At Slated, every script is independently covered by three readers (who are they?), all of whom have undergone Slated's months-long story analysis training process to learn our specific manner of review. In addition to providing a synopsis and three unique loglines, each reader independently evaluates the material's effectiveness in the following Ten Categories, illustrated in the sample table below:
Effectiveness within each category is rated on a 1-5 scale. Numerical scores are not assigned based on how much the readers like the screenplay, nor whether or not they think it will sell. In deciding their scores, readers respond to a number of questions designed to assess the performance of story mechanics in a given section. In the Character section, for instance, the readers evaluate the beats of your protagonist's arc. In Conflict, they'll assess how clearly the internal and external threats escalate and resolve. In Structure, they'll evaluate the overall shape of your story and the function of key turning points. Generally speaking, category scores align with the definitions below.
- 5 - Outstanding
- 4 - Very Good
- 3 - Okay
- 2 - Needs Attention
- 1 - Poor
The readers' points in each section are supported by specific examples from the text, complete with page numbers. Please note: our page citation format indicates tenths of a page. So, "14.6" means "sixty percent of the way down page fourteen."
In addition to assigning scores for individual categories, each reader is asked to issue an overall recommendation for the script (Strong Pass, Pass, Consider, Recommend, or Strong Recommend), supported by an Overall paragraph which summarizes their decision. Generally speaking, a "Pass" is given when the reader feels the script would benefit from further development prior to being shared with producers and financiers. A "Consider" is given to material the reader feels investors could consider financing in its present state, with some reservations. "Recommends" are reserved for screenplays that the reader feels are ready for production, with little or no revision. A "Strong Pass" is issued to scripts whose structure or formatting issues notably distract from the story. A "Strong Recommend" is issued to scripts that not only display a mastery of story mechanics, but are also making award-worthy contributions to their subject matter or genre.
When coverage is submitted, the individual scores and overall decisions are processed by an algorithm which weights each section based on degree of importance. For example, "Originality" is not weighted as strongly as "Character;" nor is "Tone" as important as "Conflict."
Scores and weights are calculated for each reader and averaged evenly to generate a 100-point Script Score. Slated Analytics' Script Score indicates the overall quality of the screenplay in the following ways:
- 90+ exceptional in every way; awards-worthy
- 80+ excellent; a true asset to the production
- 70+ above average; a solid blueprint for the film
- 60+ below average; continued development recommended
- Below 60 poor; needs significant improvement
Want to know more details on the ten attributes?
The following are the ten individual attributes evaluated for each script, as well as a few of the questions the readers consider for each element.
The protagonist's development is central to a script's success, and the main character(s) undergo the most analysis. Readers need to understand the protagonist's emotional motivation and desires before they can invest in his/her journey, and nearly every scene should present information that's relevant in some way to the protagonist's arc. Questions considered in Character include:
- Define the focal character. If it's a single-protagonist, define her/him. If it's a true “two‐hander,” define both. If it's a true ensemble, handle one at a time.
- Consider the 5 beats of character arc for the focal character(s).
- Does she/he have a clear backstory?
- Does she/he have a clear goal or "want"?
- Does she/he have a clear weakness, fear, vulnerability, or internal need that is different from his/her want/goal?
- Does she/he take an active approach to her/his goal?
- If appropriate to the narrative, does she/he ultimately undergo a change (learn a lesson, address a weakness) that ultimately completes her/his arc?
- Were each of the 5 beats above effective at accomplishing their purpose?
- Does each of the main supporting characters play a critical role in challenging, stimulating, or aiding the protagonist along their journey and/or growth?
- Do the supporting characters effectively fulfill any archetypes worth noting (Attractor, Ally, Mentor, Antagonist, etc.) If there is an antagonist, does she/he provide an appropriate foil to our protagonist in terms of values, strengths, motivations or ideology?
- Are supporting characters colorful, and well‐differentiated from each other and from the protagonist?
- Is the number of characters appropriate for the narrative or are there so many that the focal point becomes confusing?*
The readers thinks of "conflict" as the engine that drives the story, and as such, the central conflict should be universal and permeate the entire narrative. There should also be minor conflicts, which further complicate the Protagonist's struggle. Even minor characters and antagonists generally have conflicts, goals, and dilemmas that often counteract or support the protagonist. Questions considered in Conflict include:
- Is the main conflict sufficient to sustain the story and keep the protagonist challenged throughout?
- Is the main conflict well defined? Is it clear what’s at stake?
- Does the conflict relate to the human condition? Can at least a group of people, if not large audiences, agree and relate because they often struggle with some of the same internal or external conflicts addressed?
- Are the stakes clearly established early on? Are they believable to the conflict?
- Does the conflict directly relate to what we know about the character?
- Does the conflict escalate as we get closer to the climax?
- Does the main source of conflict change at multiple points throughout the story or stay consistent?
- Do the subplots also have conflict?
- Is there both external conflict (events) and internal conflict (feelings)?
- Does the conflict progress as the pages pile on, or are there times when the wheels seem to spin in place or stop spinning altogether?
- In addition to the conflict that threatens the characters from the outside, does conflict arise among characters or do they always agree on everything?
- Is everything addressed in the climax?
In this section, readers assess the writing itself, as a whole. In addition to general wordsmithery, this is where readers may examine the effectiveness of action description, character descriptions, any overuse of camera direction, "unfilmables," and any cases of grammatical errors, typos, or improper formatting.
The craft section answers two primary questions:
- Does the writer's use of the English language help or hurt the story being told? Does word choice and sentence structure create vivid pictures of the imaginary world?
- Is the script formatted according to industry standard conventions?
Readers also consider the following:
- Are there spelling and grammatical issues? Are sentences grammatically correct? Is there effective sentence structure and clear syntax? Are there typos and spelling errors? Are words misused? (Minor issues, like the omission of commas, may not be an issue.)
- Is the writing clear, concise, and descriptive? Or is the writing confusing, long‐winded, and insufficient in its detail?
- Is vivid description used to introduce principal characters, create memorable visuals, and clearly establish placement of characters geographically? Is descriptive language used to generate atmosphere, convey imagery, and detail interesting or exciting movements and actions? In general, is the quality of writing masterful, impressive, and elevated?
- Is there unnecessary or inappropriate detail? Are camera angles used excessively? Is there actor direction or an excessive amount of line‐readings/parentheticals in dialogue? Are there musical cues or suggestions of song choice? (Minimal use of camera angles can be acceptable, provided it is not distracting or excessive.)
- Is proper formatting being used? Are the characters capitalized when introduced with ages? Do the margins appear appropriate? Is the script written in screenwriting software or, if not, is Courier 12pt font being used? Are slug lines used accordingly? Are action/description paragraphs under seven lines?
- Can everything written in description be shown on screen? Or does the action description contain too many "unfilmables" or omniscient information (e.g. thoughts, state of mind, etc.)? (Minimal use of omniscient information is used by professional writers and can be acceptable, provided it is not distracting, lazy, or unaware.)
Though film is a visual medium, dialogue provides crucial textural reality and plays an important role in connecting the audience to the on-screen characters. Questions considered in Dialogue include:
- Is dialogue used to differentiate and strengthen each character's individuality? Do all the characters sound real and appropriate for their location, time period, or background?
- What are the unique personalities as expressed through their dialogue? Does each principal character have a distinct disposition, ethos, or point of view as expressed in dialogue? Are there twangs, brogues, jargon, sayings, manners of speech, or demeanors that are used to make characters uniquely memorable?
- Is each character’s voice consistent throughout the story?
- Is dialogue on‐the‐nose and platitudinal? Do characters state the obvious or openly state their feelings? Do they say everything they're thinking or describe things as they happen? Do they provide more information than is realistic for the situation? Do characters speak economically or is dialogue overwritten?
- Alternatively, is dialogue nuanced? Does it contain subtext? Are there layers of meaning within the lines? Could characters be saying one thing and thinking, planning, or meaning something different? Are characters' speech patterns affected by circumstances in each scene?
A good story can be grounded in the principles that govern our reality or it can establish an entirely new set of rules to which the characters and events adhere. In this section, our readers assess how consistently the script applies its own rules and whether there are any gaping plot holes.
It doesn’t matter if “the world” or “mythology” is fantastical or reality-based, so long as the screenplay follows its own logic. That means all questions posed are addressed, strange or fantastical phenomena are explained, and characters aren’t two places at once, nor do they act on information they don’t have. If anything is unclear or contradictory, it’s worth mentioning in the Logic section. Successful movies often have holes in logic or coincidences, but the movies that stand the test of time tend not to.
No screenplay is completely original, obviously, but every script should feel fresh and contribute something original to its genre. "Formulaic" need not mean "clichéd." Even if a concept has been done 100 times before, it may be done again as long as the idea is richly presented and there's a reason for the perspective.
In addition to the premise, our readers also consider the individual scenes, characters and structure. Questions considered in Originality include:
- Is the premise original? Is the combination of characters and settings inherently novel or interesting? Does the script pose any interesting questions? Does the script contribute any new perspectives or share a unique world, situation, life, culture, or science?
- Does the script make any fresh contributions to its genre? If not entirely original, does the script present a unique perspective or "take" on a commonly explored theme, plot, or character type? Is the premise a unique merging of ideas? Are there any events which are unique to the genre?
- Are themes, plots, and characters reminiscent of previously made films? If so, which elements are derivative? From which films do they borrow? What original contributions are made? How does this script differentiate itself from similar films? Are events in the story predictable?
Like the logic category, the readers assess each script's pacing on its own terms. Regardless of whether a story moves quickly or slowly, a well-paced screenplay times its major events so that there is a fair balance of tension and release.
Questions considered in Pacing include:
- Do parts of the script drag, and if so, where and why?
- Does every scene organically lead out of the previous one and into the following?
- Are there scenes that do not drive the story, or extended periods where nothing happens? Are scenes simply too long?
- Are scenes the appropriate length for their purpose? Is an appropriate amount of time spent on each conflict/storyline? Are some scenes too long or too short? Do characters spend too much with non‐critical storylines? Did certain moments feel rushed?
- Is there a satisfying balance between action and dialogue?
- Mystery vs. Discovery: Is there enough mystery maintained at all times -- either about what happened in the past or what is happening in the moment -- to keep the reader invested? Is information learned later that addresses elements that were previously unknown? Are there questions introduced that are later answered?
- Tension vs. Release: Tension should exist story‐wide as well as on a scene‐by‐scene basis. In each scene, does the character want something that she/he is not getting? Is the tension balanced periodically with moments of release (e.g. comedic relief, change in circumstances, success)?
- Causality: Does each scene depend on the scene that came before it? Is the connective logic that links scenes "this because this," or merely "this, then this?" Was each event properly supported by previous development such that it made sense when it happened?
- Other Types of Tension: Is anticipation or worry created about what could happen in the future (suspense)? Are there moments where we know things the protagonist doesn't (dramatic irony)? Do events occur which were unexpected or shocking (surprise)? Were those surprises still supported by the reality of prior development, or were they unfounded or forced?
In this section, the readers assess the major characters and events with a focus on evaluating the central concept of the screenplay itself, as opposed to the execution of the idea. In the coverage, the readers summarize the core concept and opine as to its potential for providing conflict and growth, not its commercial viability.
Questions considered in Premise include:
- Can the underlying core concept be discerned and summarized quickly?
- Is the core concept an inherently interesting idea? Are tension and conflict built into the premise? Does it make a good pitch?
- Is the premise explored to its full potential?
- Does the core concept provide a rich foundation for interesting plot progression and character decisions?
- Are there any themes that stem from the premise? Is there a message? Does the script establish any valuable themes or messages that provide additional layers of meaning? Does the script issue any kind of commentary, have a thesis, or present a "moral of the story?" Is there thematic cohesion (i.e. is the theme introduced and revisited through examples, whether textual or subtextual)? Are there deeper levels of meaning, symbolism, or overarching allegory? Does the script prove a point or highlight any underlying truths about the situation or condition?
- Does the script deliver on the expectations the premise creates?
- Is the “world” or mythology clear and consistent, and does it help to enrich situations and relationships throughout? Is there a good match between the core concept and the world or setting?
The readers think of good structure as a plot that presents one coherent and complete story. In other words, does the beginning lead into a middle that leads to a satisfying conclusion? In addition to the story's overall construction, the readers also assess the screenplay's deeper, internal structural elements.
Questions considered in Structure:
- Is there a beginning, middle, and end that flow smoothly from one to the next? Does the narrative form one coherent whole?
- Regardless of the framework the screenwriter has chosen, do the existing structural beats function effectively (Pre‐Existing Life, Call to Action, Act One Decision, Midpoint, Climax, Resolution, Test of Character Change, etc.)? Do these beats appear at the proper times, in the order that is most effective? Or do certain beats seem to happen prematurely, without prior development, while others seem to happen too late?
- Are there any other notable structural devices? Do they function effectively? (e.g. Flashbacks, Flashforwards, Cutaways, Non‐Linear Timeline, Plot Twists, Frame Story, Talking Heads, Montage, Dream Sequence, Voiceovers, Reversals, Contingencies, Vignette Structure, Ensemble Structure, Deus Ex Machina, "Ticking Clocks", etc.)
- Does every scene move the story forward in terms of the plot progression, character arc, or both? Or are there scenes that could be removed and go unnoticed? Are there scenes that could be removed and their absence would not affect the logic of the narrative?
- Are there discernible sub‐plots? What are they? Are they intrinsically related and relevant to the "throughline" or do they advance an overarching theme?
- Do story details that are "planted" in the beginning "pay off" later on by aiding a resolution, demonstrating a comparison, servicing a joke, or reminding us of an important truth?
- In general, are the most important moments shown and not told? Are scenes with the highest tension showcased? Or do key moments happen off screen?
- Is there an "engine" worth mentioning that drives the plot forward? (competition, task that needs to be completed, time constraint, performance, key event, test, battle, etc). If so, does it function effectively to anchor the relevance of each event leading up to it?
Like Logic and Pacing, what the readers look for in the Tone section is consistency within the world established by the script itself. The easy way to think of this topic might be, "If it's a comedy, is it funny? If it's horror, is it scary?" They also look for tonal elements that are obviously out of place with the rest of the piece, tempered by an assessment of the writer's intention.
Questions considered in Tone:
- Is the tone effective within its genre? If it's a comedy, is it funny? If it's a drama, did you feel for the characters and does it tease out salient questions about relationships and our humanity? If it's a thriller, is it suspenseful and does it contain twists and turns?
- Is the tone consistent throughout, or does it seem to change from one sequence to the next or shift from beginning to end? Are there scenes that felt jarring, unnatural, or dissonant? Does it start off as a comedy and end up a murder mystery, etc.?
- Is the tone appropriate for the genre within the context of the writer's intention? For example, are there gratuitous sex scenes in a family/adventure, or are there a series of gruesome murders in an otherwise broad comedy?