In some cases, a Script or Screening Score on your newer draft or cut may be lower than the previous version, even though you've done your best to address feedback from the analysis. This can be creatively disorienting and emotionally deflating. As Slated's film finance team is subject to the same scoring standards as our members at large, we understand this frustration. Having reviewed over 10,000 screenplays in the past 10 years, here are a few takeaways for how to understand Script and Screening Analysis in the context of traditional development.
First, it's important to know: a decrease in Script or Screening Score doesn't necessarily mean you haven't taken big steps forward in your screenplay's development.
Sometimes, your new version may be accomplishing big, important changes that were absolutely necessary to your story, but this new version simply isn't making as positive an overall impression as your last version made. The new version may have a fundamentally stronger arc for your protagonist, for instance, but perhaps your new third act is no longer speaking to expectations set up in the first act, or vice versa. Perhaps transitions between scenes could be polished up for flow, or your character's choices were harder to understand in the absence of backstory that was provided by an earlier version. In these cases, it may be your next polish that ensures new material is gelling with the old and all the various moving parts are working together in unison.
As screenwriter Jack Epps Jr. (TOP GUN: MAVERICK, ANACONDA, DICK TRACY, TURNER & HOOCH) wrote in his book, "There is also a saying that odd-numbered drafts are better than even-numbered drafts. Even-numbered drafts, such as the second draft, are often based on big new ideas that don't always work." Assuming your new ideas were fundamentally sound, you may be a polish away from unlocking all of the story value of key changes from your rewrite and seeing a bump in Script or Screening Score. In the meantime, if you disagree with the Script or Screening Score and feel your new version makes the best case for your film, you can always hide it and display only your earlier Script or Screening Score on the project page to other Slated members and investors.
There are also some key differences between Script and Screening Analysis and the way screenplays are reviewed by production companies and other coverage service companies.
All of our reviews are "blind." That means that our team reviews with no cover page, no package information, and - whenever possible - we try to get three fresh sets of eyes on every new draft or cut up to the third revision. Whereas other companies may have a re-submission process designed to eventually please one particular person at the company, our "blind read" process has been shown to be the best indicator of how your draft or cut is coming across to people who don't already have a vested interest in your project. That makes earning a 75 a higher bar to clear, but it ensures that when it does, your script or screener is far more likely to draw positive responses from producers, investors, and sales agents.
Script and Screener Scores are draft or cut based. We've seen scores increase as high as 10 points in a single draft. Examples of that include THE PUBLIC, which starred Emilio Estevez and Alec Baldwin and went on to screen at TIFF 2018, as well as MAPPLETHORPE, which starred Matt Smith and debuted at Tribeca 2018. THE WOLF HOUR, which starred Naomi Watts and went on to debut at Sundance 2019, saw a Script Score increase of 13 points across three drafts.
Lastly, Script and Screening Analysis are not a re-write plan. Because Script and Screening Analysis gives you three independent takes, you end up with a lot of feedback, much of which may not agree. We always advise taking some time to digest everything, honing in on the few points where multiple reviewers expressed similar thoughts, and then devising a re-write plan for the next draft or cut that ensures your changes will work together to serve your vision in a focused way. That, in and of itself, is a process. Most professional screenwriters do this with the help of their managers, agents, or producing partners. We advise staggering sets of Script and Screening Analysis with feedback from trusted members of your inner circle to ensure your next draft or cut has the highest chance of qualifying.
Whatever the case with your particular script or screener, we understand that seeing a score decrease can be frustrating. Once you've had a chance to process everything, we recommend reading through to hone in on any points of agreement across the three readers. Generally, individual categories with the lowest score averages indicate which paragraphs in the comments offer the highest priority feedback. If you feel like you've rewritten this script so many times that you don't know which way is up, feel free to message our help desk and we would be happy to refer you to screenwriting coaches on the platform who can help translate your coverage into the next, winning draft.
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