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Script Coverage: A Brief Reference Guide

Upon my many back-and-forth with various companies the last few months, I was at one point sent by a film production company a script coverage reference guide with various script coverage tips (and a broad template).
Obviously, this is in no way as extensive as, say, the ICM Coverage Guide, and it’s certainly no replacement to other resources like The Bitter Script Reader. This is merely a loose reference guide on how to write script coverage.

I personally found the following tips interesting, not necessarily because of their usefulness (debatable, since it’s for film scripts instead of TV script coverage), but because of the way it breaks down the coverage process down to its finest points. A lot of elements need to be taken into account when one analyzes a script. And if you use it from the other vantage point, it becomes a great list of things to keep an eye for when (re)writing. So, here’s how to do script coverage:

You will find this summary especially useful as a quick reference guide when writing your coverages. The main points of each coverage component are outlined here to jog your memory.

I. The art of reading
Look for:
1. The main points of the plot
2. The main and supporting characters
3. Aspects of the work pertaining to the purpose of your coverage
4. Visual value

II. The submission and script details
A. Copy info directly from the work itself when possible
B. Use “N/A” when information is not available

III. Writing a logline
Write a one‐sentence summary of the script.
Please note that this needs to be informative and is NOT a marketing tagline.

IV. Writing the synopsis
A. Stick to the main plot
B. Write as much as you can from memory
C. Capture some of the mood or tone of the work
D. Use evocative words (use a thesaurus)
E. Simplify
F. Show the work in its best light

V. Address comments to:
A. Concept
1. How original it is
2. Whether it’s high concept or a soft story
B. Premise/theme
1. Strength
2. Universality
C. Plot
1. Predictability
2. Obstacles, complications, reversals, twists
3. Believability
4. Subplots, if any
5. The hook, if any
6. Continuity
D. Main and supporting characters
1. Background
2. Range of emotion and expression
3. Motivation
4. Fatal and other flaws
5. Evolution
6. Consistent development
7. Rooting interest
8. The spice of life: variety of characters
9. The proof of the premise: the right hero for the story
10. In general, what kind of talent would be appropriate
E. Dialogue
1. Reveals character traits
2. Reveals essential information
3. Flows or flounders
4. Is over‐ or underwritten
5. Sounds like people talking
a. Is appropriate for the various characters
b. Is appropriate for the time period and culture
F. The stakes
1. What is at stake?
2. How crucial is it?
3. How dangerous is it?
G. Structure
1. Use of back story or ghost (a beginning that is really the middle)
2. Proper setup of main character and conflict in the beginning
3. A middle that smoothly follows character development and pursuit of the goal
4. An ending that resolves the conflict presented in the beginning
H. Pace
1. Fast, slow, or varied
2. Appropriate for the tone and theme of the piece
I. The writing itself
1. Mastery of the craft
2. Individual style
3. Concept and execution
J. Audience
1. Age
2. Sex
3. Race / Culture
K. Does the work succeed in its objectives?
1. Realization of the premise
2. Evokes the intended emotional response
L. Comparisons
1. Refer to genre
2. Refer to similar films if appropriate
M. Overall reaction
1. Mention anything unique about the work
2. Is it a good blueprint for a movie?
N. Check that you have considered all of the following and include where relevant:
1. Characterization
2. Dialogue
3. Story line/plot
4. Setting/production value
5. Structure
6. Theme/concept
7. Writing ability
8. Budget
9. Recommend, consider, pass

VI. Editing
A. Organize your thoughts
B. Be clear and concise
1. Cut out unnecessary phrases
2. Beware of redundancies
3. Use verbs instead of nouns to express action
4. Use verbs in the active voice instead of the passive
5. Keep subject, verb, and object close to each other
6. Express one thought per sentence or clause
C. Refer back to the project itself as necessary for accuracy
D. Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar
E. Use running heads
F. Keep a copy of each of your coverages.

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