Script coverage is a synopsis written by someone who has read a screenplay. Coverage is generally accompanied by the reader’s thoughts and impressions and is usually written for an executive, a producer, an agent, or a manager. Because these people have many scripts to read and not enough time to read all of them, they will often either hire an outside person or ask their assistant to read and cover a script. Coverage is, in some senses, a screening process.
A script lands in different offices for different reasons. If it is going to a producer, they are likely evaluating whether or not your script is something they would like to spend time and money to turn into a film. If it is going to the agent or manager of an actor, they are likely evaluating whether or not their client would be wise to star in your film. If it is going to a literary agent or manager as an example of your writing for potential representation, they are evaluating whether or not you show promise as a writer.
When coverage is being written, the person covering the script is reading the script overall, but is primarily taking into account which point of evaluation they are operating under. So, while the synopsis section of a script will generally be similar office by office, the notes section, which includes the reader’s thoughts and impressions, might change case by case.
The format of the notes section of script coverage varies depending on who has requested the coverage. Some offices have a grading system for a script, while others prefer more open-ended rhetoric from a reader. By and large, all coverage will include a synopsis. In the template we’ve included below we’ve included extra information that an independent production company might be sensitive to such as “number of locations” or “number of actors”.
It’s important for writers to understand script coverage for several reasons. First, a writer must know that should his or her script land at the office of a producer, agent, or manager, their script is likely to be covered by someone other than the executive it is intended for – especially if the writer is a young writer. This is not necessarily a bad thing! Assistants are very intelligent people, many of whom have just come out of school with a film-related degree. Assistants have less personal stake in the production company or in the careers of their bosses’ clients, and it’s possible they might be less partial than the actual executive.
Writers should also be familiar with script coverage because it can be a great side job or part of a larger job for a writer. As a screenwriter, you are familiar with screenplay structure – what makes a great story, a great character, a great potential film. Coverage can be a great way to employ those skills you have and earn some money for your expertise while you are working on your screenplay!
Below you’ll find a sample script coverage template. Feel free to use it or change it to fit your own needs.
SCRIPT COVERAGE TEMPLATE
Title of Film:
Script Registration Number:
Number of Locations:
Type of Locations:
Number of Actors:
Number of Principle Actors:
Number of Extras Required:
|The screenplay is original and unique|
|Plot / Storyline|
|The story has a clear “hook”|
|Strong sense of pacing (frequency & spacing of events)|
|Protagonist has clearly defined internal / external goals|
|Strong antagonistic force pushing against protagonist|
|Protagonist is worth investing 90 minutes of your time in|
|Protagonist has a clearly defined character arc (change)|
|Supporting characters add value to the story|
|Protagonist is 3 dimensional and flawed|
|Characters have different ideologies / beliefs|
|Characters have well developed back-stories|
|Antagonist has clearly defined objectives / motivation|
|Each character has their own unique voice|
|Subplots are integrated into the main plot|
|The setup clearly establishes the film’s tone and purpose|
|Every scene is relevant / supports the plot|
|Scene transitions are suitable|
|The climax of the film is worth waiting for|
|The inciting incident is strong enough to drive the plot|
|There is dramatic building & releasing of tension|
|Characters “arrive late and leave early”|
|Cinematography / Visuals|
|Visually engaging opening / starts on high note|
|There are opportunities for visual flourishes|
|PASS||CONSIDER||RECOMMEND / ACCEPT|
Written for Lights Film School by Lauren S. McGrail