Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What "coverage" looks like

When writers turn in screenplays, producers, agencies, and studios generally hire people to read them and submit a report.  These reports are called "coverage."  Many times projects live or die based on their coverage.  As an example of one, here is our coverage for the screenplay we wrote for VOLUNTEERS (which eventually became a movie starring Tom Hanks and John Candy).  Once you read it you'll know why I saved it all these years.   If only all of our coverage from all of our screenplays could receive this kind of reaction. 


25 comments:

Jim S said...

Ken,

This is enlightning for a couple of reasons. One, it's just to see something that was written on a typewriter. It's amazing how quick we've all gotten to having things typed on computers and printed out by lazer printers.

Also, who wrote the comment? Who does this person work for? Is being a comment writer a stepping stone to world domination or being a suit who gets to greenlight movies or TV shows?

Thanks.

Bradley said...

Wow, it looks like you wrote that yourselves. I used to write coverage and hardly ever read anything worthy of such praise. Nicely done and I can certainly see why you kept it.

Hamid said...

I'd love to read the coverage that actually recommended Freddy Got Fingered.

Baylink said...

Oh, hell; "coverage" means *three* things now?

MikeBo said...

Wow! What an "attaboy." I see why you kept it. Since I didn't see "Volunteers" when it was in release, I'm gonna drop a dime on Amazon and get a copy to watch.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I remember seeing the movie twice while it was in theatrical release. I enjoyed it -- I also remember looking at Rita Wilson and thinking "Oh, she's cute", and then she was stolen from me by Tom Hanks.

No, I'm not over it.

Heidi said...

I've never, ever seen positive coverage. In my old office, sending something for coverage was code for, "make someone else give them the bad news." What a delight that is.

Ane said...

That is what I do for a living. But with stage plays, not dramas. And I think about 85 % ends up in the "no way" pile.

Ane said...

I meant, not movies.

Lyle said...

I would love to read the screenplay.

Is that available?

Thx.

lyle

Great Big Radio Guy said...

This is about as close to knighthood as it gets. I got chills and a thrill reading it. Wow.

RRG said...

I see that the coverage was written in 1980 and of course the film came out in 1985. My question is: do you believe the original screenplay was better when you first submitted it without possible studio notes and interference or was the movie version better. Had the original version been made as is, would we now be referring to Ken Levine as "Oscar Winner" rather than just some crummy old "Emmy Winner?"

Gene said...

Is Volunteers the only movie you ever wrote? It's the only one you ever talk about.

Anonymous said...

Ken,

How much did the shooting script differ from what you submitted?

DBenson said...

Plot for a comedy: A reader finds himself assigned to write coverage for something he wrote under a pen name. He praises it, and when a big star signs on board the perceptive reader is promoted. Now the Hot New Writer -- his pen name -- demands that the newly elevated reader be his producer. It goes on as the reader becomes a one-man old boy network, acquiring another identity or two (a shell talent agency? a fake investment firm?) and continues to rise by being the one who approves himself, polices himself, hires himself, etc. In the end he's literally at odds with himself, playing both sides of an ugly studio takeover and facing exposure as the one responsible for EVERYTHING gone wrong.

Whoever wants can have this one. If a movie results I'll settle for studio swag (no fanny packs).

Lorimartian said...

To the other analysts who commented, that was also my experience. I provided coverage on hundreds of scripts, and I can count on two hands the number that I could "strongly recommend" either for further development or as a writing sample to be considered by series' writing staffs with freelance assignments to give. True talent does stand out, and it is satisfying when one can recommend a writer/project with as much enthusiasm as is expressed in the "Volunteers" coverage. Rare indeed.

Assmice said...

who wrote that, Tommy Tuttle?

Very nice. Fight, fight, fight for Washington State!

Anonymous said...

Can you please conjure some new blog posts outside of Volunteers and Cheers? I have enjoyed your blog diurnally for 5 years but I'm growing weary of yarns about Cheers and Volunteers. How about some more MASH, NFL, impact of technology on writing, contemporary film reviews type blogs? I'm not in Hollywood but just a fan in the IT field. You are Shakespeare to me but I need more variety! Thanks Ken!

Corey said...

Hey Lyle,

I've got a copy, but sorry to say, it doesn't travel. Personally given to me by the author,it's carefully stored with my copy of "Letter to My Two Sons".

cadavra said...

I once saw coverage of a script I'd written that was so error-ridden that I suspect the reader had just skimmed it while watching TV and things bled over. The biggest foul was her observation that two characters were father and daughter, even though there was absolutely nothing to indicate they were related and in fact they only had one scene together. Needless to say, it was a "Pass."

Ken Levine said...

I do posts about Cheers because people always request posts about Cheers. I think you'll find I blog about a lot of things -- a new post every day. If there's a Cheers or Volunteers day, come back tomorrow.

Moving on: We did numerous drafts after that one and improved the script.

Liggie said...

This neophyte submitted a script to coverage, and got excellent feedback. Plenty of things she liked, but also pointed out potential banana peels (I.e. protagonist somewhat passive).. Will be very useful going forward.

Lorimartian said...

Cadavra, that must have been so deflating. I read every script from cover to cover, rejecting the notion that "if you're not hooked in the first ten pages, skip to the end." Even if I fell asleep mid-way, I always finished reading (probably why I didn't become an industry mogul). I always started out wanting to like the material and delivered an accurate summary and fair analysis. Some would say that giving a mediocre script such attention was a waste of time, but I respected the effort regardless of the quality of the writing. At least if the requesting executive had to discuss the script with the submitter, the exec could say more than a vague, "We're passing. It's just not for us." I don't know how the analyst you reference could have given valid constructive criticism if he/she didn't even have the story straight.

Anyone interested in the old studio system should read Sidney Sheldon's memoir, "The Other Side of Me". It begins with Sheldon, at age 14, contemplating suicide and chronicles his rise from studio reader, a job he landed as a result of persistence and luck, to established film writer/Broadway musical collaborator and how he ultimately made the transition to writing for television. It's a more interesting read than I had anticipated.

Roger Owen Green said...

Here's a Friday question. Maybe you want to wait a year before answering.
What did you see as the legacy of Bud Selig as baseball commissioner.

And questions I'd like answered sooner than that: who would be a good successor for Bud Selig as commissioner? George Will? Ken Levine? And if you were commissioner, what would you do about the current issues in baseball, as you see them? How would you deal with the problem I see, which is CONSTANT interleague play which just highlights 2 leagues with different DH rules?

Do you think MLB has (finally) adequately addressed the PED problem? Also, if you had a Hall of Fame vote (do you?) how would you deal with the Steroid Era ballplayers such as McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens?

Mark said...

Thanks for posting!
QUESTION: Would you ever post the entire script to Volunteers?
I'd love to read what you originally sold.