The Power is in the Hands of the Intern (What is Script Coverage and Why is it Important for screenwriters)
So you finally struck luck and were able to send your screenplay to the manager of a friend of a friend who finally returned your email. Do a small victory lap because this doesn’t happen often. But before they read your script, the trusty intern will first lay eyes on your precious baby, and it is with their thoughts of the screenplay whether or not the big boss will read it. So why does this happen and what exactly are they looking for? In this article, we will discuss the ins and outs of the script coverage process, from readers to ratings and more.
WHAT IS SCRIPT COVERAGE?
Script coverage is a written document that consists of a reader’s feedback on a screenplay and summarizes both the plot and the reader’s overall comments about the project. This can include concept, character, story, theme, tone, and dialogue. A reader may also be reading for marketability and how the screenplay fits into that particular company’s current slate of projects. Script coverage is used by producers, managers, agents and network/studio executives to determine whether a script is worth their time.
SO WHO IS READING MY SCREENPLAY?
So, there are a few different types of people who can be reading your screenplay. Typically, at a production company or studio, there is a college intern whose primary job is to provide script coverage. Usually this is their first industry role and they have little to no experience and are learning it on the job. You can also have a reader at a coverage company whose experience lies in having read scripts for friends and now works as a coverage writer. While they may have more experience than the intern, they may still be lacking a few fundamental skills. There can be instances where companies actually hire industry professionals to read scripts, but this isn’t the norm.
Some companies may list the qualifications of the readers while at others, you can go in completely blind when submitting your screenplay for coverage. With most companies, it’s a pretty mixed bag and you never know what you’re going to get. Here at The Professional Pen, our Story Experts go through up to a 6-month long application process and training program. In the Story Expert Academy, Story Experts are trained on The Professional Pen methodology to ensure that they are objective readers who can give active and tangible next steps to make you a better writer. Want notes on your screenplay from a Story Expert? Click here.
RECOMMEND, CONSIDER, PASS
In this capacity, script coverage is usually done by an intern or a reader who will give your script a rating of recommend, consider, or pass. Recommends are seldom given out and are usually reserved for scripts that are the best of the best. A reader giving the rating of recommend is essentially saying to their boss, “Stop what you’re doing right now and read this script.” Because of the sense of urgency that is implied by a recommend, it is used less frequently as too many recommendations would reflect poorly on the taste of the reader.
Receiving a rating of consider is exactly what it sounds like, something for the boss to consider reading. This rating is usually for scripts that are strong in some areas but weaker in others and may need additional development. Or, the writer is strong but the project is not a good fit for the company.
The last rating is pass, which means the likelihood of a higher up reading it is slim to none. This could be for various reasons, but nonetheless, once your screenplay is given a pass, it is very unlikely that someone other than the reader will give it another read. Because of this, you want to ensure that your script is in the best shape possible before sending to an executive, manager, producer or agent as they may not even read it if it doesn’t make it past the intern.
THE FIRST 15 PAGES
Your first 15 pages will be crucial. While some readers have to read the entire screenplay, this is not always a requirement. Say that your screenplay receives a consider or even a recommend, once it makes it to the executive’s desk they will typically only read about 10-15 pages before they form an opinion about your screenplay. Make sure that your first 15 pages not only sets the tone of your project, but also entices the reader to want to keep reading.
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
While there are companies and competitions that offer script coverage that mirrors the type of industry coverage, what these types of services lack is tangible next steps of how to improve your screenplay. The Professional Pen is a writer-centered company that empowers writers with the tools necessary to become better writers. While other script consultancies may have a different reader every time you submit a script, here at TPP, you are assigned a Story Expert that will work with you for the entirety of your writing journey.
This means that your assigned Story Expert will be able to not only track your progress, but also follow along with the development of your screenplay and help shape you into a better writer. Hollywood can be a tricky place. Don’t let your script being improperly formatted or not having a clear inciting incident be the reason your script doesn’t make it through. Ready to take the next step with your screenplay? Then check out our Development Notes where a Story Expert will breakdown and analyze your entire screenplay with extensive page and script notes to make sure that when your script makes it in the right hands, they don’t want to put it down.