Script coverage was invented by producers who didn't want to actually read screenplays. The idea behind coverage was that an assistant could read a script and then give the producer a breakdown of the project and suggest whether they should consider making it or not. The final score given to the producer would be one of the following:
- Pass: This means that the reader thinks that the script is not something that the producer should move forward with. Usually, scripts that are "passed on" miss the mark in at least a few key areas.
- Consider: This means that the reader thinks that the script is strong enough for the producer to "consider moving forward with". While the script may not be absolutely production ready, it is close enough that it is worth the producer's time.
- Recommend: This means that the reader "recommends production move forward". This is a reader effectively saying, this script is almost perfect and very little development is necessary.
Based on this score, a producer would read the recommended scripts and maybe the first Act of the considered scripts. Since 90-95% of scripts receive a pass, this narrowed down the number of scripts producers needed to read by a lot. Everyone loves less work, and so script coverage was born!
Well, it's not hard to understand that these reports are extremely valuable to writers. If you're a writer looking to break into the industry knowing whether your script would be passed up the chain at a production house or not is important. Even more important is learning what the writer can do to improve the script. However, almost no production companies share their coverages outside of the company – not even to the writers of the script.
As a result, several services have collected these readers and offer writers the opportunity to buy coverage. Basically, the writer can get a peak behind the curtain before sending their script to everyone in town. There are some minor tweaks, while production coverage usually has about 2-3 paragraphs of "script analysis", coverage for writers generally has between 2-6 pages of analysis. There also is usually a little less emphasis on budget, locations, audience, and other things that may only be relevant to one specific production company. Here is a list of the things you may expect to find in a coverage report:
- General Info: Things like title, author, genre, and page count are at the top.
- Logline: A one to two sentence summary of the story. This is basically just to give the producer a sense of the core concept of the script.
- Summary: This will usually run about 2-3 pages and be a pretty detailed summary of the script. This summary is often more detailed than what a writer would include if they were pitching their script.
- Comments: In coverage for a production company this will be 2-3 pages, for writers this will be up to 6 pages, but either way this is information about what was good in the screenplay and what still needs to be worked on.
- Scores: Some coverages include a break down of scores for things like plot, character, dialogue, and originality. While not every production company or coverage service offers this, you'll see it at most.
- Rating: The pass/consider/recommend rating from the reader is at the bottom and for producers this is the most important part of the document.
At the end of the day, coverage is subjective. You may submit your script to a production company and the reader passes before the producer ever reads your script. Maybe the producer would have loved it… we'll never know. This can be frustrating, but you have to remember that breaking in as a writer is extremely competitive. There are 100,000 scripts written every year with only about 300 of them getting wide theatrical releases — rejection is part of the game. Every writer, every single one, has been rejected over and over. Persistence is the most import part.
If you're using coverage for feedback to improve your own writing, it is usually most helpful if the reader did not like your script. That way, most of the comments are focused on what can be improved, not just what you are already doing well. Remember, when you submit your script to a producer, you won't get to pick the reader, so it's best to assume you'll have a tough reader and aim to please that one.
Whether we as writers like it or not, coverage is the most efficient way for Hollywood to filter through the massive amount of screenplays that are moving around this town. It's good to understand exactly what it is and how it's used so that you can make sure your script receives the coveted recommend rating.