How to Crack the Red List! An Interview with Our Reader Sam Tracton

By: Laura Huie


For screenwriters looking to break into the industry, getting noticed is half the battle. With different projects vying for attention, emerging writers often find themselves wondering how to break through the noise. Enter the Red List—a coveted ranking system on Coverfly that measures the hottest scripts circulating in the industry. Securing a spot on this list can be a game-changer for a writer’s career, offering visibility and recognition.


Shore Scripts’ contests and coverage services play a pivotal role in this journey. By entering your script into reputable competitions, you not only gain valuable feedback and exposure but also boost your chances of climbing the ranks on the Red List. Did you know that Shore Scripts is one of only a handful of companies providing standalone coverage through Coverfly that contributes to the ranking for The Red List? Every accolade, positive review, or finalist nod you receive in our contests serves as a stepping stone toward enhancing your project’s discoverability.


To shed light on what it takes to get that positive feedback, we spoke with Sam Tracton, a screenwriter and Shore Scripts’ reader whose fantasy television pilot The Fairy Knight has reached the Red List in the Top 1% of discoverability on Coverfly, alongside his sci-fi animated pilot Fixer and Law, which is also in the top percentile.


Drawing from his experience as a script reader, Sam offers insights into what coverage and contest readers seek, and what they will praise, helping writers improve their chances of raising their profile on the Red List.


Question: In your own words, why would you say getting coverage is important, especially for emerging writers?


Whenever a writer, myself included, writes a screenplay, the instinct tends to be: “This is incredible. I am a genius, and this is the greatest script of all time!” In actuality, it may have some glaring holes that you need a second pair of eyes on, especially another pair of eyes that know what to look for and what they’re doing.


Question: When you’re giving coverage, can you describe what elements you’re looking for when reviewing a script?


A lot of it is asking, “Is this necessary for the theme that the writer seems to be going for? Has the writer established what they’re going for? Has the writer established a goal for the character to be working towards at this moment, or this episode, or even, when I get a pilot for something, in the series moving forward?”


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And for television specifically, it’s very much asking if the script is actually a pilot. It’s not only just setting up the world, but it’s also acting as a sample of what an episode of this show will look like going forward.


For features, you’ve only got so much time. Are you using every second to emphasize each image you need the most and use those images to build the theme you want to explore?



Question: What are you looking for in characters? Is there any difference between a feature versus television?


Regarding characters, I’m asking myself: “Will the audience be engaged in this character?” They don’t have to be likable, but they do have to be engaging. And it’s an interesting thing because everyone has a different judging point. For instance, if the character has saved a cat, I can be invested in them either morally or admirably of their competency.


Question: In coverage, writers often receive a Pass, Consider, or Recommend based on what the reader thinks. For you, what makes a script fall into a Recommend versus Consider?


That’s a difficult thing to quantify in some cases. In scores-wise, it’s not. If the scores (for writing elements such as characters, structure, etc). are done well enough — usually it’s either a recommend or a consider. A Recommend means that the writer has been able to show me what you are doing, and you are doing it well.


On the other hand, a Consider means you’re showing me what you’re doing, but the actual execution of it can be improved. Overall, I think most of the scripts I ever read fall into Consider.


Question: What is the craft element that you see most writers needing to improve on across the board?


A lot of the time I find it to be structure. You can’t just have the main character doing this thing, this thing, this thing, this thing. It’s very much about setting the pace and getting to know the character before the inciting incident. Give the reader and the audience a reason to be invested in this character; a reason to engage with them. 


Question: What do you think are the benefits of getting coverage before submitting to a contest versus receiving coverage with a contest entry?


If we get a submission with coverage, we read and score the version we get. So even if we do give coverage that the writer can use to improve their script, they’re going to have to enter again later to get that new, better version examined. I’d say the advantage is to get coverage first, find out where you can improve, and then ship that better copy to hopefully gain a better spot in the contest overall.


Your Turn!


Shore Scripts has a range of contests and coverage services for writers. From our Short Film Fund to our Feature contest, from essential 2-page feedback on Treatments to deep-dive, development in our 10-page reports, there are multiple opportunities for writers to gain traction on their projects — and increase their discoverability and ranking on Coverfly!


Coverage offered via our contests comes with an automatic $5 discount on our standard fee. Plus, you can resubmit to a contest multiple times before the final deadline and get a 70% discount on the standard entry fee. 


Looking to get coverage, become a Shore Scripts contest winner, and improve your script’s Coverfly ranking while you’re at it? Get coverage from expert readers.


Laura Huie is a writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of the screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds.


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