Five common script coverage mistakes
The ability to write great script coverage is essential in Hollywood if you want to work in scripted television or features. Good script coverage saves executives time and can really make an intern stand out in a memorable way. In general, script coverage is pretty simple — it’s similar to the work you might have done in a high school English class. But that doesn’t mean everyone does it perfectly. Here are five common script coverage mistakes that you should always be careful to avoid:
1. Your coverage is too long. The entire point of script coverage is to save executives time. By writing your review, you’re acting as a filter and letting the executive know whether they should even bother to read the script (or book). But eight to ten pages of script coverage is going to take a similar amount of time to read as a pilot script, making the entire effort worthless. You’re not being helpful if your coverage is too long, so write concisely and get your point across in a couple of pages. Your supervisor will thank you.
2. Your synopsis is too specific. One bad habit that will result in lengthy coverage is being overly specific in your synopsis. You just need to get the main story points across, not every tiny detail. You don’t have to outline the action of every scene or name every minor character. For example, instead of writing “JOEY got dressed, packed his backpack, woke up JAKE, his brother, fed the dog, and walked with Jake to the bus stop,” you could simply write “JOEY and his brother left for school.” Extract the key story beats, and leave out the more insignificant moments.
3. You don’t give a clear reason to pass or consider at the top of the page. Once again, the purpose of script coverage is to save time, so if you read a script you hated, let the executive know at the top of the page — don’t make them dig to figure out what is good or bad about the project. And if you’re doing script coverage for a network or company that is looking for specific types of projects, you should indicate how well the project aligns with the brand from the get-go. For example, if your company is exclusively looking for superhero movies, and you read a fantastic rom-com, note the disparity in the initial comments section, so your supervisor doesn’t need to read any further.
4. You let your personal opinions get in the way. When writing coverage, you need to be as objective as possible. You are obviously going to react positively or negatively to the script, but you need to find concrete arguments that support your claims. Don’t try to give script notes or say what you would have done with the script to make it better. Evaluate the script for what it is, not what it should have been.
5. You didn’t proofread carefully. Most of the time, people writing scriptcoverage are interns or assistants, aka people who are at the bottom of the totem pole trying to make a good impression on their supervisors. So when you’re writing coverage, remember that spelling and grammar count! Poor writing is very obvious in a script coverage document, so if you want your supervisor to respect you professionally and consider you for other positions where you’ll be representing the company, you’ll want to be meticulous with your coverage.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
When is okay to quit a job you hate?
After a few months of interviewing, you’ve landed your first Hollywood job, and you couldn’t be more excited. Your family and friends are incredibly proud of you, and you feel like your career is finally on track. But then you realize the job isn’t what you thought it was. Maybe you’re bored, maybe you aren’t getting along with your coworkers, or maybe your boss is just plain abusive. You start dreading going to work each day, but you’re afraid that quitting will make you look like you aren’t tough enough to handle Hollywood or will raise questions about your level of commitment during future interviews. What should you do?
First, think hard about why you accepted this job in the first place. Is it a stepping stone that is likely to lead to a position you are going to enjoy? For example, many agents ask for a one-year commitment on the desk and then will offer to help their assistants find their dream jobs. If this is the case, consider sticking it out. And if you’re bored or not enjoying the work but can accept that the situation is temporary, hopefully you can at least hang in there until you find a new job (even if you haven’t been at the company for very long). Put your energy into networking and completing tasks at the office that will boost your resume to help pass the time.
But if your boss is one of those crazy Hollywood execs that will scream and throw a stapler at you because they’re angry that you dropped a call, or that their computer is frozen, or that it’s raining, you might be better off elsewhere. You may worry that you’ll burn a bridge by leaving, but think about it — if your boss is an awful person, do you really think they’re going to help you out in the long run? Even if they like you, they’ll probably resent you if you ever decide to leave later down the line. Of course, this is a personal choice — some people handle these high-pressure desks better than others, and there’s a chance that one of these desks might land you a better job higher up in the company or will impress a future employer, so it’s really up to you if you want to stay. But if you’re truly unhappy (and especially if you’re not on the side of the industry you want to ultimately land in), you shouldn’t feel like quitting will ruin your chances of ever working in Hollywood again. You’ll need to carefully figure out how to address it in an interview, but sometimes quitting is the best choice. Look out for yourself, and trust your instincts.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Being passionate about your job is a win-win situation for both you and your employer. So why do so many people end up in jobs they don’t care about? Perhaps they weren’t approaching their job search in the right way. If you’ve been out of work for several months and are starting to get desperate to pay the bills, you might be tempted to take the next job that comes along -- and in many cases that may be your only option. While there's the possibility you’ll get hired, this type of desperation is usually pretty obvious to a hiring manager, and there’s a good chance you’ll lose out on the job to a less experienced person who is truly passionate about the position. One dead giveaway that you're just looking for a paycheck is if you apply to jobs below your skill level, like a first year agency desk when you've already been an assistant for four years. Hiring managers know that you’ll probably get burned out on the desk, and they’re likely to look elsewhere for their star candidate.
So, how do you break the cycle of failed interviews? You need to try your absolute hardest to find a way in to the companies you care about most. Your natural enthusiasm for a position will come across easily in an interview, but if that enthusiasm isn’t there, you're likely to give overly rehearsed and robotic answers that won’t do anything to help your case. Think hard about the types of companies you want to work for and the roles that would fit you best. Make a list of your top 10-15 dream companies, and check their job boards every day or two for openings. You should also use your personal network or LinkedIn to try to make connections at these companies in the meantime and schedule informational interviews whenever possible.
Another strategy is to assess your talents. What responsibilities have you enjoyed and excelled at most in the past? What are your specific professional interests? You may be able to find a great position at a lesser-known company that aligns perfectly with your goals and skills, and you’ll have an easy argument to make once you get to the interview. Going this route may also lead to the possibility of you finding an awesome (and maybe more well-suited) position at a company you wouldn't have otherwise considered.
With either approach, you need to find specific targets and focus on them, rather than shooting blindly and hoping something hits. Be persistent, and the right thing will surely come along!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Two things happen in Hollywood every January: everyone joins a gym they’ll never go to, and people start applying for new jobs. We’ll leave you to your own fitness goals, but here are some ways to make the most of the new year in your job search:
1. Make a list of contacts you would like to schedule coffee or drinks with. Prioritize your contacts, since scheduling dozens of drinks can get unwieldy. Think about the friends you miss and start there, as you’re more likely to actually meet up with them. Then, identify the contacts that are in the best position to help you because of their current job or their network. Finally, make a list of the general contacts you’ve amassed that would be nice to reconnect with but aren’t pressing. Start scheduling, but don’t overbook yourself. The beauty of a long list of contacts is that you can maintain it throughout the year. When you’ve got a drinks lull, you can turn to it for scheduling inspiration.
2. Monitor your connections’ promotions and job moves. Sending a congratulatory note to a friend or contact is a great way to reconnect -- ask to get coffee or a drink when they’re settled into the new position. LinkedIn will notify you when your connections update their profiles, and Variety’s Movers & Shakers email newsletter will clue you in to executive-level promotions.
3. Read the trades, especially if you work in television. January is when pilot pickups start, which means production companies are expanding, new showrunners need assistants, and PAs are in demand. Pinpoint potential opportunities and work your network to find someone who’s hiring on a show or who’s leaving their desk for a writers’ assistant job. Also, keep an eye out for companies that are hiring new executives or creating new departments, as they'll likely have some openings as well.
4. Attend more networking events, and join professional organizations. If you’ve let your JHRTS membership lapse because your current position kept you too complacent to attend events, now’s the time to renew. Become a more active member of your tracking boards, go to meet-ups and mixers, or start that writers' group.
5. Update your resume (or let us do it!). If you’re currently employed but just starting to test the waters this hiring season, make sure your resume is in tip-top shape so you can apply for jobs as soon as you hear about them. Most people don’t update their resumes when they’re happy in their current role and wind up rushing to add in their latest position when a good job opens up. That typically results in sloppy execution and no job offer -- don’t let that happen to you.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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