Screenplay coverage is one of the most useful tools in screenwriting, but what many people may not know is that “coverage” was and is a tool for the industry. Managers, producers, literary agents and studio executives build their success on their ability to manage a high volume of projects and relationships. And the way that busy industry professionals handle evaluating a high volume of screenplays, is through “coverage” which is essentially a summary and analysis of a screenplay’s quality and how it fits with a specific company or executive’s mandate.
Whether you’re interested in screenplay development, production, or writing itself, you’re going to write and/or read script coverage at some point. So it’s important to know about the various kinds of coverage and what they’re used for. Unfortunately, many screenwriters are unprepared for their first crack at coverage. This article should demystify the topic and prepare you to write clear, concise, and helpful coverage on any script that lands on your desk or in your inbox.
At its most basic, script coverage is a synopsis of a script, with a logline, a Pass/Consider/Recommend judgement, and some comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the script. This is the coverage that interns and assistants prepare for the higher-ups at production companies that might not have time to read every single script that comes their way. This should make it clear that coverage is an important part of the screening process. If a writer emails an unsolicited script to a production company, the only way it’s getting read by a decision maker is if the coverage ends with the prized “Recommend” or the consolation comment “Consider”. Even solicited scripts from notable writers get coverage. At every stage of the development process, coverage is a handy tool for executives and producers that have a multitude of projects on the go at any given time. From pilot season to award season, in election years and over Spring Break, calls are being made, deals are being signed, and meetings are being rescheduled. Having a one or two page document that summarizes the hot new script is essential. That’s what coverage is. But coverage is also a lot of other things.
Different Types of Coverage
Some coverage is intended for writers rather than development execs. This coverage goes far beyond synopsizing a script. It is analysis, commentary, and feedback. Some writers hone their craft as script readers for studios. Before writing scripts with exciting plots, dynamic characters, and intriguing concepts, it helps to read scripts and critique their boring plots, passive characters, and tiresome concepts. Not to mention, professional readers and analysts usually get paid for their notes. Even if you don’t work as an analyst with a studio or companies like WeScreenplay that employ professional, experienced Hollywood script readers to write analyses for various screenplay competitions and individual writers. These documents come in a variety of different formats, but they all share a foundation of constructive criticism. Bear in mind, this coverage should be specific to the story and use examples from the script. Copy and paste comments on general screenwriting tend to frustrate writers that are looking for suggestions they can implement in their rewrite, or commentary on the marketability of their concept.
Over the next week or so, there will be two more articles on coverage coming out. One from the perspective of a script analyst and another from the perspective of a screenwriter. The former will provide helpful tips to readers on the most common criteria used across various festivals and competitions, as well as common errors people make when writing coverage for the first time. The latter will detail the benefit of getting coverage and analysis for writers sharpening their submission scripts and what to consider before purchasing coverage. The bottom line is, coverage helps. Whether you’re reading it to get another perspective on a script or writing it to provide critical insight, coverage is one of the most valuable tools in screen-play and show-business.
Shaun Leonard is an experienced writer, editor, and assistant. He is available for story consultation and script editing. Follow Shaun on Twitter @shaun_leonard