Friday, August 18, 2006


Anonymous writes… “I'm curious about coverage reports. Say someone foolishly submits a romantic comedy to Wes Craven's prodco. Obviously not a good match, but if the writing and structure are good will it still get recommended?”

I can’t speak for Wes Craven’s company, because I’ve never worked there, but I’ve worked at small production companies before headed by famous actors or directors who usually aren’t involved with the lower level script submissions. Here’s how those companies usually work…

Major and minor agencies and production companies send scripts to the production office. In general, the office has their interns or in-house readers filter through the submissions no matter who they came from. If the reader likes a submission, it moves up to their development guy. If he likes it, it keeps moving up until it hits the president of the company. If he likes it, it moves to the celebrity actor or director for final consideration. If the celebrity likes it, he takes it to the main studio he’s affiliated with and the studio then goes through their own process of deciding whether it’s a worthy project to put into production.

If a company is specifically looking for horror scripts, and a rom com comes in, they’ll still have their intern or reader read it; usually because they have a relationship with the agent or manager who submitted it and they trust their taste in screenplays, or because they’re beginning a relationship with an agency or management company and want to see if they’ll trust their taste in screenplays in the future. Readers, in addition to many other opinions, are usually asked to give their opinion on both the idea of the script in terms of the goal of the company and the writer’s execution of the idea of the script. If it’s brilliantly written, even though it’s in the wrong genre, the reader will say so and it will most likely continue to move up through the ladder of naysayers. But odds are it will never make it to the president of the production company because it’s not a genre that the company is interested in investing in, nor is it a genre that the studio has said they’re interested in funding and distributing, and they don’t want to waste the president’s time having him read something he won't be moving forward. From my experience, what happens then is that the writer’s name will be placed in a file of writers to consider for future projects. If the company ever decides to do a project in that writer’s genre, and yes that writer will be forever categorized as a writer in whatever genre of script that they submitted until they prove themselves otherwise, the writer will be called in to meet with the president or development execs to discuss their take on whatever project the office is working on in their proven genre.

The answer to your question is yes, and no... YES, you, as a writer, can be recommended. And that’s a good thing. Although it probably won’t pay off immediately, it may pay off in the future. You never know who that reader or that development exec will become in the next few years or even months. They may move to another company that is actually interested in rom coms and they might even bring up your name in a meeting where people are throwing out names of writers to call in to be considered for their new rom com book adaptation. Or they may even recommend that the new company read your script and consider it for production… And NO. If a company is looking for a horror script, and they are under the umbrella of a studio who is funding their existence based on the expectation that they’ll be bringing horror projects to the table, then it doesn’t matter at all that your “writing and structure” are good because your product is not what they're currently interested in marketing. You’d be better off targeting companies that are specifically looking for rom coms to develop. Your agent or manager should already be on top of that. If you don’t have an agent or manager, then you should be on top of that yourself.

Is it possible that some horror directors have enough pull with whatever studio they’re connected with to be able to bring a rom com to the table? Of course it’s possible. Anything’s possible. But in practical business terms, it’s not that likely. If anyone out there works for a horror director who has developed a rom com I’d love to hear how that project went. Please feel free to join the discussion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for answering my question! :-)
I have another:
Aspiring TV writers can use the WGA library as a resource for produced TV scripts.

Aspiring film writers can use the Motion picture academy library as a resource for produced films.

What can an aspiring reader use to learn what goes into a coverage report?

8/20/2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger HollywoodThresholdGuardian said...

Check out Reading for a Living: How to Be a Professional Story Analyst for Film and Television by Terri Katahn. That's about the only book out there that I know of.

Maybe I'll write a book.

8/21/2006 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think of "500 ways to beat the hollywood script reader"? Are writers really trying to 'beat' someone who is out to reject their script for being too amateurish?

8/21/2006 4:28 PM  
Blogger HollywoodThresholdGuardian said...

500 Ways is also a good book, but that's geared more to writers than to aspiring readers.

Yes, in a sense, you're trying to beat the reader because it's their job not to move crap forward. If they move crap forward, they could lose their job. 500 Ways gives you a good checklist of common script problems to check for in your script so you don't turn in a piece of crap. Most readers I know have read 500 Ways.

8/22/2006 9:38 AM  
Blogger cvcobb01 said...

One of my favorite moments in SHAUN OF THE DEAD, among many, was at the very end of the credit scroll.


8/29/2006 12:50 PM  
Anonymous heydon park said...

What do you think of flashbacks?
Some readers say they hate them and dump a script soon as they see one, others say they are acceptable depending on the story.
Same for Voice Overs.
I'm not taking a poll or anything but reading your posts, you seem to have some geniune insight that's not been twisted out of shape by cynicism and bitterness. And that seems to make you a rare reader indeed.
heydon park

12/05/2006 1:24 PM  

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