This article by Ray Morton is a response to another writer’s attack on script coverage services. Ray raises a number of valid (and thoroughly explained) points about the value of quality script coverage.
My only word of advice on the topic is this: If you’re going to spend the money on a coverage service, be sure to pick one that is well-reviewed and well-respected. A lot of people claim to be able to help you with your script, but not very many actually can. Take the time to do your research before handing over your script and your cash:
A few weeks back, Chad Gervich created quite a stir when he wrote an article for this website advising aspiring screenwriters not to use script coverage services. As I am a professional script analyst who—in addition to assessing scripts for producers, production companies, and screenplay contests—works for a coverage service (ScriptXpert, which is owned by Final Draft, Inc., the company that also owns this website), I had some strong reactions to Chad’s piece. I posted some of them in the article’s comment section, but wanted to offer a more detailed and thoughtful response here.
For those that don’t know, coverage is the name given to the 3-5 page reviews written by script analysts (also known as readers) of the screenplays submitted to their employers (producers, production companies, studios). These reviews assess a script’s strengths and weaknesses in a number of areas (premise, story, characters, dialogue, writing), as well as its suitability for production (a judgment arrived at by considering the quality of each script along with the needs/interest of the production entity—for example, if the producer wants to make a horror film, then a reader obviously wouldn’t recommend a romcom). Coverage is an internal document used by a production entity’s development staff and principals as a guide when deciding whether or not to proceed with a particular screenplay. It is usually confidential and not distributed to the writers of the script or anyone else outside of the production entity.
Readers come in all shapes and sizes, but most have some sort of screenwriting or production background (either through education, industry experience or a combination of both). Some studios have teams of analysts on staff, although it is usually a freelance position with individual readers often working for several companies simultaneously. An analyst is usually the first person in a production entity’s development chain to read a screenplay. If the reader recommends the script, then the development staff will give it further consideration and then, if they like it, it will be passed along to the company’s principals, who make the final decision as to whether or not to proceed with the screenplay (to develop it, produce it, use the writer for another project, etc.). So, while the analyst is by no means the most important person in the script-vetting process, he/she does serve a very important, gatekeeping function. This makes the reader a key person for a screenwriter, because if the analyst likes your work, it can set things in motion; if he doesn’t, then that can be the end of it (at that particular company, anyway).