Norman Ray Fitts, Screenwriter and Novelist

Coverage Example

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Below you will see an example of coverage performed on a screenplay. The same process would be applied to a manuscript.


Title of Script – Screenplay

Author - Author

Place and Time - New York City, present day

Genre - Drama/Fantasy

Length – 95




A self centered, egotistical real estate agent undergoes a mystical life changing event that allows him a second chance at getting things right.


Brief Synopsis:


A self centered, egotistical real estate agent’s life is about to change. His family life has eroded to the point where the only person of interest to him is his mistress. He can’t stand to look at his wife, who has taken to drugs to get through her day. His daughter has run away to the streets just to get away from him. He doesn’t appreciate what he has until both his wife and daughter commits suicide. He tries to take his own life but fate sometimes has its own way of setting things straight. Real, or unreal, he’s forced to live through a span of time that represents a different reality. He’s been given a rare opportunity to make better choices, but will he?


1. Summary [Overall score = 3.3 ] 1-5 (1 = worse, 5 = best)


There is potential with this script. I think the bulk of the story should be developed around what John has to do to get his life back. We don’t get to that until page 41. I always like a story that holds up, in front of us, what can happen if we fail to stop and smell the roses. However when you’re dealing with a character driven story a great deal of effort has to go into developing them. For example I think the audience needs to know more about just who Reynar really is. Maybe who he is, and what he does could be the hook the first ten pages needs. It has to be enough to spike the audience without giving everything away. Just a thought.


2. Story [Character score = 2.5, Plot score = 3.5]


Primary Characters:


John Waysicks - 51 years old. He’s a real estate sales guru working for a high pressure real estate company in New York City. He has a typical New York attitude toward everyone around him. He’s having an affair with his secretary, Sara.


Ted Lykerson - 29 years old. He’s a John Waysicks wantabe as far as the business goes. He has little concern for anyone outside of his on circle.


Kate Waysicks - 45 years old. John’s wife. Her emotions have been stretched to the limit with John’s unconcern and she’s aware of the affair. This Kate resides in John’s current world. Things change as reality changes.


Sara Fitzner - 28 years old. She’s John’s secretary and is taking advantage of John’s broken marriage.


Shanda Waysicks - 17 years old. She’s living on the street. She supplies her mother with drugs for spending money. She can’t stand her father for the way he’s treating her mother. This is Shanda in John’s current world. Things change as reality changes.


Reynar - 63 years old. He is the master of ceremony for John’s alternate reality. He is john’s link to what is real and to what may not be. He has all the answers but wants John to figure them out for himself.


Willie - 55 years old. Willie turns out to be John’s pathway to redemption. In John’s parallel reality he and John both live on the street and for the first time, John shows concern for someone other than himself in a selfless act to save another human life.


Overall character assessment: 


Each of the characters spoke with their own voice. They were distinctive. I think John was understated in that most of his dialogue, in the beginning, was always negative. You never get a solid feel for what brought on Kate’s demise so it’s hard to sympathize with her situation. It’s not hard to figure out what’s wrong, but there is just not enough interaction between John and her. That dissolving relationship is what brought John to the point where the story begins. The same goes for Shanda you just don’t become attached. As for Ted, Reynar and Willie I do believe they fulfilled their roles in the story however they felt to much like stock characters. You need to come up with something to flesh them out.




This plot is one that has been used many times and in many forms. A life is on the verge of collapse. An event occurs that provides a choice or a second chance. That event could be set in the real world but in this case it is spiritual, and choices, right or wrong, are made. You provided all of that. There are several dramatic moments as the characters interact. There is a level of excitement stemming from the house exploding, Shanda’s confrontation with her father ending with her jumping from the building, followed by him, and in the end when John throws himself in front of the truck to save Willie. I think the level of drama in this story could be raised if some of the problems pointed out in the character assessment are addressed.


You might consider setting up the alternate reality segment in such a way that it’s not so easy for the audience to see what is happening, at first. In “I See Dead People” you don’t know that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time, until the end.


Maybe have John fall down a flight of stairs while trying to get to his daughter. He’ll come to in the hospital with no one around. In his mind his family is gone so he won’t expect anyone to show up so when he’s befriended by Reynar it could seem natural. If you use Reynar in the first ten pages have him look like someone else now and morph back into Reynar at the end. Spend the time developing the relationship between John and Willie instead of putting John through that world that is too good to be true. When he saves Willie everything flips back to Him and Ted walking back to the office. From that point John knows what he could loose. At that point have him change his own life by reconnecting with his family before it’s too late.


3. Script [Quality of Writing score = 3.8 ]


The rule of thumb is act one is page 1-25, act two is page 25-100, and act three is 100-120, but that almost never holds true.


A truer statement is, act one sets up the story, act two introduces the problems or obstacles the protagonist will have to over come and act three is the resolution of those problems or obstacles. The one thing that has to happen is, no matter how many subplots or problems you develop you have to bring them together and resolve them at the end. Once you do that you have to get out of your story as quickly as possible. Page count is secondary.


If you’re going to produce or direct the film yourself format doesn’t matter. If not, and you’re an unknown, format is everything.


The first thing I noticed was Final Draft, for some reason is not placing three lines between the end of one scene and the scene heading of the next.


(con’t) appearing after the character name when they continue to speak between action lines is not required any longer. When the dialogue carries over from one page to the next it is used. Final Draft should handle that.


You used intercut for a phone conversation in one place but not at the beginning with John talking with his client. You need to use intercut or use (V.O.) after the client’s name to indicate he isn’t in the room.


Creating a new scene for each room in a house is fine but I use a transition to handle that. Example below.




The door swings open. John hangs his coat onto a rack and lowers his briefcase onto the floor.



                                  Kate? You here?

No ones home.


                                                                                                            MOVE TO:




No one’s around. He begins to search the nightstand when Kate enters downstairs.


                                                                                                             MOVE TO:




John goes to greet her at the top of the stairwell.







The interior scene that began this segment is still one scene. The flow is better because reading down the left margin there isn’t as much breaking up the action. Using MOVE TO is an acceptable format.


In one spot you use POV. That is a camera call and should not appear in a spec script. One time I did use it was to view the world through the eyes of an extraterrestrial that had no dialogue.


One more point. You have to grab the agent or producer’s attention within the first ten pages. On page 10 John and Ted are still socializing and nothing “Grabbing” has happened.


4. Unique Story [Originality score = 3 ]


For this Category I have several standard questions I ask myself. Why tell this story? Why tell this story this way? Why tell this story now? Why should the audience care?


Every story is unique in the heart and mind of the one who wrote it. This story teaches a very old lesson. In a lot of cases you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. John lost his family and then “the powers that be” allowed him the rare opportunity to step back and make a better choice. I think those options are offered to all of us in one form or another. An example could be a man survives a heart attack and is given the choice to live his life better. Does this story depict that in a way never before told, no. Does it provide food for thought, yes. Is it important to be reminded that what you do today affects you and the lives of others tomorrow, yes.


5. Movie [Cinematic Quality score = 3.5 ]


I believe that the movie medium has a responsibility to draw on the emotions of the audience. To put them into the shoes of someone else for a brief moment and let them experience events and outcomes that bring to the surface feelings and emotions often missed in their everyday lives. I believe this story has the potential to do that, not through special effects but through the lives of the characters on the screen.