by Angela Bourassa
There are A LOT of people out there who offer coverage to screenwriters. Coverage, for the uninitiated, is the industry term for a written assessment of a screenplay. In the studio setting, it usually includes a brief overview of the plot, the reader’s thoughts on whether or not the script has potential, and a score of “pass,” “consider,” or “recommend” for both the writer and the script itself.
Outside of the studios, coverage is a service you can pay for to get an outside perspective on your writing. I find coverage incredibly helpful during the writing and rewriting process. Getting feedback from someone you don’t know and who doesn’t know you is a great way to look at your script with honest eyes. It allows you to zone in on what’s working and what isn’t before you show the script to agents, managers, or producers – people who will never forgive you for showing them a script that isn’t ready.
I’ve tested out coverage services ranging from huge farm systems like the Black List to highly respected individuals like Carson Reeves at ScriptShadow. (To be fair, the Black List recently updated the way they do coverage – apparently their readers are more experienced now and their services have, accordingly, gotten a bit more expensive.) The prices have ranged from $25 for a read up to $500. And there is a huge range of quality within that price mix. The $500 coverage (from Carson) was legitimately the best coverage I have ever received, and I was able to get it for half price, so I have absolutely no regrets about that purchase.
In the middle of the road, around the standard $100-$150 range, there is huge variety in quality. Over the years, I’ve been a big fan of Script Pipeline’s General Notes service. For $125, one of their professional readers (who must have at least 10 years of industry reading experience) will reader your script and give you a few pages of notes on your characters, plot, stakes, tone, dialogue, and the market for your script. The feedback takes two weeks to receive.
But I must say, Script Pipeline and the many other reasonably priced services have serious competition in WeScreenplay.
I recently had the opportunity to try out WeScreenplay’s Basic Coverage service, which promises five pages of detailed notes for just $65 in 72 hours.
Needless to say, I was skeptical. How could they have quality readers at those prices? How could the feedback be thorough and thoughtful with such a short turnaround? What would I really get for $65?
I decided to send WeScreenplay a rough draft that I’ve been working on, something I felt certain deserved a “pass” and which I knew needed a lot of work. At the same time, I felt like I’d hit a bit of a wall with the script, so I was looking for some creative feedback that I could really use.
When I went through the process of actually submitting my script, I noticed that WeScreenplay does have a few add-ons that can bring the price up in a hurry. For example, right now you have the option to also submit your script to WISC, WeScreenplay’s International Screenplay Competition for an additional $19 (the regular entry fee is $39). Full disclosure: LA Screenwriter is a sponsor of WISC. You also have the option to add on a 24-hour turnaround time, or you can pay extra to have a specific reader review your script.
I skipped past all the additions and checked out with my $65 Basic Coverage.
Then came the waiting. With most coverage services, the waiting drags on forever and ever. Two weeks is a long time when you’re eager to move forward with your next draft. But sure enough, 72 hours later, I had my coverage from WeScreenplay in hand. I had submitted my script on a Wednesday, so I was worried that “72 hours” actually meant “72 business hours,” but it didn’t – I received my coverage on Saturday, as promised.
In total, the notes I received were eight pages long with five pages of real meat. I got the “pass” grade that I expected and an enthusiastic opening paragraph about the potential of the script, followed by a paragraph overview of the biggest current issues. Then the reader gave me two solid paragraphs about each of my leads, highlighting their current strengths and shortcomings.
Then came the plot overview, a hefty half-page paragraph followed by two pages of individual page notes.
The bulk of my notes were focused on one main problem with the script and how that problem manifested at various points throughout the draft. While I would have appreciated a little more feedback about other aspects of the script, I had to agree that the core problem identified by the reader needs to be fixed first and foremost. He or she was right to focus so heavily on it.
The only thing I found slightly annoying about the coverage was that it included sections like “Synopsis” and “Marketability” without any feedback, just a prompt to get the Full or Premium Coverage next time if I wanted that information.
Overall, I found the feedback thoughtful, well written, and professional. It had an encouraging tone, which I appreciated – not condescending and superior like some coverage services – and I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth.
In terms of bang for your buck, I think WeScreenplay’s coverage is absolutely a worthwhile investment. I encourage LA Screenwriter readers to give WeScreenplay a try. It will cost you half of what you’d pay elsewhere, and you’ll have your feedback in less than half the time. I don’t know how anyone can beat that.
If you’re still wary, WeScreenplay offers a free service to give you a taste of what they do. Using this link, you can submit just the first page of your script, and they will respond within five days with a few sentences of thoughts on your work. There is no commitment, no payment information necessary. You’ve literally got nothing to lose.
Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.