Saturday, September 29, 2018

What does studio coverage look like?

There is always a lot of discussion in the comments section about the value of readers and coverage.  A number of you have asked "What does a coverage report actually look like?"  In 1981 David Isaacs and I wrote a screenplay called STAR SPANGLED ADVENTURE, here is the actual coverage.

What exactly is studio coverage?    They're synopses of scripts prepared for studio executives and agents by hired readers.  Primarily they're meant to judge the value of a screenplay, both for its commercial potential and quality.   Rival studios also prepare coverage to keep track of the competition and get a heads up on possible new hot writers.    Coverage is Hollywood's Cliff Notes.

Hope you can read it  (you might need a magnifying glass or telescope).   Writers generally never see this.  A friend of a friend of a friend uncovered it.  Gee, I feel like Edward Snowden.  Squint and enjoy.


Horaceco said...

The coverage guy was on the mark. Throw a little light raunch in there and I would have gone to this in 81 when I was a college freshman.

E. Yarber said...

I'm glad to hear writers rarely saw coverage. The stuff I wrote had to be unsparing because millions of dollars were at stake if a script went into production.

Robb Hyde said...

This post is kinda-like a cliffhanger. I am hopeful of a "now you know the rest of the story" follow-up. Pretty certain this movie was never made, ;>) but would like to know more about how it fit into your career.

Jonny M. said...

It's the summer of 1982 and the reader's note is that it may need to be raunchier to appeal to Porky's fans. Wow.

I'm guessing that you had not known that this last week was going to be focused on the actions of raunchy young men in summer 1982, but what a perfect window this is into the prevailing attitudes of the day.

Dhruv said...

Thank you very much for this Ken.

No one has given this much helpful inside info in any other site or blog.

I love this blog :)

I have read that many executives and writers came up the ladder by writing these little summaries.

It's their ability to write and the eye to see the potential, is what made them stand out they say in many books.

On this particular report I have just a few questions.

- Why do they say the budget is "High", when it looks like it will be in the medium range? The sets or shooting in Florida might be costly, but since there wont be any big stars, the cost wouldn't be too high, isn't it?

- Also since this was the time of Cimino's disaster tanking a studio, the budget for this movie would be like chump change, isn't it? A good and, more importantly, safe investment on a comedy.

- If you did get your hands on this coverage while it was being considered by studios, would you be able able to correct them (inform them) on any of the assessments here like - 'budget is high' or recommendation of actor (here Matt Dillon) may be wrong from your perspective or just some of the points in the last page where it says there are some omission, which may not be the case as per you.

But I guess getting your hands on this is not possible as it would an internal memo.

This makes me wonder, what if the script is excellent and the person preparing these synopsis, botches it up? Then everything is ruined. In few articles on these studio executives they say that some executives don't rely on the hired readers or assistants but read the scripts themselves over the weekend and Monday mornings are the days that the scripts are bought.

Finally, may I ask what happened? I would have loved to see the movie.

Thanks once again.

Baylink said...

Well, that was clearly written by someone who'd spend a lot of time writing synopses and stage directions in scripts.

So: how close did it come to pulling out all the beats you put in?

For the record: I not only would have watched it in the 80s, properly cast, I'd watch it *now*; find someone to produce it, willya?

Bryan said...

You and David might have invented rap!

Dhruv said...

Just an additional question.

In early 80s Hollywood changed forever after UA sank due to 'Heaven's Gate'. Due to the prevailing situation, were all the studios overtly cautious on script buying and approving the projects?

Were any of your scripts, including 'STAR SPANGLED ADVENTURE', affected due to 'Heaven's Gate' debacle?


tb said...

I want to see the brothers fighting with licorice sticks! Haha

DBenson said...

I suspect an issue might have been the theme park setting. A real park's management might demand a softening of the script, and building a mock park sounds like a pricier proposition than your usual movie exteriors (pre-CGI, anyway.

Not sure if Paramount had any theme park interests of its own back then -- that could work either way, as it could make the studio itself leery of a spoof. in 1994, Paramount did make "Beverly Hills Cop 3" with a fictional theme park as the site of a murderous counterfeiting ring. Some scenes were shot at Great America, a Santa Clara park owned by the same conglomerate.

"National Lampoons' Vacation" had a few scenes shot at Magic Mountain, while "Wally World" was portrayed mainly by a matte painting. It was clearly intended as a Disneyland stand-in, albeit carefully distant from any visual or themic reality (it's primarily there as a endpoint to the cross-country drive). Using the real Disneyland wasn't going to happen with Clark Griswald's solution to a closed park.

gottacook said...

Dhruv, now that you've mentioned Heaven's Gate and the downfall of UA twice, I don't think it's relevant. That was a situation involving (1) a writer/director who had just made what seemed to be a sprawling, overlong movie with an often incoherent plot, (2) despite these evident flaws, that same movie going on to mass acclaim and winning the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (among others), and (3) United Artists therefore taking a gamble with him on another movie with all the same flaws plus a very remote location shoot in Montana. The best that can be said about the result (which can be seen at full length on cable TV these days) is that it's beautiful visually. I don't see how any of this would relate to decisions about funding a comedy with, presumably, a non-"auteur" director at the helm and no emphasis on cinematographic artistry.

Greg Ehrbar said...

This is a cool thing to be able to read. Thank you!
I've done a similar kind of report to evaluate books for publication.

Couldn't this be adapted into be a series like NBC's "Superstore?"

• I've got an album by "The Amerikids" on RCA Records. They were a 1973 studio children's chorus singing songs from "Tom Sawyer."

• My parents lived in Apopka for a short time. Bedroom community north of Orlando with lots of lakes and shopping centers. Like Southern California "towns", they're more like one area of shopping centers and housing developments after another.

• Teen actor Mitchel Musso starred in a very low-budget comedy about a Kissimmee theme park called "Characterz" two years ago. Not in the same league as yours, just an FYI.

Mills said...

The note here is positive of your script. But if not, just change the title and the first chapter here and there and the end too and send it back. It wont show up in their old records and so you get another shot.

I did it a few times.

Ted McCarthy said...

You'll be happy to know that one of the jokes made it to the public (a coincidence I'm sure.) In Carl Hiaasen's first novel Tourist Season, John Davidson hosts an Orange Bowl halftime show that goes awry.

He was the goto cheesey innocuous host of the time. He was the Proto Seacrest.

Alex Bell said...

Wow, that’s hilarious. The author clearly loved it, and I would think his description of your writing delighted you. Why on earth wouldn’t something like that be made?

As far as inventing rap, that honor goes to McDonalds of all things (at around the same time):

Big Mac, filet of fish,
Quarter Pounder, French Fries,
Icy Cokes, thick shakes,
Sundaes and Apple Pie.

Cutest commercial they ever had.
I had a 3 year old who wouldn’t let me rest until I had helped him memorize it.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Thank you, Ken. I didn't even know such things existed. Based on the summary, this film sounds more like a MEATBALLS than PORKY'S. Or possibly a more subtle ANIMAL HOUSE. But, its pretty obvious why this movie was never made. Its right there on the first page. The "Good to Excellent" ratings. If the screenplay had been total crap they not only would have made the movie, but four or five sequels of diminishing quality. Yes, if only there had been more T&A, crotch-grinding, the use of the "F-word" and "C-word" you'd be even richer than you are now.

Peter said...

I'd love to read this, especially for the scene with the black gangs. Unlike contemporary comedies which just lazily rely on characters referencing rap music or having white characters speak ebonics, it sounds from the coverage that this did something genuinely original and witty with the scenario of rival gangs.

With a few changes to take into account today's technology and culture, this could get made now. I'd rather see it than lazy garbage like Night School and Dirty Grandpa.

E. Yarber said...

I always thought THIS was the origin of rap, though George Burns and Harry Von Zell made with the same mad rhythms on a radio episode of George's show that probably predates it.

Dhruv said...


I know the uncut version of the movie got good reviews later on. I am not talking about the movie itself but the fallout of it.

When you read many books and articles on the subject, 70s gave rise to a crop of writers, filmmakers who got the freedom and backing of the studios to do movies that they like. After 'Heaven's Gate' all that was gone.

I read a book on this issue by Peter Biskind who analyses only the 70s and says finally after 'Heaven's Gate' the studios took back their power and also became cautious in what they made. Creativity was curtailed and so was the budget. So this script being set in a theme park would have required a big budget.

So it was question to Ken, to know about the early 80s mood, rather than a statement.

5w30 said...

Always like a story about "studio coverage" ... it's got that SUNSET BLVD. feeling.