Last week I spoke a little bit about how it’s probably a good idea to read a stack of scripts. This advice was for those of you that haven’t written a script, or are having trouble writing them. I hope you’ve picked up at least one script to read since then, but if you haven’t now is a great time to start! Find the script of your favorite movie and give it a read.
Now for the next step. If you haven’t heard of it, script coverage is the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the “script development” department of a production company. Remember when you used to do book reports in school? Think along the lines of those. They can be more complex, involving what the targeted audience is and how much the movie could be projected to make, but for now let’s stick to the book report part.
When I started my first internship in the film industry, they had me do script coverage daily. Sometimes more formal, and sometimes less. I did it at a production company and two talent management companies, and I believe it made me a far better writer. The idea is you write a one-page synopsis of the screenplay, and one page of your thoughts and comments on what makes the film good or bad. This can help you understand story structure, and really make you think more critically about your own stories. My boss, Jennifer, would always say, “you can learn something from every movie, good or bad.” This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to understand what makes a good script. It might help you if you’re having trouble writing screenplays. Pick a few scripts out and give it a shot, both good and bad. This way you learn what to do, and what NOT to do.
Here’s the book that helped me learn it all: Screenplay Story Analysis