What Is Script Coverage?
Script coverage is a crucial component of the feature film and television development process. It is also a key learning tool for screenwriters as they develop their craft and screenwriting voice.
In this post, we'll go over what script coverage is, who offers it, and the terminology you'll come across when you receive it. Let's go!
What is Script Coverage Anyway?
Script coverage is a review and analysis of a screenplay by a professional script reader and story analyst to determine its potential for prospective studio, network, streamer, and production company consideration and acquisition. The end result is a written report that details these findings.
Types of Script Coverage
There are several different types of script coverage.
On the studio, network, streamer and production company end, script coverage provides valuable feedback to development executives and producers, helping them to determine if the script — and the screenwriter — are a good fit for the overarching vision of the company and brand. Script readers and story analysts (usually one and the same) work from the directives, needs and wants of the company in determining whether or not the script is the type of project they are looking to develop, produce and distribute.
On the screenwriting craft development of the screenwriter's end, script coverage helps to identify strengths and weaknesses in the script while offering suggested improvements to maximize its potential.
Who Are Script Readers and Story Analysts?
Script readers and story analysts are primarily employed by entertainment companies as the necessary filtration process to help get through the high volume of screenplays in the open spec market.
They are professionals trained in analyzing screenplays. The training they receive usually comes from their own experience in screenwriting, followed by learning the general wants, needs, likes, and dislikes of the company they are working for, as well as the development executives and producers that oversee the development branch of the company.
Scripts readers and story analysts can be:
- Junior Development Executives
- Screenwriting Consultants
- Professional Script Readers/Story Analysts
Read More: How to Become a Hollywood Script Reader
What Are Script Consultants?
Script consultants are either experienced script coverage writers working with film, television and streaming companies or they are specifically hired by screenwriters through screenwriting contests, competitions or specific script consulting services.
When they are not working solely as script consultants for companies, these professionals are paid by screenwriters to evaluate their scripts through the lens of Hollywood to offer guidance and direction.
What Is the Process of Writing Script Coverage?
Script readers and story analysts will evaluate the story, characters, dialogue, structure and marketability of the screenplay. They will also provide notes that entail:
- The strengths of the screenplay and the overall writing.
- The weaknesses where the screenplay could be improved.
- Suggestions for revisions based on the general expectations of the company and industry.
Screenplay coverage typically consists of three parts:
- The logline
- The synopsis
- The analysis and notes
Script Coverage Logline
The logline is a brief summary of the script's premise, featuring the main character(s), the world they live in, the inciting incident, the major conflict they must face, and the stakes at hand.
Script Coverage Synopsis
The synopsis is a more detailed description of the story, including the major plot points, character arcs, and themes.
Script Coverage Analysis and Notes
The analysis and notes are the most important part of the script coverage, providing a comprehensive evaluation of the script's strengths and weaknesses.
The analysis and notes will pay close attention to the story and characters. Readers and story analysts will analyze the story's structure, pacing, and plot points, always looking for opportunities to tighten the narrative, create more tension and inject higher stakes.
From a character perspective, they will also evaluate the characters, looking for well-developed and relatable ones with clear goals and motivations.
Another aspect of the analysis will feature reactions to the script's dialogue. Readers and story analysts will look for dialogue that is natural, engaging and helps move the story forward without relying on too much exposition.
They will also evaluate the script's pacing, looking for opportunities to tighten scenes and create more tension.
Script Coverage Grades
All of this information compiled in the analysis and notes can be used by development executives and producers to help make those difficult decisions about which submitted screenplays and writers to consider. The script readers and story analysts help them prioritize submissions by assigning each analyzed script one of three script coverage ratings:
Within studios, networks, streamers, and production company script coverage, a pass usually means that the script will not move up the company ladder, for any number of reasons, including:
- The script may not be written well enough to be ready.
- There are major story, character, and dialogue issues.
- The genre, concept, story, and execution of the script may not be up to necessary company par.
For script consulting services, a pass grading (if given) may reflect that the screenplay is not ready to be submitted to film and television industry professionals, based on the above issues.
If a screenplay has been submitted to a company, a consider usually entails that while the script has certain strengths, promise and marketability, additional development may be necessary to get it to the level where it needs to be for true acquisition and production.
For script consulting services, such a grade means that the script is close to being ready for submission to film and television companies, but some work is needed in various areas.
A recommend is rarely given during the script coverage process. Most script readers and story analysts will agree that out of all scripts covered within their coverage writing, less than one percent usually receive a recommend. A recommend means that the script is ready to go and meets the requested criteria for acquisition and eventual production.
For script consulting services, recommends are easier to attain but still require a screenplay that is strong in all aspects of genre delivery, concept, story, characters, plot, themes, and dialogue.
Will Hollywood Companies Share Script Coverage with Screenwriters?
Generally, no. For studios, networks, streamers, and production companies, script coverage is an internal document for their development process. If a screenwriter has a connection with someone within the company, they may find an opportunity to request and review that internal script coverage. Otherwise, those documents are kept within the company walls.
Script coverage is an essential tool for screenwriters, development executives and producers. It provides valuable feedback on the script, helping writers to identify areas for improvement and make changes that can increase its marketability. It can also help producers to assess the commercial potential of a project, making it easier to determine whether or not to invest in a project.
Some screenwriters may choose to work directly with a script consultant, who will provide detailed feedback and guidance on how to improve the script and ready it for industry submissions. Other writers may choose to submit their script to a script coverage service, where it will be evaluated by a professional script consultant. These types of script consultants usually hail from the development rooms of film and television companies, warranting their script coverage writing fees for their experienced and professional analysis and feedback.
Screenplay coverage can also be obtained through contests and festivals. Many contests and festivals offer coverage as part of their entry fee, providing writers with valuable feedback on their scripts and the opportunity to win prizes and gain exposure.
Whether it's script coverage written for a film and television company within their development process, or by way of a paid script coverage service, with the right guidance and feedback through analysis and notes, a script can be transformed into a compelling, marketable story that has the potential to succeed on film, television, and streaming platforms.
Read More: Top 5 Best Screenplay Coverage Services
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries BLACKOUT, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner, the feature thriller HUNTER'S CREED, and many produced Lifetime thrillers. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies and Instagram @KenMovies76.