What Do Screenplay Grades Really Mean?

You’ve been working hard on your screenwriting career. You’ve completed your screenplay and submitted it to a contest, screenwriters’ program, producer, agent or manager. The moment of truth has arrived. Time for feedback.

The role of script readers is to sift through a mountain of film scripts to find the next big movie hit. Upon arrival, they sort them into three piles; the YES, the NO, and the MAYBE.  Or THE GOOD, THE BAD and THE UGLY in some cases.

The initial filter of film scripts is being increasingly relegated to less experienced interns of varying skills and abilities. These tend to be entry level jobs and a great way to learn about the screenwriting process.

Script reports all contain some sort of haiku-style grading at the end. Something in the form of PASS, CONSIDER or RECOMMEND. These generally mean poor script and poor writing, poor script but good writing and finally, good script and good writing, respectively.

These deceptive words carry so much weight, but they are highly subjective and often misused. They make the difference between your film script being escalated to a development executive or relegated to the trash.

Some script readers are determined to confuse screenwriters with additional categories for each one. They insert the terms HARD and SOFT. We’re not talking about boiled eggs here. Screenplay gradings such as a SOFT CONSIDER or HARD PASS are useful to distinguish a borderline from a solid grade. These are a matter of semantics. How does a screenwriter distinguish between a hard consider and a soft recommend? It’s all highly subjective.


Around 90% of submitted scripts are given the dreaded PASS grade according to industry folk I’ve spoken to. Pass really is a four letter word for screenwriters. How you react to it is what really counts.

What exactly constitutes bad writing to warrant a “pass”? In my experience, it relates to too much clutter in a script. Too many or unclear themes, unclear character goals, merging of too many genres, poor dialogue, bad formatting or a script trying to be all things to all people. In short, a lack of focus. A pass could mean there are merit worthy elements in a movie script, but it needs substantial work to boost it to a recommend grade.

A pass could mean that the film script or the writing style does not cater to the reader’s style or taste. It could also mean that it is inappropriate for the company they’re reading for. Or that the script was just satisfactory without any distinctive elements that got the reader excited. And the biggest killer of them all; the screenplay was downright boring

When you receive this grade, do not get defensive. Ask what is the reader responding or not responding to? Hopefully, they would have given you some notes to help clarify why their reading experience was different to the one you intended. It’s advice that you can take or leave. Most readers generally want to help you improve your script.

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About 8-9% of movie scripts receive a CONSIDER grade. The reader sees a spark in the screenwriting style or story, but can’t see the script being produced. If a script is well written,  but does not fit their development/production slate, they’ll find another home and come on board in some capacity. A consider grade should get you noticed around town as an emerging writer to watch. If your writing is outstanding, producers may be looking to hire you for another project they’re developing.


Finally, we get to the 1%. The RECOMMEND crowd. This results in calls, emails, SMS, tweets, IMs and all forms of communication at all hours. Conversations go something like this: “Stop what you’re doing. You have to read this”, “I’ve found the next Aaron Sorkin”, “Clear your current development slate” and “I’m taking a meeting with a hot new screenwriter”. You get it. Buzz and lots of industry love. This is often followed by the question “What else have you got?” Ensure your answer is another hot script.

Are you looking for help to get your movie script into the consider or recommend stack? Many of my blog readers have requested my script reading service. So here, I am. Just for you. Click on the hyperlink button right HERE to find out more.

scriptfirm final logo colourFor in depth Film & TV script analysis visit Script Firm.

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