Category

Screenwriting 101

5 Tips for Crafting Your Perfect Writer Bio

By Screenwriting 101

Putting the entirety of your life’s works, experiences, and accomplishments into a few sentences can be a daunting task even for the most talented writer, and one filled with lots of uncertainty. What do I include? What do I leave out? Should I be brief but not too brief? Do they care where I went to school?

Writing a bio– like writing– is more of an art than a science. We’re here to help you hone this art, and write bios that best showcase yourself to the industry.  Recently, we reached out to our network of literary reps who provided kernels of wisdom to guide you in writing your best bio.

1. Share your unique voice and perspective

“Focus on what makes you unique.” – Cassie Duffy, Kaplan-Perrone

“How would you pitch yourself on why you NEED to be hired?” – Audrey Knox, Cartel

When writing a bio, many writers feel a need to mention general information about their hometown, where they went to school, or why Reservoir Dogs is their favorite movie. The problem is, that info is true for thousands if not tens of thousands of other writers. When including info, really focus on what perspective or characteristics you have that set you apart from the crowd.  Be weary of putting your educational highlights, especially if you went to a common writing school (“…everyone’s gone to USC”).

2. Connect with them and make them smile

“Be funny. And if you can’t be funny;  have style.” – Harris Kauffman, Storyboard

Get creative with the writing– you are a writer after all. If you’re a comedy writer, your bio should definitely include a joke or two. If you’re more on the drama side, your bio definitely shouldn’t make anyone cry, but it should display some of the writing craft you’re asking this person to read more of. Avoid anything standardized at all costs.

3. Keep it short

“Only include information that matters.” – Derrick Eppich, Empirical Evidence

If your bio is longer than 3-4 sentences, cut cut cut.  This is an elevator pitch about yourself, not an autobiographical book.  Imagine you’re speaking your bio, word for word, to a manager, agent, or producer.  How long would you make it before you’ve lost their attention, or worse, they interrupt you to get on with it?  You have even less time to make an impact on your bio. The sweet spot is three sentences and between 300-400 characters following the structure of: recent accomplishment or development, overview of your career, and something that sets you apart.

4. Hook them from the beginning

“Put the most recent and most impressive stuff first.” – Audrey Knox, Cartel

When writing their bios, many writers feel a need to start at the beginning and work their way to the present.  Just like a great script, you need to hook your audience at the very beginning, otherwise they toss the script. Start with the most impactful items first. Andlike a resume, you should start with the most recent, relevant, and impressive experience at the top. 

5. Reference your industry knowledge

“Showcase your industry mentorships and referrals.” – Cassie Duffy, Kaplan Perrone

Managers and agents need the assurance that you know the business, and that you’re going to represent them well in meetings and other business situations.  If you have industry experience, definitely include that in your bio. If not, any industry creator, professional, or mentors will go a long way in legitimizing and validating your work. 

A few examples:

To help you write a compelling bio, here are some inspirational bios, and some lackluster bios.  Note: we’ve edited these from actual bios so as not to call-out individual writers.

Great Bios:

Interesting Career History

Samantha’s journey into professional writing started as an aide for a notorious politician during a scandal. Seeing the power of story to affect change, she enrolled at AFI film school. Her directorial debut short film THE SKYLINE is currently available on Amazon and her pilot THE DOLPHIN placed in the top 15% for Nicholl just last month.

The Accolades Bio

Starting as a plucky young assistant for Werner Herzog, Evan was integral in developing several features and series for his company. He utilized his co-producer credit as a springboard to write his short STALKER, which has been featured on Vice, Amazon, and Quibi. He is currently an assistant in the writer’s room for the Fox series, THE BOOK OF ESTHER.

 

The Witty Bio

Molded by his small, North Dakota  hometown and all the opportunity that it offered — none — Jonas’s passion for writing spawned from a desire to entertain — himself, first and foremost.. After accumulating a diverse and extensive body of work at The University of Minnesota, he headed to Los Angeles, where he is currently working as a writer’s PA on TNT’s WRESTLING IS REAL.

 

Please avoid Bios like these:

The Generic Info Bio

I was born in Southeast Michigan and graduated from Michigan State with a bachelors in Communication. I moved to Los Angeles five years ago and currently work in sales. I write in my free time and would like to be staffed on a network show.

 

The Irrelevant Personal Taste Bio

I have been a screenwriter ever since I fell in love with Raiders of the Lost Ark. I now specialize in Spielbergian action projects and love to tell stories of underdogs overcoming unconquerable odds.

 

The Long-Winded Bio

Born on the majestic enchanting shores of Hollywood California, I was the second of three children to an accountant and a school teacher. My grandfather, also an accountant, would sit me on his knee by the fireside of my parent’s Cape Cod style cottage and tell me bedtime stories that left me with a sense of wonder and a desire to create stories of my own. After graduating high school with mostly A’s and B’s, I went north to a state university where I majored in English after switching from Business. I learned lots and partied equally as much, but knew that once I was finished, I had to return to Los Angeles in order to pursue my writing career. My first feature placed as a quarterfinalist in Austin, ScreenCraft, PAGE, BlueCat, Slamdance, and the Oklahoma Film Festival, while my pilot placed as a semifinalist in Austin, Nicholl, Script Pipeline, Tracking Board, and Scriptapalooza. I am now currently developing my third feature and looking for producers that specialize in broad comedy social thrillers. Links to my Facebook, Twitter, website, and portfolio below.  You can believe me when I say: I have stories that rival my grandfather’s.

 

Oh, and it should go without saying, but…

“Don’t lie!” – Everyone

Being a writer and being self-conscious goes hand in hand. It may be tempting to fill a bio with embellishments or half-truths to make your body of work sound impressive but DON’T DO IT. While you want to put your best foot forward, any rep will be able to see through it and you might end up burning a bridge instead of simply getting a pass. 

Ready? Get started perfecting your Bio on your Coverfly Profile now! 

Coverfly Pitch Week: My Journey to Getting Signed

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

I’m LeLe Park, and I’m a screenwriter who went from being un-repped to being repped in just over a year.  

It was October 2018; my ego was firmly against the wall of “no, thanks.”  I didn’t know where to go next. I was fully prepared to hunt the globe for talent representation, permanently.  I’d written my drama series pilot and poured all my emotional octane into it and physically pushed myself — sleeping only 3-4 hours a night for over a year.   Now, I was running on fumes.   

Then one day a friend-of-a-friend suggested I compete to stir up some legitimacy around my efforts. After gaining the traction I’d hoped for from competing, Coverfly’s Pitch Week selected me in their new opportunity offering!   

Part of the reason I was exceptionally excited was because Coverfly is so unique.  Its efforts to ensure that competitions and festivals are both credible and following best practices is truly a credit to its care for the participants and the reality that new writers can be preyed upon.  Coverfly’s also so well-respected and trusted that it cuts right through the concerns of even accomplished writers.  Add to it a platform as tidy and concise as this one: creating its own Pitch Week and harvesting through its massive database of talent… it organically lends a selected writer credibility, opportunity, and recognition worth noting.  

Are you a writer with a few completed screenplays under your belt?
Apply to Coverfly Pitch Week for FREE to connect with agents, managers and producers.

When I was notified I’d made Coverfly’s Pitch Week, there was a sliver of hope that representation was near!  This mythical unobtainable marker in a writer’s journey is ripe with such a variance of avenues and conditions… and now it was possible.  The ability to possibly be in front of talent management and producers in the hopes of connecting or becoming represented, that’s always enticing!  It’s hard enough to get signed as a writer when you live in Los Angeles full-time.  For me, a working mother of two small boys going between LA-and-Chicago and new to the process — it felt as fanciful as it did unlikely.  

A calendar invite was sent my way and days later the online meeting began.  I was ready to answer questions about my lead character’s journey, ready to discuss my vision, was excited to discuss character development and hopes for the project.   But, then the first question was, “So, can you tell me about yourself and how you got here?”  

The moment that question came out, I started blathering.  I was fumbling through it like the kid who hadn’t wanted to catch the ball, and I was just hoping I didn’t mess it up so bad that I’d blown the opportunity.  I realized I need to be completely comfortable answering questions. Having great answers is lovely but how they’re answered is just as important.  I had to embrace sharing my journey and how my projects had marinated  — a teachable moment brought my way, thanks to Coverfly’s Pitch Week.  

Despite my blathering and worry,  I was selected and signed by Eric Borja at Alldayeveryday!

From that point on, my manager and I spent time building a “two-pager” for my drama series, The Bliss Killer.  We spent time retooling and better preparing me for wider discussions about the project — to speak about my show’s message, genesis, and trajectory — the benefits of signing with someone who enjoys developing writers!  Even today, we’re still discussing, fine-tuning, and preparing materials for my drama series and soon will be preparing my other projects as I currently wrap my limited series, Night vs Day and have begun sharing my latest feature film, Visceral Fatherland.

Having a manager has opened doors.  It’s allowed me to participate in query submissions that widely prefer receiving materials from a manger/agent.  And it’s added validity to my abilities as a fresh member to the community.  I still work my hustle and focus on listening and connecting to those that carry more experience.  I look for opportunities to ask for help from advocates of my projects — and that’s also part of the process of working with a talent manager — they’re there for you, but you still have to be there for yourself.  They’re the additional engine to your hustle, not the end of your hustle.

Coverfly’s Pitch Week brought me to another level; first by selecting me, then by creating the opportunity to be seen and heard by a talent manager who enjoys writer development, and from there lifting my credibility game once signed by the manager.

If you have the opportunity to submit your work for consideration via Coverfly’s Pitch Week, I highly recommend it… you never know what the game-changer will be.


LeLe Park is a Chicago based screenwriter. Her original pilot “The Bliss Killer” has won/placed in over 40 competitions including Screencraft, Final Draft, Scriptation Showcase, Cinequest, Script Summit, and Shore Scripts. Her short screenplay, “ACHE”, has won/placed in 30 screenwriting competitions including Austin Film Festival, Oaxaca Film festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIFF), and The Richmond International Film Festival. She was “staff pick” at ScriptD, a guest speaker at Bucknell University, and pitch choice at Coverfly. She recently finished her highly-anticipated feature script, “Visceral Fatherland” and is currently wrapping up her second feature “Topt” and her limited series “Night vs Day”. She is represented by Eric Borja at Alldayeveryday (Los Angeles). https://lelepark05.wixsite.com/lelepark

For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Screenwriting 101: How to Get an Agent

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

It takes a lot of effort, time and possibly even a good amount of sweat and tears to write a kick-ass screenplay. Some of us have been at it for years. There are plenty of classes and books to help you along the way as you craft your story for the screen, but the one thing most people don’t mention is what to do after you have a screenplay that’s ready for the marketplace. 

Screenplays are products and to sell one, you need a literary agent. Some writers get by with just lawyers, but if you’re a new writer, you’ll likely want to start by getting a manager. A manager who believes in you will be able to refer you to agents with whom they have relationships. Agents, on the other hand, are most useful when you’re at the point where studios and/or producers are interested in one of your screenplays and can negotiate a deal. Most industry professionals recommend getting both a manager and an agent to set up your career with the best odds of success. 

If you don’t have any of the above, the first thing you’ll want to do on your quest for an agent is to get your screenplay read by industry professionals. Here are the best ways we’ve determined to get your script in front of Hollywood eyeballs and move your career to the next level. 

1. Make Query Phone Calls

It used to be common to send query letters, then emails. Finding an agent’s assistant’s email address is easy and there’s very little stress clicking the send button. But it’s just as easy to find that assistant’s office phone number, too. Very few people make phone calls anymore so this is a chance for you to stand out. Most likely, you won’t be able to get the assistant on the phone your first try so try a few times (1:00 PM to 2:00 PM PST is the industry standard lunch break, so avoid calling then).

If you do get them on the phone or are forced to leave a message, the secret is expressing your passion for your project while sounding like a sane adult. If you can make an argument as to why the story in your screenplay is the most gripping, relevant or funniest story of the year, you may get some interest. If you’re leaving a message, leave your phone number AND your email address, as they are more likely to email you back. But be smart about who you contact. If you know a manager represents primarily comedy writers, there’s no need to waste your time calling them about your post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic.

2. Attend Screenwriting Conferences and Summits

Some of the better conferences like Story Expo (held in New York and Los Angeles six months apart), Toronto Screenwriting Conference and ScreenCraft Writers Summit, invite successful screenwriters, literary agents and managers to give talks and be available to answer questions. These events are set in a much more casual environment than most industry events, so the odds of walking up and introducing yourself to a literary manager at one of the social mixes are in your favor.

3. Send Your Script to Screenwriting Competitions

Most of us have heard stories about doors opening for a screenwriter after winning a screenwriting competition. At the very least, many managers will request to read the winning script and that’s a good thing. But do your homework. Screenwriting competitions can get expensive so you need to target the competitions you enter. The likelihood of a raunchy comedy winning the Nicholl competition is pretty low, so send them your best dramatic screenplay. If you write horror, focus on The Bloodlist. Austin Film Festival has a great competition and their conference is very writer-friendly. There are several good competitions out there that can open doors for new writers.

4. Go to Film Festivals

Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, you can still go to film festivals like Sundance, Slamdance or South by Southwest and meet other filmmakers, producers, agents and managers. Bring a stack of postcards or business cards that have the name of your screenplay or web series, the logline, your website/blog and your email address. 

5. Get a Job as an Assistant 

If you’re in Los Angeles or New York, or even some of the cities where a lot of filming takes place like Vancouver or Atlanta, there are plenty of film companies and production studios looking to hire that amazing assistant. It’s a great way to learn the business and to make contacts. If you’re nice, professional and helpful, someone will certainly be willing to read your script. 

6. Stunt Marketing

What is stunt marketing? It’s promoting your script in a clever way that hasn’t been done before. Billy Domineau wrote a Seinfeld spec called “Twin Towers” about 9/11 that went viral and landed him a job on Family Guy. Henry C. King purchased billboards near Sony in Culver City and in Studio City near Universal Studios directing anyone interested to look up his script on blcklst.com. These methods are unconventional so do your research before spending any money.

Here is the Writers Guild of America’s list of accredited agents. Be sure to let us know if you have any success!


ShaneeEdwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

You Wrote A Screenplay. Now It’s Time to Turn It Into One Sentence.

By About Coverfly, Screenwriting 101

You’ve done the impossible: you’ve typed the famous FADE OUT, hit save, and completed your cinematic masterpiece. Congratulations! Now comes the fun part of convincing people to read your screenplay. Getting someone to read your script could become the hardest thing you’ve ever done. No joke. Reading scripts is like a first date – you need to psych yourself up in hopes that this one won’t be as bad as the last. Like a killer dating profile, you need something to draw the reader in and get them excited to read your script. Behold the most powerful tool in your arsenal – the logline!

Less is more when it comes to loglines.

A logline should be short, sweet, and to the point. You probably already know what a logline is and have tried your hand at crafting one for each of your projects, but we want your logline to be the best it can be. So let’s skip the basics and get down to the nitty-gritty. A good logline can sell your project, but a poorly written one might be an indication that your script is poorly written, too. If you’re preparing your project profile for Coverfly’s Free Pitch Week or Live Reads, then this blog post is an excellent place to start.

One, maybe two sentences.

Oftentimes loglines should be only one sentence, but don’t be afraid to stretch it out to two. Sometimes it’s hard to jam everything in and, to help build out the hook, you’ll need space to move. Getting into three to four sentences, however, can be too much information.

It’s this meets that.

If you’re finding yourself able to express the story, but not capture the tone, then consider adding comparables. More often than not, when someone says it’s “this meets that,” we can start to get a visual image. If we hear, “It’s Hot Tub Time Machine meets Little House on the Prairie,” we start to see a fish-out-of-water story about someone who accidentally goes back in time to prairie life in the 1800s. The two concepts in tandem can change the outlook on a script.

The three logline essentials.

There are three core elements you’ll want to incorporate within your logline: character, plot, and tone. In addition, you’ll want to use an active voice and aim to avoid character names (unless they’re well-known figures). It helps to give enough information to whet the appetite, but not enough to give away too much. While these are guidelines, rules can bend and break. Don’t get wrapped up in all the details; we’re selling a story here. Remember, the goal is to entice them to read this script, so hook them with the main elements. Otherwise, you can just write a summary and watch eyes glaze over.

Find the hook.

The easiest, utmost basic template you can follow is this: A character is THIS, but when THAT happens, he NOW must do this.

Essentially, it’s just the first act, break into act two, and a teaser as to what the second and third act will be. The “but” is critical because that is where the hook lives. You can usually turn to the act two break to find your hook. The hard part here is each story is unique, so you need to figure out what distinguishes your story from all others. Making clear what’s relatable and original about your story will further hook your reader.

Use loglines from existing movies in the same genre to guide you.

Here are three loglines from notable movies: 

1. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a young farmer dreams to escape his mundane life. When he begins tinkering with a few broken-down robots, he discovers a fateful message that sends him on the adventure of a lifetime.

Obviously, this is from Star Wars, and it gets to the core of the story.

2.  When a 23-year-old slacker musician falls head-over-heels in love with a beautiful young woman, he’s shocked to discover he must battle her seven evil ex-boyfriends to be with her.

From Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, we learn it’s an action-filled romance distinguished by the battle between a slouch and his love-interest’s seven evil ex-boyfriends. 

3. Desperately wanting to be accepted by the cool kids, two nerdy teenagers agree to supply beer for a party. But when they learn that their friend’s fake ID is a bust, they must go to the ends of the earth to get the booze or confirm they are the losers everyone thinks they are.

This logline from Superbad makes the story very relatable because everyone has a memory of wanting to fit in. 

While these are not the official studio loglines, they include the primary story beats and just enough context to pique interest.

Streamline your loglines. 

Once you start to get the essentials of the narrative, start to figure out how to make it exciting.

Try different variations of your logline, ranging from completely different sentences to just a few words changed throughout; it all comes down to a single word sometimes.

For instance: A theme park suffers a major power outage that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok, forcing paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant to risk his own life to protect two young children.

Jurassic Park’s logline gives you everything you’re getting in the story and every word is essential to convey this. What if it was adjusted?

During a preview tour of cloned dinosaurs, a theme park suffers a major power outage that allows its exhibits to run amok.

It still works because… well dinosaurs. But it doesn’t have the emotional impact of the first one. In thinking of previous rules about character, plot, and tone, this specific one lacks our protagonist, Dr. Alan Grant. It shows sometimes rules can be broken and that dinosaurs can outsell people.

Another strong example: Three groomsmen lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during a night of drunken escapades in Las Vegas, forcing them retrace their steps to find him.

The Hangover is a story that many of us can relate to, whether or not you’ve been to a bachelor(ette) party or Las Vegas which hooks us in. It answers the who, what, where and why of the story while sneaking tone in by using specific words like “buddy.”

Logline structure.

When you start to tear down loglines, keep in mind the type of story you are trying to tell. I can’t stress this enough. Very often, a logline promises a story that the script doesn’t deliver. Imagine thinking you’re getting Jurassic Park, but then read Schindler’s List. While both are great (and Spielberg films coincidentally), you don’t want to disappoint the reader.

Loglines help focus your story.

A logline is a great tool to help develop your script further. If you’re having difficulty getting the story down to a sentence or two, or you’re struggling to find the hook/other elements you need to convey, you may want to evaluate your narrative as a whole as there might be some underlying story problems you weren’t aware of. It’s a great way to start to find the story within the story and zero in on what you want to tell.

Practice makes perfect.

A logline is a tool to learn about your story as much as it is a sales pitch. Make it exciting, eye-catching, and draw in the right audience. Don’t forget what type of story you’re telling and stick to it. Stretch the logline out if you need to and go for two sentences. Use comparables. Lose the micro-details that, while may be essential to the narrative, aren’t necessary to get the read. Stick to the overarching concept that makes your story seem fresh and will be like nothing a producer or director has ever read. 

More helpful tools.

Once you have your killer logline, be sure to include it in your writer profile, here on Coverfly. We’re the industry’s largest database of screenwriting competition entries, searchable by industry pros who are looking for good screenplays. The best part of Coverfly is that you can add your profile and screenplay for FREE. A tip: when creating your profile, include your demographic information, including awards and placements for discoverable projects, links to social media, agent and manager representation and a profile pic. Providing this data helps producers who are looking for writers with specific traits that will make stories feel more authentic and true to a certain voice being expressed.

Ready to pitch your ideas to agents and managers?

The deadline for applying to Coverfly’s next Pitch Week is December 1. After reviewing applications, 20 to 50 writers will be selected and matched for virtual video conference meetings and phone calls with Hollywood literary agents and managers. It’s free to apply and free to participate. Sign up here.


ShaneeEdwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

What is the Coverfly Score?

By About Coverfly, Announcements, Screenwriting 101

Helping Writers Get Discovered by Tracking Progress on Submissions and Coverages

Our goal is to become the most efficient way for writers to be discovered by the entertainment industry, and the most trusted guide for emerging writers to achieve their goals. We do this by offering a free database for screenwriters to host their screenplays. In addition to hosting your projects for free, Coverfly uses your project’s reviews from submissions to top-tier festivals, competitions, fellowships and coverage services to provide a measure of our confidence that an Industry professional would be interested in your screenplay.  We’ve also pulled together dozens of highly regarded screenwriting competitions and free fellowships and programs to help you improve your score. Check out those tips and resources at the end of this article. 

The Coverfly Score is simply a tool to help writers better understand how their project is improving while also helping industry professionals discover great writers and great projects. It is, of course, not the only or even most important factor in determining the success of your script.  While we want the score to be helpful and empowering, we don’t ever want it to dissuade you from writing more projects or putting your work out there. The best writers write a LOT of projects!

A Special Metric Aggregating Screenplay Evaluations 

Aggregating scores

To help industry professionals discover great matches on Coverfly, we have found it important for projects to be vetted several times.  This allows for greater confidence in identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and general quality of the piece. On average, it takes about five reads before we have gathered enough data to confidently rate a project for Industry consideration. Remember, many contests read a script multiple times, so 5 reads can happen quickly.

More Evaluation Data is Better (up to a point)

Chart showing confidence in score increasing

Larger score updates will occur for the first five scores as we build confidence in the quality of the project.  Once a Project has a mature score, larger jumps may still occur with draft updates and strong placements in fellowships or competitions, but mature scores often change less because Coverfly is more confident in how your script is being received. If you submit an updated draft for coverage, we’ll weight that score more than the previous coverages you received.

Each score increase takes many factors into consideration, but essentially, your Coverfly Score increases as readers from well-regarded programs respond positively to your project. Our algorithm needs 5 reviews to be fully confident in your Coverfly Score. After 5 reviews we’re more confident, and placements will change your score less. It’s also worth knowing that 5 reads doesn’t mean you need to enter 5 competitions, most competitions read a script multiple times as it advances, so you may only need to enter one or two.   But, rest assured, we follow a strict rule: a Coverfly Score can never decrease. So, you’re free to experiment as you hone your story, without concern that it will negatively impact your score.

A Project’s Coverfly Score Won’t Ever Decrease 

Chart illustration showing that the Score never decreases

There will be times when your score does not increase.  A common reason for this is that the most recent screenwriting competition placement or coverage is not strong enough to outweigh the recent historical scores on your project.

When your project places in a festival, competition, or fellowship, we usually wait until after the placements have been announced publicly to update your score.  To determine a fair score for the increase, we take several core variables into account: how your project placed or scored, the thoroughness of that specific script evaluation process, and the success rate for writers in that specific screenwriting competition, fellowship or lab. It’s worth noting that larger score updates will occur for the first five scores as our algorithm collects more data and builds confidence in the quality of the project.  Once a Project has a mature score of at least 5 evaluation data points, larger jumps may still occur with draft updates and strong placements in fellowships and competitions, but mature scores often change less dramatically because Coverfly is more confident in how your script is being perceived across many different readers and judges.

Your Coverfly Score Consists of 3 Types of Information From a Competition 

Chart illustration showing the variables that help define score updates

Two things to consider:

  1. Coverfly Score updates may take up to 30 days to appear after a Competition or Fellowship announces their placements.  To help you keep track of your Coverfly Score updates, you can see a list of all pending and completed updates from your Project’s Score Update Page.
  1. While a lot goes into our algorithm, a simple way of thinking of these submission variables is:
    • Placement Score = Placement Position / Amount of Submissions, 
    • Evaluation Thoroughness = Number of Reads x Detail of Reads, and 
    • Writer Success Rate = Number of Writer Successes / Amount of Submissions 

In order to help you gauge your project as our algorithm builds confidence in the current quality of your project, we provide guides on your Coverfly Score graph to help writers predict where their current draft will place once it becomes a mature score with at least 5 evaluations. The Red List is Coverfly’s leaderboard of top projects, filterable by genre, format and time range. The Red List guide is a line that lets you see  how average Red List projects in your project’s genre and format performed for each score update.

The Red List Guide Line Shows Your Project’s Estimated Current Trajectory 

Illustration showing how the Average Red List line helps compare your project's score

One thing to keep in mind: The Red List line is merely an estimation, and not a guarantee that your project will follow the same trajectory as the projected guide.  Your project may be shown as below a guide, but one strong placement in a major fellowship or competition can dramatically boost your aggregate Coverfly Score.

The moment you list a script as “discoverable” on Coverfly, your project can be discovered and downloaded by vetted industry professionals, no matter how many reads or submissions it has received.  In order to bubble up the top projects for our industry professionals, we use the Coverfly Score to create The Red List. Scripts with the best Coverfly Scores are listed by genre and format, allowing professionals to discover the best matches for their needs. However, you do not need to be listed on The Red List to be discovered by Industry Pros.

The Red List is Coverfly’s Leaderboard of Top Projects 

Illustration of different ways to be on the Red List

By default, your projects are “private” on Coverfly and viewable only by you, and by the competitions to which you submit your project. While everyone can see and search “discoverable” Coverfly project profiles, only vetted industry professional members can download your script.  And we’ll notify you if an industry member downloads your project.

We would love to hear your feedback on how we could improve the Coverfly Scoring system to better impact your improvement as a writer and facilitate Industry discovery. The important thing is to continually improve your craft and keep getting your material out there. Remember, writing is rewriting!

Happy Writing

Tips for Improving your Coverfly Score

  1. Use feedback to improve your script. This can be from friends, coverflyX, or just trading notes on social media — the important thing is to take the feedback and re-write process seriously. Once you’ve updated your script, you can update Coverfly with your latest draft.  While new drafts do not advance your score, a polished script will do better in competition submissions and script review services.
  2. Get professional script coverage to help identify areas of improvement. Writing is rewriting! The average produced screenplay undergoes no less than 30 rounds of notes, or more from various creative stakeholders. Getting and implementing notes is an important part of the craft.  
  3. Submit to top competitions.  Please be sure to research opportunities carefully. We only allow reputable and proven talent-discovery programs to accept submission on Coverfly, so it’s a great place to find appropriate competitions, festivals and fellowships for your project.
  4. Take advantage of free submissions whenever available. Check out our extras for free opportunities.
  5. If you’re low on funds, check out Coverfly’s fee waiver program which helps writers who demonstrate financial need.

How to Win a Screenwriting Competition

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

How do you win screenplay competitions? Well, unfortunately, there is no magic formula. (Sorry to burst your bubble!) However, throughout my years of contest reading, I’ve noticed some crucial things writers can do to increase the chances of their scripts scoring well and advancing, and yes, possibly even winning!

Before we jump in, it’s important to understand how scripts are generally scored in competitions. Many competitions use a numeric rating system for various categories, which may include plot, character, writing style, theme, narration, spelling/grammar, presentation, marketability, etc. Readers assign point values for each category, and the scripts that score above a certain number advance to the next round. Generally, the contest judges read the highest-scoring scripts and then choose finalists and winners.

Now that we’re up to speed, let’s dive into how you can increase your score and your likelihood of winning.

Submit to the Right Competitions for Your Script

Not all screenplay competitions are created equal. Some are more high profile than others. Some focus on finding underrepresented voices and stories, while others are looking for the next commercial blockbuster. Some focus on specific genres, such as horror, action, or comedy. Some are only looking for spiritual, religious, or uplifting content. Each competition is looking for something different.

An important first step in winning a competition is to determine what contests are looking for your type of material. There’s no point in entering your high-concept horror script into a contest looking for heartwarming, spiritual stories. That’s why it’s so important to do your research: so you don’t waste time or money submitting to contests that aren’t the right fit for your script.

It’s also helpful to find out what each contest’s judging criteria are before submitting. Some competitions, such as The Academy Nicholl Fellowships, actually lay out their criteria in advance for writers to review. If you can find out what categories a contest uses for judging, it can be a window into understanding that contest’s tastes and what needs to be done to advance in the competition.

Do a Pass for Each Judging Category

If you can get ahold of the judging categories for the contests you’re entering, be sure to do a revision pass specifically for each category. This is a fantastic way to make sure your script is the best it can be in terms of plot, structure, character, theme, writing style, presentation, etc. If you can’t get ahold of the contest’s specific criteria, doing a pass for the general categories listed above will still elevate your script and increase its chances of success.

Ask yourself with each pass: is the plot tight and well-paced? Does the structure of the script make sense and allow the character(s) to go on a journey? Are the characters three-dimensional and dynamic? Do I have a thematic thread that ties the story together, and is my messaging on point? Are my lead characters going on a journey that has meaning and depth? Is my writing style concise and engaging? Are my fonts, margins, tabs, etc. set at industry standard? (Using screenwriting software will usually take care of that for you.)

Follow the Competition’s Rules and Guidelines

For several years, I’ve read for a writing contest that is quite strict about writers following its page count and subject matter guidelines. If the submitted material doesn’t comply, unfortunately, it’s disqualified. Some contests, like that one, have strict guidelines, whereas others are more forgiving when it comes to things like page length. The thing is, you won’t know which contests are strict and which aren’t going in. The safest thing you can do to make sure your script doesn’t get disqualified from the go is to stick to the recommended page lengths and any other specific guidelines, such as margins, font, etc.

Proofread Your Script (or Better Yet, Have Someone Else Proofread It)

The presentation of the script is the only thing a writer has 100% control over. You can’t control your contest readers and whether or not they connect to your story. You can’t control the scores a reader gives, or if you get advanced to the next round. But you can and should control how polished your script looks when you submit it.

If a writer submits a sloppy script, it reflects poorly on that writer and poorly on presentation and spelling/grammar scores. Why risk not being advanced to the next round because you didn’t proofread? The best thing you can do is to have a trusted friend, relative, fellow writer, or proofreading service look over your script for you. It’s challenging to catch your own errors when you’re so used to seeing your own words on the page. If you don’t have anyone who can help, then reading your script out loud yourself is very helpful for catching errors. When you read it out loud, you say every word and you’ll hear right away if grammar or syntax is off. If you are using Final Draft, the program can read your script aloud as well, via the Assign Voices and Speech Control functions.

Enter Competitions That Offer Feedback

Some competitions offer included feedback as part of the entry fee, or optional feedback that you can add on when you submit. Getting feedback from your readers can be incredibly helpful in understanding how your script is perceived, and what revisions you can make to improve it for the future.

Vet Your Script, and Submit the Best Possible Version

Writing can be a lonely pursuit, and it can be hard to be the only judge of the quality of your material. So why not join a writers’ group? Not only is it a great way to make friends who share your same interests, but you can also get several honest opinions on multiple drafts of your work before you submit it to competitions.

Note that I said “multiple drafts” just then! It’s never a good idea to submit a first draft or a script that isn’t ready just because of a contest deadline. While deadlines are great motivators, throwing something together just to be able to enter is a waste of time and money. Make sure your script is thoroughly vetted by writer friends, a writers’ group, or through professional feedback (like a reputable coverage service, or professional writing consultant) before entering contests.

Submit to Multiple (Reputable) Competitions

Do your research on what competitions will help advance your career. You want to choose ones that have reputable production companies, producers, agents, and execs who will be either judging the scripts or reading the winners. Don’t shotgun your script to every contest, but don’t be afraid to enter a solid handful of contests that are a good fit for your script. What doesn’t advance in one competition can win another—you never know.

The Coverfly team thoroughly vets the competitions allowed on the platform, and it is constantly growing. See the contests available on Coverfly here.


While winning a screenplay competition isn’t ultimately in your control, making sure you submit to the right contests and get your script in the best shape possible certainly is. Best of luck with your contest submissions!


Rebecca Norris is an award-winning writer and independent producer. Her feature film, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine, is distributed on Prime Video and DVD, and two of her short films are distributed through Shorts International. Before becoming a full-time writer, Rebecca worked in development and read for numerous production companies and screenplay competitions. She is currently working on a novel while chasing her adorable, yet fast-moving toddler. Follow Rebecca on Twitter at @beckaroohoo.


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Are Screenwriting Classes Worth It?

By Screenwriting 101

Fade in. 

INT. CONFERENCE ROOM OR CLASSROOM — DAY

Your typical meeting space. There’s a whiteboard that hasn’t been fully cleaned, a long conference table, and a chatty GROUP of writers gathered around. They talk about their current screenwriting projects… 

Until a bubbly TEACHER enters the room, a PILE OF SCRIPTS in hand.

TEACHER
Alright everyone, let’s get to work.

***

Okay, I admit, screenwriting classes probably don’t look like this. Nowadays many happen virtually, so your fellow classmates could be pajama-clad or at the bar down the street and you’d never be the wiser.

Classes don’t come cheap though, and you’re likely wondering if they’re worth all the money. Unfortunately, the answer is one of those standard non-answers: it depends. 

It depends… on what you’re hoping to get out of the classes.

If you’re a newbie, just looking to learn the structure and form of screenwriting, don’t waste your money. The basics of screenwriting can be found in any number of books, blog posts, and online resources, such as The Script Lab, ScreenCraft and WeScreenplay. 

But if you’re struggling with writing in some way, consider taking a class or two.

Writing is a solitary act. Unless you have a writing partner, more often than not, you’re alone with your computer and a cup of coffee, just trying to get the words out. It’s a process that doesn’t include a lot of feedback. 

Screenwriting classes can be extremely beneficial for the part of the writing process that requires feedback.

Sure, you could do revisions and edits on your own. But what if Suzy who sits next to you on Saturdays has an idea that could blow your plot wide open? What if Joe who doesn’t speak up in class but gives thoughtful, detailed notes via email makes you realize that your character is completely wrong? 

Any screenwriting class worth its salt will offer some kind of feedback — whether that’s peer feedback or instructor feedback or both. That kind of group mind is invaluable to screenwriters. It’s difficult to view your own writing through completely clear glasses, but your classmates can. 

Screenwriting classes are helpful in teaching screenwriters a process for developing, outlining, writing, and revising their projects. 

Whether it’s dictated by a specific instructor who prefers a certain process to another, or by the organization as a whole, this kind of structure gives writers a route on which to travel once the class is over. It’s a repeatable process that you, as the screenwriter, alone with your laptop and coffee and snoozing cat in the corner, can implement time and time again. That’s what we call return on investment. 

But maybe the best thing about screenwriting classes is that they include deadlines. 

Most of us aren’t lucky enough to write screenplays for a living — we have day-jobs, children, spouses, side-gigs, and dinner to cook. But when you take the initiative to sign up and pay money for a screenwriting class and that class includes deadlines, you’re more likely to do the work.

Write your screenplay in five weeks with the guide from The Script Lab.

These kinds of deadlines are essential because it means that someone else is waiting for your work. It introduces an element of accountability that isn’t present when it’s just you, the laptop, the coffee, the cat, and the sound of someone in the other room doing anything that sounds more fun than writing. Accountability is key. 

There are oodles of other benefits to screenwriting classes —

A network of students and instructors, exposure to other writing, the chance to improve your own feedback skills, etc. In my opinion, having taken several screenwriting classes, they’re more than worth it. 

Ultimately, the bottom line is: What do you want to get out of it?

If the class can provide whatever you’re looking for, click that sign-up button now.


Full disclosure: The Script Lab, ScreenCraft and WeScreenplay are partner sites of Coverfly.


Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. 


For all the latest from Coverfly, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.