Saturday, January 09, 2010


Does script coverage really help screenwriters fine tune their material? 

I haven't had tons on coverage done on my work, but I've had my fair share.  Most of what I received back was helpful.  It's important to find objective sources to review your work.  If you ask your best friend to read your script, or worse, your spouse, it may be hard for them to be honest with you without hurting your feelings.  We writers can get a tad defensive when it comes to our creations and rightly so, but still, we need to hear what may not be working in our script, play or novel.  Maybe it's the structure, the characters or the conflict... maybe it's the dialogue.  We need to know the truth to move forward with getting the script produced.

I've received some excellent summaries of my scripts.  Sometimes I'll get notes back and compare them from various readers (producer, agent, reader).  If all the readers are focusing on the same theme, then I know what I need to fix.  Recently I received feedback on one particular script.  It got great marks, but all the readers said they wanted the bad guy to be meaner -- like off the charts bad.  So obviously I have to revisit my script and ramp up the villain more.  I thought he was already horrible as the killer, but the readers wanted him to be even more evil (think Hannibal Lecter).  Give your audience what they want with a fresh twist.

So I recommend getting coverage on your work, but be selective in whom you choose to do it.  There are a gazillion script services in NY and LA to help you out.  Don't pay through the nose for this though.  In these down economic times, hunt for a decent rate.  Read the completed coverage at least five times when you do get it and then begin making notes to revise your script if it needs another polish or, heavens forbid, a complete rewrite.

By the way, I've never put out a shingle for script coverage for writers on this blog, but I received a lot of requests to do so in '09.  So if you want my humble opinion about a script you've written, I will give you coverage/notes on it so for a reasonable rate to cover my time.  I will try not to hurt your feelings, but I will be honest.  I will help you improve your draft before you submit it to professional agents and producers who won't care at all about your feelings. 

Happy New Year, Everyone!


Barbara Forte Abate said...

Great post, Janet. This really is such a touchy subject. We insist we want absolute brutal honesty, from our readers, and we do, but at the same time we hold to the fantasy that there won't actually be any criticisms and our readers will instead fawn over the 'most fantastic thing they've ever read! (Emphasis on fantasy.LOL) Yet as we mature and grow as writers we thankfully learn how to deal with the naked truth - in many ways welcome it, for the fact that honest criticism is so necessary for any writer who truly wants to "make it happen." Nevertheless it's also seems important to stress that not all criticism is good or even true. Take it, absorb it. Reflect, rewrite, revise, but even then don't forget to respect your instincts. That said, you, Janet, are an excellent source for honest, constructive, well thought-out critism. A true professional in every sense of the word!

Janet Lawler said...

I agree, Barbara. Criticism is hard to take on any level. When it's legitimate, it's important to listen and see how it can be used. I was watching "American Idol" last night and the singer Shania Twain was on as a guest judge. Many of the contestants were really bad singers, but some had potential. One singer came back for a third year to try... and Shania said basically that this young woman would succeed because she heard the past negatives about her auditions and fixed them. Others storm out of the audition room and swear at the camera! LoL. It hurts to be judged in life and on our dreams especially, but if we can learn and grow from the advice then it's worth applying.

Write on, B.A.