Ethan in Northridge writes:
Recently I was searching online on how to write script coverage and become a script reader as I felt I didn’t have a full understanding of those topics. In my search I found a website offering a free class that would “share the details of what it takes to become a reader.”
Since the class was free I decided to attend. It started out fine. The instructor was nice and eased us into talking about script coverage and their own background.
Then about halfway through the class, when the instructor promised to get more into the details about becoming a reader, the class clearly turned into an advertisement for their paid courses. The remainder of the class was largely them listing off how different parts of their courses have a $400, $2,000, or $11,000 value.
Most people in the class chat were praising this and saying it was a great deal, but I personally just felt uneasy about the whole thing.
Do you think I am correct in feeling uneasy about this? Or am I being judgmental and unfair to a legitimate business?
Something can both be a legitimate business and make you feel uneasy. For example, pawns shops are legitimate businesses. So are gun ranges, drug paraphernalia stores and strip mall psychics. That doesn’t mean you need to give them any of your money.
Don’t get hung up whether something is legit or a scam. If a business doesn’t feel right for you, trust your gut and move on.
Let’s talk a little about script coverage, and whether it’s ever worth paying to study it.
I first learned how to write script coverage while in graduate school at USC, in a class taught by uber-producer Laura Ziskin. She showed us examples of good coverage and then told us to write some. For several weeks, we’d take home a script from her library and write up coverage on it. (You can read some of this early coverage in my 1996 site, although I can’t find any with proper top sheets intact.) Laura or one of her execs would mark it up and offer feedback.
How much did I pay to learn coverage in Ziskin’s class? And how much was it worth?
Since that was only a small part of the class, it’s hard to break it out to exact dollars. But I’d guess it was less than $500. As part of a class designed to teach us to think critically about script development, the section on coverage was definitely worth it. In fact, a few months later I started working as a paid freelance reader at TriStar.
Do you, Ethan, want to work as a reader? If so, a short, structured program focused on writing coverage might be worth it, assuming it’s taught by someone who does it for a living. You’d want something like what I had with Laura Ziskin: a look at what executives want to see in coverage, and then a few cracks at writing it, with good feedback on what you wrote.
But that’s if you want to be a reader. It’s much more likely you want to work as a screenwriter.
In that case, your time is better spent reading as many scripts as possible and writing just your reaction to the scripts. What worked for you? What didn’t — and why didn’t it work? Most importantly, what did you learn?
If you can find a group of peers to regularly discuss the scripts you’re reading, all the better. But I don’t think you need to do it as part of a class.