5 Myths Screenplay Consultants Love to Perpetuate

B. O'MalleyLast updated: Script Coverage 101

Why script consultants hate script coverage

Why script consultants hate script coverageNewsflash! Many companies, large and small, now offer script coverage services. 

But ooooh, watch out. Because that really chaps the hide of many a high-priced script consultant selling their script consultant services online.

So many of those script consultants turn their noses up at script coverage services, mostly as a way to sort of “poo-poo” the more affordable “script coverage service” in order to show how awesome and necessary their more expensive, more in-depth script consultant services are.

And below, for the first time, I’ve compiled some of our favorite myths about script coverage which are perpetuated by many script consultants.

Myth: “Script consulting gives you more than what you get with script coverage”

True, in many cases! But script consultants are generally five times more expensive than script coverage, with their low-end services starting around $200 and skyrocketing up to the $800’s and $900’s from there.

I might be crazy, but the average struggling screenwriter looking to improve her script usually doesn’t have enough money to buy a round of drinks on Saturday, let alone $700 to spend on script notes.

I’ve used a couple of these script consultants in the past, and flat out, let me tell you – a lot of them are good.

But what I really needed to improve my script at that point was just a few different perspectives on what was working, and what wasn’t.

I needed a read or two, not a full-blown script consultant package.

Script coverage offers perspective in a much more affordable way, because for the price of one script consultant going over my script with a fine-toothed comb, I can order script coverage from 5 -10 different script readers, all of which are sure to have totally different backgrounds, (as different humans are wont to do.)

And each of those readers are going to give me a different take on my script. From those different “soundings,” I can choose the script notes I think are coming up in a pattern, and can ignore the rest.

Yes, you do get much more in-depth notes from a script consultant, generally, than you do from script coverage. But the questions are: Do you need it? And, can you afford it?

If $200-$700 (and up) is in your budget, and you’re absolutely befuddled as to how to improve your script, a script consultant is definitely one way to go. But you might be able to spend half of that and get the same results, simply by getting script coverage from a few different readers.

Myth: “You get what you pay for”

This is one of my favorites. It’s also a huge favorite of the big script consultants who poo-poo my company and companies like mine. (I love you guys anyway!)

Why I find it hilarious is because of its underlying premise, which is:

“Quality can only be attained if you fork over enough money.”

Which is so flatly wrong, and so patently lazy, and so obviously geared towards justifying high dollar script services, I have to chuckle.

I’m not against script consultants hanging up a shingle and charging whatever rate they like. Far from it.

I think expertise has a definite price, and if you’ve spent a lifetime fixing screenplays, you have more than earned the right to charge whatever you please for your time and intellect.

But, frankly dear script consultant, if your expertise is as good as you say it is, then you should be able to sell yourself on that alone, rather than also relying on angrily shouting “You get what you pay for! You get what you pay for!” at your friendly neighborhood script coverage company.

Myth: “Script coverage is written by college interns and underpaid wage slaves”

This Ah, that old delicious myth.

Think about it. How long would any script coverage company be in business if they hired folks to do their coverage who didn’t know what the heck they were talking about?

Every script company worth its salt does a great job at screening their script readers for maximum entertainment industry experience and script analysis skills.

UPDATE: It’s been a few years since I originally wrote this article. And in that time, scores of new script coverage companies have popped up, many of whom I’ve seen the actual coverage from, and have done subsequent research on.

As a result I’ve discovered, unfortunately, that the above “myth” is, sadly, starting to be more and more true, as a great number of these newer companies are clearly using interns and underpaid readers to churn out their sloppy, half-baked coverage. Including one or two companies with great brand recognition. 

That being said, there are still a great many of us out there who do not work with interns and pay our readers very well for their services.

Script consultants and script gurus have every right to tout their experience and skillset, but it’s often done by contrasting themselves, unfairly and inaccurately, against a whole population of super-talented script readers, some of which are script consultants themselves, or working in script development on an ongoing basis.

(And besides, that’s just patently offensive to some of those really talented college interns and underpaid wage slaves we all know.)

Myth:”Script coverage companies try to bait you into getting more and more coverage”

Another delightful selling point for script consultants, and actually some script coverage companies, who try to scare you into not buying from their competition.

I’m sure there are some super-dumb screenwriters out there. But how long do you think it would take for screenwriter of average- or above average IQ to realize she was being baited and upsold into receiving more and more coverage, with the ever-elusive “RECOMMEND” rating always just around the corner?

Word travels fast in the screenwriting community. There are a lot of us, but not that many.

This one’s a Deusy.

Myth: “Script coverage readers hide behind anonymity, so you can’t trust them”

One of the greatest things about script coverage, as opposed to receiving great script consultation from a script consultant, is that, by and large, your script is getting a dry run of the real-world script-submission process.

That is, when you submit your script to a producer or an agent, they may read it. If they do read it, they’re likely going to have the reader write up a script coverage.

Problem is? 999 times out of 1000, you’ll never see that script coverage.

Any good script coverage company is providing you with a real-world simulation of that whole process, with the only difference being: you get to actually see the coverage.

You get the “inside scoop” on what someone who doesn’t know you, and who you’ll never know, thinks of your script. It’s that very anonymity that allows a script reader to really tear into the script and give her honest, perhaps even brutally honest, opinion of it.

And even when that anonymous reader gets your script entirely wrong, there’s still much you can take away from the entire script coverage experience.

Because it’s an opportunity to tweak your script to prevent, or at least mitigate, future script readers like that from misinterpreting your screenplay. (AKA idiot-proof your script!)

So take it all in, gentle screenwriter. There are many tools available in your toolbox:

Some tools are super-high-priced, but provide an in-depth service which you may need to completely overhaul your screenplay from the ground up.

Other tools are lower-priced, but provide a closer real-world experience, and allow you to take advantage of multiple perspectives, in those cases where your script needs just a few tweaks to make sure it’s working before you send it out to agents and producers.

And other tools…

Well, they’re just tools.

3 Comments on “5 Myths Screenplay Consultants Love to Perpetuate”

  1. I begun reading scripts in 1986 at New World Pictures. All of them were sent by (and therefore previoulsy screened and considered) agents, managers, lawyers and other professionnals. On the average, 50% were nearly unreadable, 40% were sort of OK at best and boring at worst, 9% were not bad but still not worth spending the money which left 1% with real, genuine potential. Twenty five years later, and still reading, I can tell these percentages still stand. Moral of the story: real, original talent is a rare thing. Simple as that. That being said, film is an INDUSTRY, and before you try to sell a product (aka a screenplay) to the latter, you better make sure that your product is at least considerable. Hence, never submit anything without having professionals (that is, trained readers) check it out beforehand. Remember that decision makers never read a script twice, so you will only have one shot. It’s tough out there. Attitude, rejection, unconstructive criticism, ignorance, stick to your day job type of advice. Hey, you’re trying to make a movie, not invade Poland. So, dear brothers and sisters, nevergive up and best of luck to you all.

  2. 5 true. 4 true. 3 true. 2 true. 1 very very very true. here BEGINS the writer’s lesson; there’s DONE and there’s MARKET READY. Difference is as wide as the Grand Canyon. BABZ – Silver Bitela Agency

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