Script coverage is the summary and analysis of a script’s plot and writing quality, used by agencies and production companies to track film and TV screenplays. Coverage consists of a number of elements. The first is a 1 to 2 page synopsis of the script’s story highlighting the main characters and events of the tale. The second is a subjective review of the piece (typical length of which could range anywhere from 1 sentence, in short-form contest coverage, to 2 or 3 pages) which assesses the effectiveness of the screenplay’s various components—including its concept, story structure, story development, characters, dialogue, and writing style—and points out its strong points and problem areas. The evaluation ends with a recommendation from the analyst as to what he/she feels the production entity should do with the script. This recommendation usually employs 1 of 3 terms:
• Pass: The reader feels the script fails to make the grade in most areas and that the production entity should not proceed with it.
• Consider: The reader feels the script has a considerable number of strong points and is good enough to proceed with, while acknowledging that it has a number of significant problems that need to be successfully solved before the piece can be considered suitable for production.
• Recommend: The reader feels the script is extremely strong in all respects and that the production entity should proceed with it without reservation.
When completed, the synopsis, review, and evaluation are assembled and fronted with a cover page that lists the script’s vital information (author’s name, story genre, time and locations in which it takes place, length of the script, etc.) and contains a brief summary of the story and the review. The cover page usually includes a checklist in which the script’s various aspects are rated on a scale ranging from poor to excellent. Finally, the cover page highlights the analyst’s ultimate recommendation.
Although script coverage is a tool used primarily by motion picture production entities, it is sometimes used by screenwriting competitions as a way of separating “wheat from chaff.” The coverage done for script competitions is usually simpler than that done for production companies—substituting a logline (a brief 1 or 2 line summary of the story) for the synopsis and simplifying the assessment—often employing only the checklist rating of the script’s various aspects.
In addition to production entities and screenwriting competitions, a number of independent services employ a roster of veteran script analysts to provide professional-level coverage for screenwriters who wish to see how their scripts will be received by the industry. This gives the writers a chance to identify and resolve problems before submitting them to production entities.