Monday, July 29, 2013

"If a coverage service likes my script, how can I capitalize on that?"

John emailed: 

I received feedback from a screenplay reader service that rated my script a "Consider" and gave me a great review along with some good notes. I emailed them, thanking them for the coverage and asked whether or not I could name drop them and their review in my query emails. My script is a coming-of-age drama that doesn't have high-concept hook and my thinking was any kind of positive review could only help. 

The response I got was as follows: "I wouldn't mention the Consider, nor would I mention a Recommend. Our opinion means nothing to agents and producers." 

My question: if my script gets positive feedback from a (reliable) script reader with the industry credits it claims to have, can I use it to solicit my script? Otherwise, what's the point?

What is the point indeed? You just hit on the reason why so many people advise against paying someone for coverage.  In most cases a positive review will mean very little as far as opening the doors.   At least with most coverage services, I'd never spend the money on the hope that a positive review will somehow get you read somewhere.  Most of the time, I'd suggest using those services only as a barometer of how good your work is relative to all the other amateurs out there.

Your reader is right in that their opinion probably won't open many doors.  There aren't many coverage services that have a strong enough reputation to make a real pro interested in something that service liked.  The Black List is one of the few that does.  If you get an 8 or higher on the Black List, I bet you'll get some read requests when you mention that fact in a query.

Since that was a quick one, let's get in one more question.  This one comes from Annette:

I hope you would be willing to answer a quick question about written dialog. I have a redneck character who speaks like this: "Yer gonna hafta read somethin' here" 

Do you have an opinion on writing like that or would it be better to write in the action, a character who talks like a redneck and let the actor mold his voice? 

Either alternative is acceptable.  I think the trick to writing dialect is not overdoing it.  Sometimes it helps the read to have the dialogue written that way.  However, you can't go too far overboard in writing out the speech phonetically.  I read one script with a Scottish brogue and the writer seemed determined to give every syllable a thick accent.  The result was I had to read each line of dialogue carefully, often sounding it out before I could make sense of what was said.

That's a case of the accent working against the script.  It forced too much effort on my part and kept breaking the flow of the story.  The result was not a very good read.  The plot was rather weak too, but it certainly wasn't helped by the presentation.

So go with whatever flows best.  As you point out, the actor can always add the accent later themselves.


  1. Re: first question- so when an agent says they'll only review a script if a coverage service rates it 'consider' or better, are they really just weeding out submissions from 'the other amateurs out there?'

    1. Do reputable agents actually say that? Weird.

    2. TBSR: I have heard it and it was explained (by agent in a small firm) that having coverage accompany the script saved them time. For the record, scripts rated "pass" may get a review by this firm if they saw potential in the material (and maybe the writer).

      For the record, I found getting coverage for the "barometer's" sake was extremely valuable. I was getting only positive feedback on a TV pilot script I'd written and I kept thinking "writing such a thing can't possibily be this easy." (I was's not).

      I researched coverage services, ordered from one and was provided the analysis I needed. I had to completely reconstruct the script, but it's a stronger product for it. I was hoping to do better than a "pass" from the service, but I'm glad I investment on it.

    3. Need to add - I'm new and inexperienced at writing scripts. I don't trust my instincts to tell me if what I've written is worth anything.

      I can write. I've had a career in broadcasting / P.R. But a different animal.

  2. I recently paid about $250 for a read on my script and hopes that it will get passed to this particular owner of a well-known blog. I've since come to learn it wasn't worth it.

    The person in particular found more cons and pros, which is fine. Everyone has an opinion. But the red flag that came up was in the form of suggestions...they were downright horrible. Only about one or two of the points made sense to me but on the whole, it was pretty clear this person and I were on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as what we consider "good" and "bad". Had I actually taken those suggestions, it would've watered down the script and made it terribly generic. Yuk...

    I submitted the same script to a contest with notes as an add-on ($50, much cheaper) and gave it to an Executive Producer I know. Thing is I also received feedback from people I know on it and the responses ranged from very favorable to good. But it's good to get feedback on people you don't know. Especially those with power to greenlight projects.

    1. $250 is more than twice what Amanda charges and I can assure you her notes are thorough and very on-point. If you're going to pay someone for the perspective of an industry reader, you can't go wrong with her.

      What I don't understand is that you paid $250 in the *hopes* it would be passed to this blog owner!? So this blog owner wasn't even reading the work themselves? That sounds incredibly shady. At that point, if you're just paying on the hopes that it'll get handed to someone who can do something with it, I'd invest that money on the Black List site. For $75 you'd cover the costs of hosting the script for a month and the coverage.

      Now, if the hope was to get thorough notes that might improve the script, then I can understand ponying up more money. But even under those circumstances, $250 is a lot to pay just to get through a "first filter."

    2. The script is a pilot and BL doesn't do those yet. Otherwise I would've gone that route in a heartbeat.

      But yeah, it was more of a "chain of command" move than anything. The site received those in the past but it requires getting the right reader, I guess. Foolish but it could've been worse. Like I said, at least one or two of the points made were solid enough for me to consider so it's not a total loss.

      But after this contest, I'm done with notes services and going for producing and directing the films myself.

    3. I just checked the links to Amanda's competitors.

      $750 for a feature?!! $500 for a TV pilot?! And about the same price I paid to get a read for just an outline?! Oh hoo MAN.

  3. Generally, the point of a coverage service is to get notes and find out if your script would be well-received among professionals. You can't really use one as a referral service.