"Why Don't You Do Coverages?"

It’s a question I get from time to time.

But I don’t do script coverages. Never have.

Coverages are useful inside the confines of a production studio that receives hundreds of spec scripts someone has to pore through. These scripts are given to readers who write coverages that give a synopsis of each script, a couple of pages that discuss the script’s strengths and weaknesses, and finally give each script a Pass or Recommend grade. Fine.

But someone got the notion that this same system could work for writers outside of production houses as a means of helping writers become better writers. I don’t get it. Writers are plopping down good money (around $120-$175) for someone to tell them what their screenplay is about (which the writer already knows), give them vague and impersonal advice on what is wrong with the script (such as, the dialogue is too “on-the-nose”), and then give the script a Pass or Recommend grade (which means nothing to anyone outside of a production house).

In the end, the writers have learned little to nothing of what actually needs to be done to improve their scripts. Worse, if the script and writing is absolutely terrible and needs to be abandoned, the writer isn’t told that. They leave the transaction expecting to polish their turd and then have something producers will clamor to buy.

It all feels very dishonest to me.

So I don’t do coverages. I do detailed screenplay analyses. If the writer has a decent idea and shows he can write, then I spend some real, honest time with their script. I print it out. I go through it three times or more with a red pen. I take copious notes. I closely analyze what I call the “Three Pillars of Story”: Character, Conflict, and Structure.

Sometimes the writing is so good that I recommend limited re-writing focusing on a few key areas. Other times, the idea is a good one and the writer shows promise, but the story is off-kilter enough to warrant a complete re-write from page one. In these situations, I’ve been known to spend time showing the writer exactly what such a re-write would look like by giving a detailed, beat-by-beat outline of the entire script. When that has happened, sometimes I’ll get an angry email from the writer demanding his money back and and railing on me for destroying his vision. Other times, writers have been wowed, telling me that, although it means a complete re-write, my vision for their script is actually much better.

Most of my clients come back for a second consultation.

So my clients must be willing to accept criticism and by open to a new way to look at their story concept, if necessary.

But they must also be patient. I don’t do 24-72 hour turnarounds on my analyses. I’ve been known to take two weeks or more on a single script. I believe in reading a script over a few times, then thinking on it for days, allowing it to simmer and for my own creative juices to flow so I can envision it for myself. My reports are often long and exhaustive, many times breaking down key scenes with a great amount of depth.

What I also really like to do is help writers with story concepts. I like to walk people through the creative process of character development, story structure, and scene-by-scene breakdowns, all the way through the finished script. It is often a two-month process at least, but for beginning writers it can be a revelation on how story are told and screenplays are written. It can save budding writers years of time trying to figure it out on their own.

Each writer I work with learns lessons and organizational skills they’ll use over and over again on every screenplay they write. Many of them have been known to come back to me on subsequent scripts even after they’ve mastered the process because they like the part of the process where someone is urging them on and brainstorming ideas.

So EMAIL ME if you’d like to test the waters with my methods. Shoot me your logline, a brief synopsis of your idea, and some screenplay pages you’ve written. If I like what I see, and I think you could pull off telling a good story, I’ll contact you.