Getting feedback from a stranger on your screenplay can be a challenging experience for any writer.
Is screenplay coverage friend or foe?
Well, that depends on your attitude towards it. You — the screenwriter receiving the coverage — can decide if it’s a positive or negative experience. Even when it may point out some truths about your script that you may or may not agree with, it can become your best friend if you look at it through the right perspective.
First and foremost, we need to differentiate feedback coverage from studio coverage.
Studio Coverage vs. Feedback Coverage
Studio Coverage is the type of script coverage that you likely never want to read. And don’t worry, you never will.
This is the coverage that studios, production companies, agencies, and management companies have written for screenplays under consideration for acquisition (studios and production companies) or representation (agencies or management companies).
It’s brutally honest. And it doesn’t exist to help you make your screenplay better. Instead, it decides if your screenplay is worthy — at least in their eyes and the context of what they are looking for for potential projects or clients.
Yes, studio coverage can and should point out what works and what doesn’t work, but it’s usually not directed towards the reader and how they can benefit from it.
Feedback Coverage is what you receive from contests, script consultants, consulting companies, and mentors. It’s written in the guise of studio coverage — format-wise — but the great thing about it is that it’s directed towards you, the screenwriter, and how you can better your script.
It points out what works, what doesn’t, and how it could be better.
So let’s chalk that up to reason #1 as to why script coverage is your best friend.
Here are five more reasons why…
1. Coverage Helps Guide the Development of Your Script
When you’re starting out with those first few scripts, it’s great to have some honest feedback. And that honest feedback can help develop your script for the next draft.
Writing a screenplay is a daunting task. It’s very easy to overlook certain aspects of your stories and characters because you’re often so focused on the big picture of the script.
Having multiple experienced readers take a look at your work through both their subjective and objective eyes is crucial to your early growth as a screenwriter.
2. Coverage Helps Determine If Your Script is Ready for Competitions, Fellowships, and Labs
Reading coverage on your early draft is a great way to develop the script into a draft that’s ready for contests, competitions, fellowships, labs, and industry consideration.
It’s a vital tool that you can use to determine whether or not the script is at the draft it needs to be to submit.
And, yes, these types of Hollywood access points and filtration systems are essential for the up and coming screenwriter.
Look no further than actor-writer Shia Labeouf. Yes, that Shia. He wrote his first feature script and submitted it to WeScreenplay for no less than 50 (fifty) rounds of feedback from WeScreenplay readers as we re-wrote it each time. Then he submitted it to WeScreenplay’s Feature Screenwriting Contest in 2017. Reviewed anonymously by judges (they couldn’t see the writer’s name), the script went on to become an Honorable Mention, with all judges giving the script standout scores.
That script was none other than the critically-heralded screenplay for Honey Boy which went on to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Amazon Studios.
Even movie stars can benefit from screenwriting contests and the professional feedback they offer.
3. Coverage Can Give You a Logline and Synopsis for Pitch Materials
Most coverage services give you enough material to craft excellent loglines and a great synopsis — both of which are necessary for pitching your screenplay online and in person.
When you read coverage on your scripts, some even include the reader’s own synopsis of your story, as well as a logline that they’ve crafted.
Whether you receive that or not, you’ll always get enough information and perspective on your story to apply to your pitching materials.
4. Coverage Scores Help to Get You Industry Notice
If you get Coverfly Score-qualifying feedback to impact your Coverfly Score, you can improve the chances of getting on The Red List and being discovered by literary managers, producers, and development executives.
This is the 21st century. It’s no longer just about who you know in Hollywood. It’s programs like these that Hollywood uses as filtration systems to find worthy scripts and talented writers.
5. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat
Development is an ongoing process, and writing is re-writing. Coverage can be your best friend because it helps you develop your script into the best it can possibly be.
Yes, you have to write the screenplay in the end. No one can write it for you. But coverage is an outstanding friend to have in your corner. A friend that’s there for you. A friend that has your best interest at heart. A friend that can help make your dreams come true.
If that’s not a best friend, I don’t know what is.
“If you’re willing to really absorb the notes given, then yes, absolutely, script coverage is valuable. I studied engineering. I never went to film school. No one ever taught me how to write scripts. My own version of an MFA program was two things: reading screenplays and getting feedback on my screenplays. That’s how I learned how to write. Not every single piece of feedback I received was perfect, but I’ve received probably 100 rounds of notes — certainly not all paid reads — on my many different scripts, and the cumulative power of that development process has been totally game-changing.
Was my way of learning how to write free? No. Was it tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than an MFA? You betcha. Which is better? Totally depends on how you work and what your priorities are. For me, ample feedback on my specific screenplays was a fantastic way to go and led me to some awesome career opportunities.” — Mark Stasenko, Co-Founder of WeScreenplay