By Jim Cirile
We’ve all been there. We write “Fade Out” -- our new, fantastic, awesome spec is done. Then we hand it to our respective boyfriends, girlfriends, and “it’s complicated” others; they love it. Mom adores it. We’re ready for the big time. But just to be on the safe side, we send it out for coverage and wait with bated breath. Surely, it’ll be a “consider,” maybe even a “recommend.”
The coverage comes back -- and it’s “pass/pass.” A pass for script and for writer! A knock to the ego, right? Maybe. Hard to Endure? For sure. Just what you need? Damn right. WTF? No, seriously. Read on…
Of course, there’s only one explanation: the reader is a complete moron. An imbecile! Some frustrated hack, who is just jealous and will likely pilfer the script idea and write her own version of it and sell it for a milllllion dollars. We rail and rail and rail. A couple of weeks go by and maybe we take another look at the coverage and concede that maybe, possibly, there might be a miniscule microbe of a chance that there might be ONE valid point -- the reader pointed out that having a character names Belinda and Lebinda in the script might be confusing. Fine. Goodbye, Belinda; hello, Quelgha. Dissimilar enough for ya, reader? Hmph.
But in the process of going back over the notes again, a few other things kinda stick in our craw. So we slowly start making a few other recommended changes. Before long, three hours have gone by and you’ve addressed all those notes. Sure, the notes were terrible, but hey… for sure, the script is perfect now. Just to be on the safe side, we send it out for coverage and wait with bated breath. You know of course what happens next. Wash, rinse, repeat. Yes, it’s frustrating when you find yourself on draft 21 and it still comes back pass/pass. You want to bash your head against the wall, throw in the towel, use your laptop for archery practice and ream out the moron who just sent you six pages of notes, single-spaced.
Look, I get it. Not only do I get it, I’ve been there. Yes, full disclosure: I own a coverage company. But as Sy Sperling from Hair Club for Men used to say, I’m also a client. You work your butt off and create something you’re really proud of and then somebody essentially poops all over it. At least, that’s how it feels. That’s the point when you need to ask yourself if that’s reality or a hurt ego talking. Perhaps you’ve heard this hoary old cliché before: writing is rewriting. Hold onto your ass, because I am about to impart a dollop of reality. Here it is:
Neither you, nor anybody else, will likely hit a bull’s-eye with your first draft.
Or fifth. Or even tenth.
There’s a word for this process. It’s called “work”. Some writers get so discouraged, they shove that cursed script into the drawer never to look at it again. Some hire us as ghostwriters to get them over that hump (great way to not learn your craft.) And many just flip the proverbial bird to the story analyst and send the script, unchanged, to every agent, manager, and production company they can find an email address for. Worst move of all. A script that hits the town before it’s ready can not only do its creator considerable harm -- a bad first impression is difficult to rectify -- it’s also dead in the water once everyone’s passed on it. At that point, you can’t go back and “fix” it. Once a company passes, it’s pretty much toast there for good.
|Your script may well look like this after getting coverage back.|
For proof, you need look no further than me. I send my own scripts in for coverage to our team. It generally takes me about 20 drafts/script to Get It Right.
Here are the advantages of taking the stony road to success as opposed to the instant gratification highway to failure: well, the nomenclature says it all, the difference between success and failure. Let me briefly soapbox here: if you want to be a doctor, you spend years in medical school and then slog away on 36-hour shifts in a hospital during your internship and then, eventually, eons later, you’ll be a full-fledged M.D. The same long, intensive study and dues-paying is true for… well, pretty much every job there is. Yet, somehow, in this lovely business of ours, someone can wake up one morning and decide that they’re now a writer (or actor or director). Huh? Would you walk into the O.R. tomorrow and demand to be given a scalpel, simply because you’ve been to a few doctors and have seen them on TV and thus have an idea of what they do? Hell to the no. Then why would you assume that a script you spent only a few months on should be worth professional-grade $$$?
|This guy learned all about doctoring from watching "E.R."|
A hackneyed phrase about heat and kitchen comes to mind.
So, what next? Get feedback on your script. There are hundreds of coverage companies out there and even more one-man or one-woman shops. Don’t overlook writing groups and peer to peer sites -- free feedback is a beautiful thing (sometimes.) Yes, some of these “analysts” deserve their air quotes. Some flat-out suck. Others are clearly using you as a punching bag to work out their own issues. You know what? Doesn’t matter. It is your job to differentiate between good and bad notes, and do the good ones without letting your ego get in the way. You also need to be able to take that (figurative) punch in the gut and keep going. This is Hollywood, not grammar school. You don’t get a medal just for showing up.
Now, to those of you who are yelling at your computer screen right now -- “But all of those Hollywood hacks with their half-baked ideas are being paid a lot of money to write really bad movies” -- let me address that sentiment. You’re absolutely frigging right. If your college roommate is now a hotshot agent (or is abfab in conning people -- oops, I meant networking,) then, no, your work doesn’t have to be top-notch -- and by the way, bite me. Since you are reading this article, I’m assuming you don’t belong to that category. If you’re not on the nepotism freeway, then, sorry, the only other road open to you is that aforementioned painstaking road of learning your craft and being the best darn writer you can be.
So take the notes and implement, brothers and sisters. 20 drafts? Heck, just part of the process. Find the courage to get in there and do One More Draft. You’ll know when you’re ready to go: when those coveted words “consider/consider” appear at the end of the coverage report. Turn that pass into kick-ass.
Jim Cirile is a Los-Angeles based writer/producer. He owns www.coverageink.com, a leading independent screenplay coverage and development service. His latest movie is the animated horror feature MALEVOLENT starring Morena Baccarin (Deadpool.)