What is ‘Coverage’?
Perhaps the easiest way to understand what script coverage is would be to look at it as peer review. It is essentially a third-party “book review” of your screenplay that is done by a professional script reader.
Script coverage is something any aspiring screenwriter should consider. If you’re thinking about screenwriting as a career, or even as a side gig until you get your first screenplay optioned, it can sometimes be hard to accurately assess your talents as a screenwriter. You, of course, have your own opinion and you’ve probably asked your friends what they think of your most recent screenplay, but sometimes a third-party opinion can be valuable—especially when it comes from someone who reads scripts for a living.
That’s exactly what screen coverage does: it offers is an unbiased take on the quality of your screenplay from someone who reads a lot of scripts for a living. They may advise you keep your day job, they may offer suggestions for an elegant fix or two, or they may tell you it’s the best screenplay they’ve read this year. The point is, script coverage is a relatively inexpensive way to get highly objective feedback from someone in the industry.
If you are fortunate enough to have funding to make your own movie from your screenplay, or you’ve already sold or optioned your script, then you don’t need script coverage. If you are in the process of writing or refining your screenplay, then script coverage is something you should definitely consider before you submit your screenplay to someone you want to buy it. In fact, many producers or professionals who work in production companies will ask you for coverage before they solicit a script from you.
For every movie made, there are literally thousands and thousands of screenplays which don’t make it into production. Script coverage started as an in-house service used by agencies, production companies, studios, and producers to weed out bad scripts so that busy film executivse didn’t waste their time reading less-than-good screenplays (crap). Today, there are numerous script coverage services online varying in quality and authority.
Most screenwriters work in a vacuum. Over time, this can lead to the screenwriter seeing the “trees” and losing sight of the “forest”. The third-party, objective script coverage service can help you realize that you are missing the “forest” and offer suggestions for getting your story idea across more clearly. You don’t want your script to fall into the category of “I can’t see the forest for the trees.”
The value of script coverage therefore lies in its ability to offer constructive criticism and inspiration to further refine and develop your script. Many script coverage services will provide you with a synopsis—it can be valuable to compare their synopsis with yours as a starting point. In addition to a script synopsis, many of these coverage services will also provide several pages of notes and suggestions to improve your script as well as provide you with a budget estimate for your movie idea. Using a script coverage service can be a good way to see how your screenplay can be improved before you submit it to an agency, producer or production company. Furthermore, in the event they want to see your coverage prior to agreeing to read your script, you will can have coverage of your script ready to sed. You only get one chance at a first impression with these folks, so you want your screenplay to be as good as it can be by the time it gets into the hands of an in-house reader, producer, or producer’s assistant.
As stated before, online script coverage services are not all created equal. Before you decide to use one, make sure you know what you will be getting if you use them. Do they include a synopsis? Do they include an estimated budget? How many pages of notes and constructive criticism should you expect? Next, ask yourself if you can afford their service. Some of them run as high as $500. so use your best judgment.