On March 5th and 6th, Alexandra Bowen, who works at The Kennedy/Marshall Company, taught a Career Center workshop on the basics of development internships and everything you need to know to write stand-out coverage. Alexandra is a member of the Producers Guild Association, and her credits include Finding Oscar (executive produced by Steven Spielberg), Laurel Canyon, and the recent Mr. A & Mr. M.
In this article, we’ll highlight key points from Alexandra on writing great coverage and succeeding at your next internship. While reading through the tips, remember her advice: “Take everything I say with a grain of salt. Absorb what I’m saying. Think about it for a few days. Then, throw away what doesn’t work for you.”
Top Tips For Writing Coverage:
- Print out the pdf of your script or read it on your iPad.
- Read the first 30 pages uninterrupted. No phones. No notes. No bathroom.
- For the rest of the script, take down notes of your immediate reactions. Use these as a framework later when writing the Synopsis.
- 1 minute a page is a good reading pace.
- Remember, you are first and foremost deciding if a script is a “yes” or “no” for the company you are working for. For example, if you’re an intern at a production company that primarily produces Horror films, you’d likely say “no” to a Romantic Comedy script. It doesn’t mean that the script isn’t good, just that it isn’t in alignment with the company’s goals.
- Be stingy with your recommendations. Don’t recommend scripts if you don’t truly think they could be taken all the way through to production and distribution. If you do well, your employer may take notice of your careful process and trust you to choose the best scripts of the bunch.
- Always remember that coverage is about identifying problems, not finding solutions. It is not a research paper.
- Make sure you are writing in active voice (“The fluffy dog runs.”) not passive voice (“The dog is fluffy.”)
Formatting For Coverage:
- Your logline should be no more than 1 to 3 sentences long. It should provide a snapshot of the film’s overall premises.
- The summary should be a shortened version of your Comments section.
- Your employer should be able to quickly review this section to determine if you liked or didn’t like the script.
- This area is also where you would include any film comparisons that the reader may want to consider when reviewing the script.
- This section should be around 2 pages, single spaced, and written in present tense.
- Try to match the tone of the script, sometimes even pulling phrases or words directly from the script.
- Focus on the main character and scenes, exclude content that would be classified as minor to the story.
- CHARACTER NAMES should appear in ALL CAPS when appearing in your Synopsis for the first time. All other mentions can be in lowercase. If applicable, note their age next to their name.
- (Parentheses) are your best friend. Use them to refer back to events that might not be clear– like a moment from earlier in the script or a character/location description.
- Italics are helpful if you are moving between timelines. For example, if your script switches between present and past, use italics for the paragraphs that say what’s happening in the past.
- Approach this section like a 5 paragraph essay:
- Introduction: a quick overview of your general opinions toward the script.
- Characters (thesis/three reasons): what about the characters does/doesn’t work?
- Pace/Structure (thesis/three reasons): what about the pace/structure does/doesn’t work?
- Viability (thesis/three reasons): Why would the script do well overall for your specific company?
- Conclusion: recapping your most important opinions and giving the overall pass/consider/recommend in more detail.
Alexandra Bowen also shared a few important tips to help you succeed at your next internship:
- Live in the room you are in.
- When you walk into your internship at 9am, you are in it to win it. Don’t go on your phone, don’t watch videos, don’t do anything that doesn’t have to do with your job. You are there to work, so do not waste your time on your phone and jeopardize your chances of getting a job there in the future.
- Ask your colleagues for film recommendations. Immediately go and watch them. Come back and ask for more.
- Simple things like this can help you build rapport with your supervisors and colleagues, while also expanding your film knowledge.
- Other on-the-job tips that seem obvious, but aren’t:
- Pretend you don’t have a phone.
- There is always work to be done so don’t just sit there.
- Dress appropriately for your work environment, don’t wear crop tops!
- Be on time to your scheduled shift.
- Complete your internship first, then ask for career advice or job recommendations from your supervisors. Interns often make the mistake of asking for personal favors before trust is built.
- After your internship is done, write “thank you” notes to all those that you worked with. A short note thanking them for a great experience will go a long way. If you can, Alexandra recommends taking the time to write physical thank you letters, rather than sending an email.
- Stay in touch with your supervisor and colleagues long after you’ve left your internship. This can be as simple as sending them an email to congratulate them on a new project they have coming up or acknowledging their name in a trade headline. Nourishing these relationships will help you maintain and expand your network over time.