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Screenplay Coverage A How-To Guide

Form: screenplay, stage play, book, treatment. PGS: number of pages

INTRODUCTION Everyyearthousandsofnewscreenplaysandbooksarewritten.Notsurprisingly,fewpeoplehave thetimetoreadallthematerialsubmittedtothem.Eveniftheworkisbrilliantitmayormaynot bewhatthefinancier,director,actor,orproducerislookingfor.Hencemostpeoplehirereaders tovetthemassivemoundsofmaterial.Readerswillreviewthematerial(e.g. book/screenplay/article/play/treatment)andtypeupa34pagedocumentcalledcoveragethat summarizesthestoryandoffersanopinion. Ifareadersaysascreenplayislousy,thereislittlechanceitwillgoontothenextstep.Ifareader saysascreenplayisgood,thatscripthasonlycrossedthefirstofwhatwillbemanyhurdles. Becauseascreenplayisonlyablueprinttoafilm,areadermustbeabletovisualizethemoviein his/hermind.Mostscriptsarentperfect,anditsthereadersjobtorecognizepotential. Coveragehasaformalstyleandformat.Itconsistsoffivedistinctparts: 1. Aheaderstatingthebasicssuchastime,setting,whosentthematerial,andwhat isitspurpose.Eachcompanyandagencywillhavetheirownheader. 2. Loglineonelinesummaryoftheplot. 3. CommentSummaryaonelinesummaryofyouropinion. 4. Synopsissummaryofthemajorplots,charactersandactions. 5. Commentsanopiniononwhetherornotthismaterialisworthpursuing. You evaluate the Project and the Writing separately. You choose either Pass, Consider or THEHEADER Recommend in each category.

Status: Either a SPEC (which means you can purchase this material) or SAMPLE (meaning the script is already taken but the writer is looking for a new gig with you).

Elements: Mention anything like a director or Sub: Means submitted so either Submitted to (the executive at talent being attached, partial financing, etc your company) or Submitted by (the agent and their agency who This will be on the cover letter submitted with sent it). the screenplay. If you dont know, put N/A LOGLINE Theloglinetellsthestoryinoneortwosentences.Itsitsatthetopofthecoveragepageand, consequently,isthefirstthingonelooksat.Itsonlyafterreadingtheloglinethatanexecutiveor anagentwilldecidewhetherornothe/shewillreadfurther.Inshort,theloglinecanhelpsellor buryascreenplay.

Coverage Guide Prepared by Karen Loop

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Learninghowtowritegoodloglinesisanimportantskill.Notonlyisitcrucialforcoverage,but alsoitwillhelpyoulearnhowtopitchyourideasquickly. Whenwritingaloglinedontmentionthecharactersbynameorgivespecificdetails:painttheplot inonebroadstroke.OnlyusenamesiftheyarerecognizablesuchasBatman,Jesus,MuhammadAli. Almostanyscreenplay,evenanepic,canbereducedtoonesentence.Forexample:Anegotistic SoutherngirlsurvivestheCivilWarbutfinallylosestheonlymanforwhomshecareswouldbe appropriateforGONEWITHTHEWIND. COMMENTSUMMARY Thisisthebottomline.Inonesentence,orperhapsjustafewchoicewords,telluswhyyouare passingorconsideringthematerialathand.Keepitshort&sweetandmakesurethestatementis supportedinyourcommentssectionatthebottomofthepage. SYNOPSIS Theactualsynopsisofascreenplayshouldbefromonetotwopageslongandshouldbrieflyretell thestory.Editorializingshouldbekepttoanabsoluteminimumhere,justtellthestory. Beforeyoustartwriting,thinkabouttheauthorstheme,aswellasthemoodandstyleofthepiece. Makesureyouhavetheentirestorylineinyourmindbeforeyoustartsothatyoudontwindup writingtoomuch.Manytimesanovicereaderwillspendthreequartersofhis/hersynopsisin settingupthestory,onlytorealizehe/shehastocoverthesecondandthirdactsinaparagraph. Evenifthescreenplayisdull,yoursynopsisshouldbelivelyandentertaining.Carefullychoosean openingsceneforyoursynopsis.Thismaynotalwaysbetheonethatstartsthescreenplay.Use adjectivesandadverbsthatcapturetheexcitementandthetoneofthepiece.Lively,dynamic phrasing,variedsentencestructure,andrevelatoryadjectivesarethemarksofagoodsynopsis,as opposedtotheplodding,colorless,clichriddenstyleofapoorone. Generalrules: 1. Writeinthethirdperson. 2. Usepresenttense. 3. UseCAPITALLETTERStointroduceacharacter,andthengotolowercase. 4. Introduceacharacterwhenhe/shebecomesrelevant.Ifahomelessbumsitsoutsideofthe 711intheopeningscene,butdoesnttakeactionuntilthethirdact,introducehiminthe thirdactandthencallattentiontothefactthathewaspreviouslyplanted.(e.g.ABUM, whowenoticedintheopeningscene,picksupaknifeand). 5. Spendsometimedescribingyourleads(age,appearance,characteristics). 6. Onlyuseonenameforeachcharacter.SoDan,Danny,Mr.BonaduceallbecomesDAN. 7. Avoidlargeblocksoftextusewhitespace. 8. Includeallmajoractionbeats&emotionalturningpoints 9. Spelling&grammarcount! COMMENTS Thefinal,perhapsmostimportant,partofscreenplaycoverageisthecommentspage.Itisalsothe mostfun.Inthissectionthereadergiveshis/heropinionofthescreenplaycovered.Itshouldbe clear,concise,anddoesntequivocate.

Coverage Guide Prepared by Karen Loop

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Asageneralrule,beginandendthecommentsummarywithabottomline.Intheheaderwhenit askedforyouropinionofthescreenplayandthewriter,youhavesaid,Pass,Consider,or Recommend.Thisisthesectioninwhichyoubackupyourstatements. (Pass=nooneelseneedstoreadit;Consider=worthasecondlook;Recommend=itshouldgoall thewaytothetop). Youareevaluatinghowwellthematerialworksasafeaturefilmandhowwelltheauthorhas succeededatwhathe/sheattemptedtodo.Commentsshouldaddressthestrengthsand weaknessesofthematerial,plot,characters,dialogue,structure,toneandpremise.Youarenot tellingthewriterhowtorewritethematerial,justpointingoutstrengthsandweaknesses! Specificpointstoconsider: STORYLINE Arethedramaticstakeshighenoughforafeaturefilm? Isthisanoriginalidea?Oratwistonanoldidea? Isthereconflictandrisingtension?Orisittiredandderivative? Isthestorylinewelldevelopedw/relatedsubplots?Doesitmaintainitsfocus? Doesthestoryworkwithinitsgenre? Doesthestructurecomplementthestory? CHARACTERIZATIONS Dothemaincharacterschangeandcompletetheirarcs? Arethecharacterslivelyandcompelling?Oraretheyclichanddull? Aretherelationshipsbetweencharactersconsistent? IsthestorytoldfromtherightPOV? DIALOGUE Isthedialoguerealisticandinteresting?Orisitmundane? Doactionspropelthescenesorlongspeeches? Dothecharactersspeakwithspecificvoices? Arethevisualsinterestingordoesitdependtooheavilyondialogue? Attempttobeginyourcommentswithanoverallstatementaboutthematerialandthenmoveonto morespecificpoints. Therearethreetypesofcommentswhichareespeciallynothelpful: 1.TheAllPurpose:Thisiswherethereaderdismissesthestoryinafewstocksuperficial phraseswhicharesogenerictheymightapplytoanypieceofmaterial.Ittellsusnothing. 2.ThePreJudging:Herethereaderclosesthedooronastory,despiteadmittedmerits, becausethereaderdecides,withoutsufficientanalysis,thathe/shejustdoesntlikethepremise. Thisbringsupapointofutmostimportance:everystoryshouldbegiventhebenefitofthedoubt. 3.TheFenceSitting:Thisiswherethereaderisafraidtocommittothematerialoneway oranotherandwindsupgivingthesameemphasistostrongpointsandweakpoints.Without expressingafirmopinioneitherway,thereaderhasfailedathis/herjob.Bedecisive!

Coverage Guide Prepared by Karen Loop

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Generalrules: 1. Neverwritethecommentsinthefirstperson(e.g.Ithink,Ifeel)! 2. Committoapositionandthenbackitup. 3. Bespecificinyourreview.Avoidgenericphrase.Useexamples! 4. Avoidsuperlativeslikebestorworst. 5. Reviewthematerialathand.Dontlambastethewriterand/ortalentattached. 6. Donttrytofixthescreenplay. 7. Alwaysstartthecommentsonanewpage.(Oftenexeswillripitoffandnotshowthe author). Ifyoudontlikethescript,giveconcretereasonswhyyouarepassing.Inalllikelihood,someone maypassonthematerialhavingonlyreadyourcoverage.Givethemalotofammunition.Whyis thematerialbad? Ifyoulikethematerial,becomplimentarybutpointoutsomeobviousflaws.Again,useexamples. Coveringscreenplaysneednotbeconsideredaheinouschore.Itisoneofthefewjobswherein peopleofpoweraskforyouropinionandactuallylistentowhatyouhavetosay.Ifyouarelooking foranIndustryjob,coveragesamplesaremandatory.Itfact,wellwrittensamplescanbemore powerfulthanyourresume. STANDARDPRODUCTIONCOMPANYTEMPLATE:

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