One lousy read can have a ripple effect that could ruin your chances of seeing your script on screen.
That may seem dramatic, but the notes you receive and rewrite with could send you down the wrong path. You’ll never know if you have a bad read, though, unless you get multiple reads.
If you’re a young writer, you might not know enough people yet to look at your script. If you’re more established, the people you know might be too busy, and it’s too soon to give a clean pass to your representatives. This is where coverage services become incredibly important. The act of writing might happen in a vacuum, but the act of editing should not.
Be Clear On Where Your Script Is
If it’s the first time anyone is reading your script, you should let them know. It changes how they will look at your script. This is particularly helpful if you’re getting a read from a friend or writers’ group. Script coverage will provide overall notes and tips, and good coverage will do it in a positive and encouraging tone, so they shouldn’t get stuck on a particular note.
A friend or writers’ group can get stuck on a singular note and begin pitching ideas for fixes. So you want to be clear if you’re looking for your reader(s) to provide notes on a specific issue and possibly provide pitches, more broad stroke reactions to the arc and structure, or if you want them to poke and prod at every hole to make sure you walk away with the strongest script.
How Do You Take Someone’s Notes?
Notes and coverage are not the same, though they can be used interchangeably.
What is coverage?
Coverage is a professional review of a script that will provide ways to strengthen the script if the coverage will be read by the writer, or will give an overall impression of whether or not the script or writer is worthwhile if the coverage is for a studio, production company, or representation.
What are notes?
On the other hand, notes can either come from people reviewing your script or a specific list of changes for a script in development with a production company or studio. Either way, writers have to be very careful about how they receive notes. You want to be open but also present and asking questions without being defensive.
Sometimes the person you use for a second read can be different from the first read, but it is often the same person, whether it’s a peer or representative. The reason you give someone various drafts of the same script is so that they can let you know how you’ve implemented changes. If you’re working on a paying gig, there may be obvious stipulations that you needed to do to your script. If you received formal notes call and are getting a read before submitting to producers again, that second read is there to ensure that you’ve handled all of their notes, or rather, “the note behind the note.”
Rushing To A Competition Deadline
Competitions often include coverage or offer it for an additional charge, which is a great checkpoint to see where your writing stands if you don’t place. What if you don’t want to do the coverage and are gunning for a prize? Then, you need multiple reads. And usually, you can get coverage services, separately from the competition, from the same doing the first-round reads for the competition.
Typos, formatting errors, or a weak first act, are easy reasons for a reader to dismiss your script and keep you from getting to the quarter or semifinals. So give yourself a leg-up on the competition by figuring out the competition readers’ perspective early.
Do Your Research
While professional script coverage is a fantastic resource, not all readers working at companies that offer coverage services are of the same caliber. A reputable company will utilize people who have worked in the industry and know the telltale signs of a good script (and they will advertise their readers as industry professionals). Still, even within that pool, some are better than others.
Look for places that offer premium coverage services, like the inclusion of a summary or logline, which will tell you:
- That they read the entire script
- That they understood it.
Not understanding the script could be a fault of the reader, but more often than not, it’s an issue of clarity in the writing style or overall story that the writer needs to adjust. And while readers should read scripts from start to finish, the sheer amount of coverage a reader may have to knock out at a time might force them to cut corners.
A lot of people joke that you have ten pages to win over the reader, or they’ll put it down. While this can happen, it is most often because the script has a lot of issues (which is extremely rare) or they’re reading for a competition and have a heavy stack to get through. Consider using coverage outside of competition season so that the reader isn’t inundated and grading scripts by comparing one to another instead of simply analyzing a singular script.
Get A Third, Fourth, Fifth Read…
Don’t be afraid to get multiple reads from many different people or even seek out paid services more than once. The more eyes on your script, the better, and the more you hear the same note, the more you can trust it.
Does your script need another read? Check out Launch Pad’s Studio-Style Script Coverage and Notes Services!