Gerald Hanks Filmography

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Screenwriting Advice: Contests vs. Coverage vs. Coaching

As the new year gets underway, many people resolve to eat healthier, work out more, and lose weight. They may look up fad diets, watch exercise videos, or sign up for a gym membership.

However, when it comes to losing weight, the most effective advice often comes from medical professionals or experienced trainers who have worked with clients to get the results they need.

At the same time, a writer's thoughts often turn to how they can make this year's scripts better than last year's efforts. They may have their friends, family, or writers' group look at their work and gauge their reactions to see where they can improve.

For writers who want an impartial evaluation of their projects from an industry expert, they frequently turn to one of three options:

  • They get coverage on their project from a professional script reader.
  • They enter their project into a screenwriting contest.
  • They work with a screenwriting coach to get their project into shape.


A professional script evaluation rates and analyzes the various aspects of a screenplay. These reports often indicate what works and what needs work when it comes to the writer's skills with character development, plot pacing, story structure, dialogue, and more. 

Studios and production companies often work with these readers to generate a "coverage report". These reports serve as a summary of the project's strengths and weaknesses and as a tool in the producer's decision-making process. They also often include a rating of "Recommend", "Consider", or "Pass".

Pros: Most professional script readers offer coverage-style reports. Rates on these reports are often affordable and can serve as a guide during the rewrite process.

Cons: These reports can reflect the reader's biases toward specific genres or approaches to storytelling. Since each report reflects the reader's opinion, the writer may need two or three (or more) to determine if an issue mentioned in the report reflects a flaw in the script or a bias in the reader. 

When Should I Get A Coverage Report? The most effective time to get a script evaluation is when the script is at or near a professional level. These reports often help the writers fine-tune the small details that can mean the difference in the script moving forward or staying in the slush pile. 

The grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting should also be 100% perfect. As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." 


Screenplay contests can serve as launching pads for a screenwriting career. A placement in a contest can add to an aspiring writer's resume, while a win could add to their bank accounts.

Pros: With so many contests available in nearly every genre, the task of finding one that fits a specific project should be easy. Many contests also offer the option of purchasing feedback (similar to a coverage report) for an additional fee. 

Cons: With so many contests available in nearly every genre, not all of them have equal standing among industry insiders. Some may operate as nothing more than money-grabbing scams that prey on the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers. 

When Should I Enter A Contest? If the script has received at least two "Recommend" ratings from different coverage readers, it may have a strong chance to win a top-flight contest.

Another aspect involves choosing the best contest to enter. For projects in a particular genre, writers may stand a better chance at winning a smaller contest that focuses on that specific genre than competing for the top prizes in a bigger contest such as Austin or Nicholl. 


While many aspiring writers rely on books, classes, and videos for their education, some projects may require an outsider's eye to spot where the project could improve.

Also, some writers may want to adapt their novel, biography, or article into a screenplay without the first idea of how to start the process. A coach can show them the differences between writing for readers and writing for the screen. 

Pros: Much like working with a personal trainer, the client can get expert advice and one-on-one training with someone who wants to see them succeed. This part of the process can also help with the client's feelings of isolation and frustration that come with taking on such a big project.

Cons: Much like working with a personal trainer, this process can be expensive and time-consuming. Much of the success of this process stems from the level of commitment the client is willing to put in, as well as the chemistry between the coach and the client.

When Should I Work With A Coach?: If you have a project in another medium, a screenwriting coach can guide you through the adaptation process. If you have a script and want to work with a professional who can take your project to the next level, an experienced coach can help you boost your writing skills. 

Even if you just have an idea and want to know where to start, a qualified coach can show you what agents, managers, and producers look for in a script. 

At Story Into Screenplay, you can get coverage-style reports, contest advice, and personalized coaching all in one place.

You can contact us through the form on this page or by sending a direct message through our Facebook page. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook for updates, interviews, and more!

Let us help you get your script in shape in 2023!