Okay, you wrote a script and now you’re ready to get some fresh eyes to read it over and provide professional script coverage. Perfect! Before you do, though, it’s important to know how to read and understand that script coverage — namely the ratings you’ll receive.
Let’s talk about the coverage ratings at WeScreenplay — which come in our Coverage Packages or with every Contest entry.
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What Are Script Coverage Ratings
Script coverage ratings can briefly be defined as qualitative scores to help compare your writing to others. Ratings can be seen as an overall impression of your script that will highlight particular strengths and weaknesses.
When seeking coverage for your screenplay, it’s important to go to a vetted and trustworthy resource. From there, know that it’s a subjective opinion from one person in the industry. A good program will hire readers with respectable experience in screenwriting. (Fun fact: WeScreenplay lists some qualifications of your reader in your coverage notes.)
From there, you can utilize the feedback to glean insight into how your script is coming across to other readers — and qualitatively compare it to the work of other writers.
But let’s go over what each script coverage rating is and what they can teach you about the strengths and weaknesses of your screenplay.
Script Coverage Ratings Defined
From a reader: There may be moments that are strong or a concept that is good, but the script will lack cohesion or a clear story and the characters won’t have clear or proper motivations. Formatting and grammar may be messy, making the script hard to read. Dialogue lacks subtext or is overused and the characters sound too similar.
Before spending any money on coverage or contests, proofread your screenplay and ask a trusted friend to do the same. At a minimum, you must have proper formatting, grammar, and punctuation. Any deviations will be distractions at best or may communicate your lack of professionalism or skills at worst.
It’s also very important that you take the time to learn how to analyze your own script. By honing your instincts for character development and meaningful stories, you’ll already be well on your way toward writing a strong screenplay.
Read More: Ask a Reader: What’s One Note Readers Give the Most During Script Coverage?
From a reader: The script may be technically well done, meaning it has a clear story and is easy to read, but the story choices and characterization may rely on overly familiar tropes and there might not be much that is unique about the concept or storytelling. The characters are usually sketched in well, but they’re not fleshed out enough and lack compelling motivations.
One of my favorite things to do before I submit my screenplays anywhere beyond friends is to hold a table read with professional actors. By casting actors to read your work out loud, you will gain many benefits: you’ll be able to hear the dialogue and action out loud, which will let you know if it’s working, and you can get feedback from people who have essentially been assigned to a man-to-man defense.
You can ask your actors if they thought their characters acted inappropriately or unbelievably or if there were missed moments. An actor cast to play the lead’s mother might be more invested in the mother’s journey or experiences throughout your story. What would your actor want to see happen for that character to make her want to actually be cast in the role during production?
It’s also a great chance to ask a group of people what worked and, more importantly, what didn’t. Were they confused at any point? Frustrated? Bored? Their feedback can help guide you past your own assumptions or blind spots.
Read More: 3 Things You Should THink About When You Get Notes, Feedback, & Script Coverage
From a reader: Excellent scripts will be well written, the characters will have clear and compelling motivations, and the plot and structure will be focused and driven by character goals and choices. At this level, script issues are usually smaller. Scenes may need to be tightened up, a character’s choice may need more development, and there may be minor clarity issues. Excellent scripts will usually have a strong concept and story engine.
Here’s the rub about the entertainment industry: there are a lot of excellent screenplays out there. If you’re doing excellent work — and you really need to be if you want to compete — then you’re already where you need to be. From here, there’s a bit of alchemy and magic that needs to happen. If you have an excellent script, getting it in front of the right people definitely requires hard, non-screenwriting work — and probably a bit of luck and timing.
Once your work is excellent, it’s important you make yourself well-rounded in an excellent manner as well. Are you building an authentic network of industry connections? Do you know how to send out a professional query letter or write a compelling personal statement? Have you tried creating something yourself, like a short film, with a community of filmmakers to show people what you’re capable of? Does your social media and web presence convey who you are as a person, creator, and colleague?
It’s possible — but very, very difficult — to simply get by writing great work. You’ve got to become a business-savvy writer who knows how to connect with others if you want to become a professional screenwriter.
From a reader: It is extremely rare for a script to land in this category. A virtually perfect script has a great, attention-grabbing concept, characters that are easy to empathize with and have clear goals, and stakes that feel high even if the scope of the story is small. If a script gets this score, I am basically saying another draft is not necessary outside of maybe tweaking small elements here and there.
Congratulations — a script with this rating is like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way. Time to take strategic action with it. Send it to your reps along with a reminder that you met your dream showrunner at a workshop last summer. Submit it to the TV Writing Fellowships along with a thematically resonant personal statement and an updated writing resume featuring the internship you recently completed.
Is your Virtually Perfect script a supernatural teen action show? Research reps with clients from the CW writers rooms and send professional query letters that concisely communicate your brand and your earning potential, along with the logline and a polite invitation to read. Then send a quick follow-up two weeks later with additional information to back up that earning potential.
Read More: Understanding the Different Types of Script Coverage!
Writing excellent screenplays is the bare minimum for writers in today’s industry. The competition is fierce, so make sure you are well-rounded as a professional and savvy about the business. Get your writing samples as amazing as you can and then strategically work to get them into the hands of people who will want to partner with you to bring them to life.
Good luck out there and happy writing!
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!