Writing loglines is an essential skill for screenwriters, from early development through to the pitch. In this section, we review the loglines and short synopses of the screenplays that made it into the Blacklist 2012. Learn from the feedback and perfect your own loglining skills.
By The Judges
“An epic love story set in a time where a dying scientist is able to upload his consciousness into the internet and, facing its global implications, must fight against the forces who are actively working against the existence of a singularity.”
Cameron: Firstly, describing anything as ‘epic’ is purely subjective to each individual. It’s better to cut down the word count and start with the protagonist, then intertwine how the protagonists’ love interest intersects with the ‘A’ story of the ‘forces’ trying to stop the singularity. This would better ground the personal stakes of the protagonist and create empathy in a global stakes story where the film could potentially become a series of shallow action sequences.
“A clearer Antagonist should be identified instead of the vague ‘forces'”
Also, a clearer Antagonist should be identified instead of the vague ‘forces’. Usually in stories where it’s “Man vs Authority”, the authority is represented by one key individual who embodies everything the antagonistic authority believes in.
Steven Fernandez: Firstly, the word “singularity” is too technical for a logline. Most execs or producers are not Science-literate enough to know what this word means. Much less make the vital connection between the conventional definition of this word and the concept of the world heading straight for a massive, radical, and irreversible change.
“The logline should pitch the story as one genre and stick with describing it in terms of that genre”
Secondly, there is an apparent genre conflict in the logline as what is initally introduced as a romance turns out to be some kind of cyberspace story roughly along the lines of “The Lawnmower Man” (1992). While, technically, a romance could still exist in this setting, the logline’s emphasis on the cyber setting creates a clashing set of expectations to the reader. At a minimum, a busy reader is likely to think this story concept is confused. At worst, the reader, himself, may be confused! (Either way, a really bad outcome.)
Instead, the logline should pitch the story as one genre and stick with describing it in terms of that genre. Even if the actual script happens to be deep and multi-layered. (Readers don’t want confusion!)
As for the logline’s description of the ‘cyber story’, specifically: It is a little interesting, but it could have all been rendered much more effectively. For example, instead of telling us about vague and unspecified “global implications” and equally vague “forces” acting against the protagonist, greater sharpness and vividness could and should have been applied. Such as, “He discovers a sinister conspiracy that threatens global privacy and his one true love.” (A description that is more specific and more clear about what the stakes are, yet still does not reveal everything.)
“A group of high school kids discover how to time travel, but fail to recognize the potential consequences.”
Steven Fernandez: Firstly, not giving the reader any hint of what the “potential consequences” are is a big failing at two levels.
At an overt level, failing to hint the consequences leaves the story only half-told. Will dinosaurs start rampaging down the main street? Will history be changed and so the present radically altered? Will loved ones be lost in 420 BC? Or what? If nothing else, being more specific about the consequences makes the stakes in this story so much clearer and more vivid. (And clear and vivid stakes are what readers want!)
“Being more specific about the consequences makes the stakes in this story so much clearer and more vivid.”
At a subtle level, failing to hint the consequences leaves the tone of this story far too open. For example, if one of the “consequences” is that Ted will fail his science porject, then it is immediately clear that the story is a comedy. While if ancient demons will be freed, then that straighforwardly implies a horror. And so on.
Apart from all that, it would have helped if a couple of adjectives were used to describe the protagonists. Are they ‘nerds’? Are they ‘jocks’? Or are they regular guys? Anything that gives them some kind of distinction or individuality would help the reader begin to care about them.
Cameron: The ‘High school kids’ could use some adjectives and maybe have the focus on one member of the group as an anchor for the story, a POV character, with a flaw to overcome ( if there is a single POV character). The second problem is ‘consequences’. It’s cool to keep the twist (if there is one) a secret until you read the script, but we as the audience at least need to know the main problem our heroes will be facing and the stakes involved.