Script coverage is a film-making term for the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the "script development" department of a production company or, in the case of places like Australia, a government-based funding body.
Coverage usually takes the form of a written report, guided by a rubric that varies from company to company and agency to agency. The usual criteria includes, but is not limited to:
For an example of coverage, see this report on Raiders of the Lost Ark ____________________________________________________
Useful coverage will usually provide an analysis of how well a script addresses or answers the central dramatic questions, namely, Who is the central character? What is their problem? What do they want and why? And who or what is stopping them from getting it? As well, it should give some indication as to the following:
- Is every scene contributing to moving the story forward?
- To what degree is the underlying story concept How compelling is the underlying core concept of the story?
- Since a movie's story revolves around the main character's internal and external journey, how effectively does the Protagonist come across to the audience?
- How well does the dialogue enhance the plot? Do characters sound realistic and have different dialects, slang, and personalities? Does the dialogue play off the visuals?
- How well do the action paragraphs flow together? Does poor spelling or grammar negatively affect the story being told? How well does the screenplay reach the goals outlined by the genre and core concept laid out by the author? If the screenplay is a comedy or horror film, how funny or frightening was it?
- Is it ORIGINAL?
A WARNING: Beware!!! There are many more people out there in the industry handing out advice and offerring opinions about what makes a good screenplay than there are people that have a thorough, working understanding of basic Drama. What one must always look for in any assessment or analysis is ILLUMINATION. Criticism is of limited use if it doesn't illuminate and point the way forward, shining a light into those deeper regions of the story you have either overlooked, avoided, or only hinted at.
The art of reading a script is every bit as difficult as the art of writing one, and there are far too few "readers" out there who have mastered the demanding and very different kind of "aural" reading that a screenplay requires if it is to BE HEARD! and SEEN!
Don't assume that some self-styled expert is right simply because of a CV or the fact that they have "industry connections". Mediocrity is IN - it's never been out - and unwitting screenwriters have fallen, and will continue to fall, under the spell of lesser imaginations. If you're going to take some one's notes or advice to heart make sure that what they're saying is engaging with you IMAGINATIVELY and through that engagement helping you create a more vivid and inspired vision of what your story is attempting to do and say. Simply ask yourself: has the criticism renewed passion and stimulated my enthusiasm for the characters and what they're doing?