The ability to write great script coverage is essential in Hollywood if you want to work in scripted television or features. Good script coverage saves executives time and can really make an intern stand out in a memorable way. In general, script coverage is pretty simple — it’s similar to the work you might have done in a high school English class. But that doesn’t mean everyone does it perfectly. Here are five common script coverage mistakes that you should always be careful to avoid:
1. Your coverage is too long. The entire point of script coverage is to save executives time. By writing your review, you’re acting as a filter and letting the executive know whether they should even bother to read the script (or book). But eight to ten pages of script coverage is going to take a similar amount of time to read as a pilot script, making the entire effort worthless. You’re not being helpful if your coverage is too long, so write concisely and get your point across in a couple of pages. Your supervisor will thank you.
2. Your synopsis is too specific. One bad habit that will result in lengthy coverage is being overly specific in your synopsis. You just need to get the main story points across, not every tiny detail. You don’t have to outline the action of every scene or name every minor character. For example, instead of writing “JOEY got dressed, packed his backpack, woke up JAKE, his brother, fed the dog, and walked with Jake to the bus stop,” you could simply write “JOEY and his brother left for school.” Extract the key story beats, and leave out the more insignificant moments.
3. You don’t give a clear reason to pass or consider at the top of the page. Once again, the purpose of script coverage is to save time, so if you read a script you hated, let the executive know at the top of the page — don’t make them dig to figure out what is good or bad about the project. And if you’re doing script coverage for a network or company that is looking for specific types of projects, you should indicate how well the project aligns with the brand from the get-go. For example, if your company is exclusively looking for superhero movies, and you read a fantastic rom-com, note the disparity in the initial comments section, so your supervisor doesn’t need to read any further.
4. You let your personal opinions get in the way. When writing coverage, you need to be as objective as possible. You are obviously going to react positively or negatively to the script, but you need to find concrete arguments that support your claims. Don’t try to give script notes or say what you would have done with the script to make it better. Evaluate the script for what it is, not what it should have been.
5. You didn’t proofread carefully. Most of the time, people writing scriptcoverage are interns or assistants, aka people who are at the bottom of the totem pole trying to make a good impression on their supervisors. So when you’re writing coverage, remember that spelling and grammar count! Poor writing is very obvious in a script coverage document, so if you want your supervisor to respect you professionally and consider you for other positions where you’ll be representing the company, you’ll want to be meticulous with your coverage.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan