4+ (Classic) or 12+ pages (Deluxe) of in-depth feedback and practical suggestions on how to strengthen your film script by a pro screenwriter. No waffle. No unhelpful cliches. Just a solid action plan on how to elevate the script above the ordinary. (PS: With Deluxe Feature Coverage you’ll also get a synopsis.)

We’ll write a logline, fill out a 17-point Ratings Grid that rates story, characters, dialogue, scenes, theme, etc. and give your script an overall “Development Needed” “Consider” or “Recommend” grade. Find out more.

Samples:
 Classic Feature Script Coverage example (4+ page script report)
 Deluxe Feature Coverage example (12+ page script report)

TV SCRIPT COVERAGE.

4+ (Classic) or 12+ pages (Deluxe) of in-depth feedback is also available for TV scripts. Find out more. 

Sample: 
 TV Script Coverage example (4+ page script report)

MARGIN NOTES.

Extensive on-the-page notes made directly onto your script. The pro of your choice will go page-by-page and scene-by-scene through the script giving feedback on its plot, structure, characters, scenes, dialogue, writing style, formatting, etc. Find out more. 

Sample:
 Margin Notes example (on-the-page notes)

LINE EDIT.

Full description edit. Tightening up all action lines where needed. Removing or reworking excessive and/or confusing description, making for a cleaner and easier read.

Full dialogue edit
. Tightening up the dialogue by editing down and reworking excess speech and any confusing words or phrases. As with the description part of the Line Edit, the emphasis is on tidying up your existing work, not rewriting it. i.e. this service is NOT a Polish. See the FAQs below for more info.

Full proofread.
A page-by-page, line-by-line proofread in which we flag up any grammatical and spelling typos and errors.

Full formatting edit.
All sluglines, montages, flashbacks, transitions, action lines, dialogue, etc. will be edited to provide the best formatting option, directly on the page. Find out more.

Sample:
 Line Edit example (on-the-page edits)

(Note: Technically, services like a Line Edit and Margin Notes are more akin to something a script doctor would perform. But many companies like ours refer to them all as “script coverage services” for simplicity’s sake.)

Script coverage vs. script consulting/doctoring.

Along with its coverage service, Script Reader Pro also offers top-of-the-line script doctoring.

What’s the difference, you ask?

As mentioned before, story analysts (aka a “reader”) write script coverage on your screenplay, which consists of a review of the pros and cons of the material.

Script consultants, however, do a thorough page-by-page analysis of your material and provide invaluable, comprehensive script notes and often with line-by-line notes on each page, highlighting examples of their concerns and suggestions.

Examples are Script Reader Pro’s Margin Notes, Line Edit and Rewrite/Polish service.

The material and notes are then handed back to the writer for you to review, process and implement as you see fit.

Script consultants do not seek writing credit for any notes they give that you might choose to implement.

A script doctor, on the other hand, is an unofficial term for a writer who is hired to rewrite an existing script or polish specific aspects of it. This may include its structure, characterization, dialogue, pacing, themes or other elements.

Script doctors generally do their work uncredited.

4. Contest script coverage.

Screenplay competitions and fellowships have also exploded in the past few years. 
More and more industry eyes are on them and paying close attention to semifinalists, finalists and winners.

Screenwriting contests, big and small, often receive thousands of entries from writers all over the world and with vastly differing voices and experience levels.

Most contests these days—especially the top tier ones like the Nicholl Fellowship, Austin Screenwriting Competition, Tracking Board contest, etc.—feature a proper panel of real industry professionals.

These are usually studio execs, writers, producers and/or directors who put in many man-hours reading and grading all those submissions.

(See our blog 10 Best Screenwriting Contests for more info on what contests to enter.)

And each submission is read more than once and by multiple reviewers. Each time the script is read, it is graded and “covered.”

Contest script coverage serves as a filter that identifies which screenplays meet the quality requirements of the contest and have earned advancement, and those which have not.

This coverage is for in-house use only—passed from one reader to another upon advancement—and involves several categories that are assigned a numerical grade on a scale of 1 to 10, or 1 to 5 depending on the contest.

And the coverage most often is accompanied by a brief one to two line summary of the story, and a paragraph or two of what the reader liked and disliked about the script.

Example: Judges assign numerical scores for elements such as these:

Concept
Structure
Plot
Characters
Dialogue
Theme
Writing Style/Tone
Grammar
Commercial potential

The higher the score for each one, the further your script advances. Simple.

Paying extra for contest script coverage. 

For many script contests, your coverage report, and often reader scores, can be procured with the price of entry, or as an add-on.

This can be a very helpful in, first, answering why your script didn’t win (if it didn’t), and providing you with the necessary data to polish and strengthen the parts of your material needing improvement.

While contest coverage will give you feedback on how to hone your skills and your script, the notes may not be as in-depth and the quality not as high as that received from paid coverage.

Most experienced writers will first get paid script coverage on their material before submitting it to a contest. 

This ensures a greater chance for high marks and further advancement.

Because a contest isn’t there just to give you coverage, but instead to vet you and your script, build your resume and hopefully help make a name for yourself in the market.

Why should you get script coverage?

And that leads us to the absolute, most paramount reason for this article.

You have to be completely confident that your script is good.

Because in order for it to get into a place like Blumhouse or Universal or CAA, it first had to be referred by someone else. As in by an agent (who will do their own coverage first).

Or a contest (which will also do their own coverage) who read it and thought it was strong enough to send Blumhouse’s way.

Once there, it then (again) has to be strong enough to get good screenplay coverage if it is to stand any chance of being put on the desk of a decision maker.

And the best way to achieve this is to “Get coverage before you get coverage.”

Meaning, your mom’s critique (although possibly somewhat helpful) isn’t going to cut it. 

If you want to ensure good script coverage at Blumhouse, you need to get lowing coverage from somewhere else first a manager, agent, script consultancy, etc.

As the old adage goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

It’s highly advisable to vet your script through a trusted second party to help pinpoint all the positive and negative aspects of your material before it lands anywhere important to your career.

How to get the most out of script coverage.

Script coverage is for everyone, from professional writers to studio execs to managers and agents to newbie writers just cutting their teeth.

Successful scripts aren’t written, they’re rewritten. And expert-level screenwriting coverage is a big part of that final revision process so here are some notes to help navigate the process.

1. Be realistic about your script.

First, before you dive into your coverage, you should be realistic about the stage of the script you submitted.

If it was an early draft that got a Pass, well, that was probably to be expected.

Therefore, it’s recommended you get script coverage on your best, most recent draft.

2. Digest the notes slowly.

Next, take time with the feedback. Sit with it, digest it, let it percolate inside you for a few days (or weeks). 

However long it takes.

Your instincts are building and learning and will ultimately kick in and point you where to go.

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” 
– William Burroughs

3. Learn to take criticism constructively.

Lastly, remember that a script coverage report is just one reader’s opinion of your script. 

Feedback can be subjective, as all opinions are, and you don’t always have to follow it to the letter.

The point is to look at your script from another point of view. Believe in your script, sure. But don’t be afraid to allow your instincts to guide you in making it better.

If your coverage comes back with sparkly stars and a golden halo, rejoice! If it doesn’t, that’s also positive.

Writers may perceive coverage notes as insensitive, candid criticism, but it is actually a valuable learning tool and growing opportunity.

It’s a big, bright, shining light pointing the way to how to make you screenplay an exceptional piece of literary work.

Always remember: these are the very scripts that end up on a sound stage at the Universal lot.

How to get free script coverage.

Whenever possible, feedback on your material carries more weight, saves more time and is more beneficial when given by a professional analyst/script reader.

The ideal free solution is to give your script personally to someone you know who works in the industry, preferably in development.

However, not everyone has friends or people they know in the industry. So if this is the case or if it’s been a tight year for your wallet, free alternatives exist.

Organize a table read on your script.

Grabs some friends (industry friends, regular friends, or both), email them your PDF, schedule a time and jump online.

After reading through your entire script, ask for feedback… and then strap yourself into your chair.

The one downside to table-reads? You never know what you’re going to get, and it’s all fire-hosed at you all at once.

Some writers will do a table-read of their material, rework their scripts accordingly and then ship it off for paid coverage. Here’s some more info on </href=”https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/table-read-my-screenplay/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>how to organize a table read of your script.

Join a writing group.

A regular writing group can be of great benefit to a writer. Members will usually be at different levels and can share their experiences and give advice on the writing process.

Some members will know how to write a great opening line and other notes, while others might have contacts to reps and producers.

This is a time-consuming avenue, however, because most writing groups have a pecking order and usually only go over one script a week.

And the quality of feedback can be a questionablemishmash of input unless you find the right group.

Submit to contests that offer script coverage.

There are a few screenwriting contests that give free coverage as part of the entry fee, like the Chicago Screenplay Awards.

Do some research to find the best ones to submit to, but bear in mind that not all contests are worth entering and not all contest script coverage is Grade A.
But like we said, it’s free.

Conclusion.

From the moment you finish your script, it’s being interviewed; by you, by execs, reps, contests, etc.

You don’t want your script walking into its interviews in sneakers, cut-off shorts, squandering limited opportunities for limited positions.

You want it walking in clad in a suit. And script coverage is where your hard work goes to get fitted for that suit.

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Do you get script coverage on your scripts before sending them out? What do you look for? Let us know in the comments section below.

Enjoyed this? Read more on script coverage…

Script Coverage Example: How to Learn What Readers Are Looking For

What Is a Script Editor and What Can They Do For My Script?

4 Crucial Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Script Consultant

[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

18 Comments
  1. Ed says:

    Awesome. I am looking for script coverage and this help a lot..

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reaching out, Ed!

  2. Arron R says:

    Hello, where can i get good script coverage?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yup, you can check out our script coverage services here. Any questions feel free to reach out.

  3. laurie says:

    I have never believed in getting coverage on my script but am thinking about it now. This was a usefull post. Big thumbs up! x

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great, thanks, Laurie!

  4. Garrett Johnson says:

    Those gradings at the end always confuse me every website has different ones lol.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, there’s no exact science to script coverage – just like everything with writing 🙂

  5. Rajit says:

    I like the way you guys have bios that we can read and see what who you are.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment, Rajit! That’s what sets us apart from most script coverage services out there 🙂

  6. Riccardo M says:

    Can u read my script?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Here’s the link to our services – thanks!

  7. Jeffrey says:

    When is Peter Briggs available? I have a war action adventure script I want him to read.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      He’s working on his own project at the moment but keep an eye on our Meet the Team page for updates.

  8. oscar julian lopez rincon says:

    great-job, guys!!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Oscar!

  9. Bob Graham says:

    BBC covered a script for me once. They said I could be proud to receive feedback as they didn’t provide it for just any submission. Valuable was their comment about allowing breath.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Not sure what they meant but hope the writing’s going well 🙂

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