Aspiring scriptwriters can see how the industry will receive their scripts before submitting them. So what are the different components of script coverage, and what should you expect when you receive yours back?
The first part of a script coverage will detail the basic components of your script. This is the title, the genre, and the setting of your script.
There will also be a basic logline that summarizes your script in one sentence. This is designed to position your script so that the production company and distributors can see where it fits their output. Decisions about where and when it will be released will be made based on these details.
Alt-text: A sample cover page of a screenplay coverage.
A plot breakdown of your script will be included in the script coverage. This will usually range from 1-3 pages depending on the complexity of your story. This might be challenging to read as not every character or plotline will be included here, only the essential details.
Try not to get frustrated or concerned by this. See this as a way of producers condensing the best parts of your script down for people in the industry who need a quick brief on your story and who might not have the time to read the entire script until later in the process.
If there are glaring errors and key details missed, you should point these out at the earliest opportunity in a polite way.
This is the part of the script coverage that you need to pay the most attention to. Here the script development team will give you a breakdown of what worked well and what needs attention in your script.
They will be paying close attention to characters, plot, dialogue, and directions. Remember, this analysis is not just about how your script works as a piece of art; it's mainly about how well your script works as a commercial prospect.
While it's great to receive praise on your script, paying close attention to what the script development team has said doesn't work is more important. This is where you will be focusing most of your attention for the next stage of the process.
This may involve extensive structural rewrites - maybe you should go for a three-act over a five-act structure; perhaps you need to get the audience hooked at the start or to give them a more satisfactory ending. Some of their criticism can be fixed, most likely with some minor tweaks to dialogue or cutting out a scene or two.
Script coverage is more than just feedback on your script; it also comes to a judgment about whether your script can ultimately move forward and become the blockbuster film or TV show you've dreamed about.
Generally, there are three categories that your script can fall into. They are pass, consider and recommend.
A script that gets this judgment should be passed over. It generally doesn't meet the high standards of the production company, and it would require too much work to take it to the next level. It might just be that the idea wasn't original enough, or it was too abstract for that studio when it came down to it.
Either way, at this stage, the notes should give you detailed information as to why it was rejected.
A script that the studio should consider has many merits but equally needs a lot of work. The production company agrees to take it on, but it will require extensive revisions to take it to the next level. There might also be some issues with the production itself that need solving.
For a script to be recommended, the production team must be very excited by it and see a lot of potentials to become a success. It may require a few alterations and an extra round of revisions before production starts, but generally, the production team is delighted with what they have read.
One of the decisions made during the script coverage phase of production is the budget that the TV or film will be allocated. As a writer, of course, you want the highest possible budget, but it's important to remember that you don't have any control over this; you have to work with what you get. Also, be evident that your budget will be dependent on the type of film or TV show you've written.
Your script coverage will be formatted much like a school essay. You will get a cover sheet with all of the vital information from your script included, a summary of the analysis, a tick sheet listing different aspects of your script, and a scorecard grading you from poor to excellent.
It's on the front page that you will see the final verdict of the script coverage, so you will know immediately whether your script is going into production or not.
Don't be intimidated by your script coverage. But, of course, it will be nerve-wracking when you receive the results, and even esteemed screenwriters like David Mamet have described the script coverage process as brutal.
But it's also essential you take in what the script development department has said about your script and work to meet their requirements.
If you get a pass, then while this might feel like bad news, remember you will have a host of feedback that many people in the first stages of the process don't get. You can use this to improve your script and then approach other production companies or agents.