Sunday, January 10, 2021

Cover your act!—when is your script ready for script coverage?

When is your script ready for script coverage? The short answer—not after you have completed your first draft.

For you first-time screenwriters, in case you are not familiar with the protocol of script coverage, I will explain.

Script coverage is a report. It is a rating all scripts receive by script readers based on the quality of the script. These readers are cold-blooded and either work for the studios or use to work for the studios and now own a script coverage firm. A script either receives a Pass, a Consider or a Recommend, Recommend being the highest rating. Pass, to clear things up real quick, is not good.

No matter what kind of writing you do, re-writing will always be a big part of it, seventy-five percent or better of the battle. Screenwriting is no exception. Actually it is more of an exception than novel writing because screenwriting is an even more competitive field.

Okay, so, you have completed the first draft of your script, but trust me. It is far from finished. It is just the beginning. Now the real work begins—re-writing it. Sometimes it takes several drafts before a script is polished to a glorious shine.

And when, you might ask, is a script polished to a glorious shine? When the re-writing becomes less and less, when all loose ends are tied up, when you are touching up your script rather than going through more major re-writes. It is when you believe you can do nothing more to your script to make it any better, when you cannot take it any further, when you can describe your script in 25 words or less.

Now, there are two ways your script receives coverage, which I have mention seven paragraphs earlier. Studios automatically give scripts coverage whether you are ready for it or not or whether you want it or not—that is the chance you take when you submit it directly to them. If your script receives a Pass, this may be the end of your screenwriting career before it ever begins. You may not get a second chance.

However, the safer or smarter way to go is “not” to send your script directly to a studio first but rather to a script coverage firm.

Let us say you feel your script is ready. You have taken it as far as you can go. You send it in with souring confidence to a script coverage firm, but, instead of receiving as expected a Consider, your script receives a Pass, which feels like a shot to the gut.
But, this is the most critical difference between studios and script coverage firms—with a script coverage firm it is not necessarily the end of the world for your script writing career but rather it might just be your initiation into the screenwriting world.

Script coverage firms only give scripts test drives. They are actually on your side, and even though they will not act as your agent they are looking out for you. If your script receives a Pass, it is just plain bad, script coverage firms will save you the embarrassment and heartache served up by studios and offer you notes how to improve your script. Script coverage firms will save your ass. They will save you second or even third chance to get a script right—or strongly suggest you chose another career path by “freeing up your future”.

In short, script coverage firms will tell you whether or not your script is ready for the merciless eyes of studios. If they advise you not to, do not send it to a studio. Re-write your script until it receives at least a Consider. Yes, Recommend is always best but it very difficult to receive. A Consider is good enough.

You should not be thinking about script coverage until you feel you cannot improve your script anymore. Even if you think you have written the perfect first draft, imagine how much more prefect it will be after several more drafts. After that and your script sings, before you send it off to a major studio that will automatically give it coverage, send it to a private script coverage firm first. Cover your act!

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