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
Fathers and daughters
[box]”A woman recalls her close relationship with her famous novelist father while struggling to overcome her fear of emotional involvement with her first real boyfriend.”[/box]
Steven: On the plus side, it is refreshingly different that this daughter does NOT have any negative unresolved issues with her father. Top marks for that much. On the minus side, the logline emphases the wrong aspects of the father for the purposes of presenting a warm human story. The fact that he is a “famous novelist” is irrelevant. In fact, it jars against any suggestion that he might be unusually caring or understanding of his daughter. (Fame and success tends to suggest a more aloof dad.)
Instead of famous or successful, the father would be more convincing and interesting as a man who is occupationally humble but rich in maturity and emotional integration. For added pathos, he should no longer be accessible to the daughter (perhaps in deep dementia in a nursing home). Which adds poignancy and importance (and perhaps urgency?) to her having to find a a quality male soulmate.
“The logline emphases the wrong aspects of the father for the purposes of presenting a warm human story.”
From a dramatic point of view, having a now-inaccessible father works hand in hand with her fear of emotional involvement with a new man. It also makes this new relationship less “optional” for her.
Finally, I would advise the writer of this to have a read of the novel “Contact” by Carl Sagan for added inspiration. In it an intelligent and independent professional woman (a scientist) had a particularly good and supportive father who has now passed away. And, just like the woman here, this scientist finds all her male lovers fall short of her image/concept of her dad. I am not advocating copying this relationship dynamic outright, just that you would benefit from looking at it.
Cameron: The way the logline is now, there is no sense of urgency or ticking time bomb. Granted it’s a grounded drama dealing with relationships, there still can be a sense of urgency.
” There is no sense of urgency, it sounds as if the protagonist could walk around aimlessly until she stumbles into a relationship.”
As Steven mentioned, if the father’s health is failing, it might put the pressure on the protagonist to find someone before her father dies. In addition to this, having the protagonist rush into a relationship might spark a much more intense turning point or realization that she isn’t in the relationship for herself but to instead please others.
I have to disagree with Steven in that the famous father mention is irrelevant. I believe it highlights the fact that the protagonist’s close relationship with the father may have been effected because she had to ‘share’ him with the general public, which in turn could be the underlining reason behind her fear.
The Keeping Room
[message type=”simple]”Three southern women defend their home from the Union army while their husbands are off fighting in the Civil War.”[/box]
Steven: At a minimum we should be given some idea of the personalities of these women. (Hopefully those personalities are distinct and hopefully they are not straight southern bumpkins!) Even better would be to
describe a specific northern antagonist: Who is he and how is he different to the ladies?
“The logline as it currently stands is too clipped. A little bit more needs to be told to the reader…”
The logline as it currently stands is too clipped. A little bit more needs to be told to the reader to make the story concept more specific and more vivid.
Unusually, the northern villain need not be particularly nasty in this story. If he is a chivalrous gentleman, for example, that would lead to an interesting and drawn out stand off between the determined women and an officer who has overwhelming force but a moral desire to “remain civilised”. Perhaps the two sides grow to respect each other in this instance. Dramatic stakes can still be raised in this scenario when either unforgiving new orders come, or a harsh superior officer arrives.
This story can fundamentally work. But the logline needs to tell us more.
Cameron: The women need a brief description or defining trait other than ‘Southern’ to make them memorable and interesting, otherwise the reader may well assume generic ‘southern stereotypes.
Also defending their home against the Union Army is a bit broad, maybe single out a strong antagonist character in the logline. Usually in films where individuals take on an organization, or in this case an entire army, the antagonist is someone who portrays the belief systems of the large body they represent to help keep the conflict relatable and contained.
” Single out a unique antagonist that represents the values and beliefs of the Union Army to make the logline more specific.”
To make things interesting for an antagonist like this, add a moral conflict or a unique personal behaviour that separates this military villain from anything seen before. Just small things that makes what could be a stereotypical army officer mindlessly following orders, into someone with substance.
Take Christoph Waltz in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ for instance. He’s the most polite person in the entire film, which makes him and his actions more terrifying and memorable for it!
So what is your verdict? Would you want to see these films? Why (not)? Did the judges get it right? How would you improve the synopses/loglines and what do you feel might improve the stories behind them?
To read the full reviews and those from casual visitors, go to www.logline.it.
The Judges (click for details)