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
FROM NEW YORK TO FLORIDA
“An undisciplined boy is sent to Florida for the summer with his grandparents, and the drive south changes him forever.”
Steven Fernandez: While the story could potentially be a quality drama, the logline is flat and tells the reader nothing interesting or distinctive about this story. A harsh reader could be forgiven for dismissing this as just a road movie with geriatrics, and then move on. Less of the mild wording and more of hinting at intriguing aspects are required here.
“The protagonist could be described more interestingly than just being an “undisciplined boy”
For a start, some hint that the grandparents aren’t stereotypical ‘old cogers’ would be a real plus here. For example, that the grandpa is actually a professor going to Florida to give a lecture.
Secondly, the protagonist could be described more interestingly than just being an “undisciplined boy”. Ideally, there should be a hint of both capability, yet unruliness, with the lad. For example, a “spoilt prodigy”, or less extremely, a “difficult yet driven boy”. Giving the lad both positive and negative sides suddenly suggests unusal depth in both the character and the story.
Finally, just saying that the drive will ‘change him forever’ is too weak and generic (not to mention cliche). Again, some hint of how this drive will be significant would help. For example, “And the drive south will force him to understand consequences” (or “not take life for granted” or “take responsibility” or similar).
On balance, this logline is badly bland. It majorly fails to sell what might well be a well-written script.
Cameron: The logline establishes the central characters (albeit in an undescriptive, bland way) and implies a vague character journey through a road trip. If this is a character journey without any real external goals, the boy needs to be described in a way that the reader can get a sense of the inner-character transformation. ‘Undisciplined’ could still be used but throw on an adjective, something that the boy must overcome internally.
“If this is a character’s inner journey with no real external goal driving the story, there needs to be a strong character flaw”
‘The drive south changes him forever…” Maybe hint at whatever it is that the boy encounters along the way without being so vague. Some sort of antagonist force he must face, something that challenges the boy’s flaw.
“When Air Force One crashes, a journalist discovers a cover up after gaining access to the plane’s black box data and must unravel the mystery.”
Cameron: Set up. Check. Protagonist. Check. Goal… There but vague. This journalist who is probably obsessed, ( should be in the logline) must uncover a ‘mystery’. Mystery is fine to use to keep twists hidden until you read the screenplay, but at least add what’s at stake to the logline. E.g “Journalist must unravel the mystery before (stakes)…”
“Mystery is fine to use to keep twists hidden but at least add what’s at stake to the logline”
It might be worth mentioning that in the screenplay, the journalist’s wife was on board the plane when it crashed. That should be in the logline. It would add greater dramatic impact and emotional resonance when read, so the protagonist isn’t just some random journalist.
Steven Fernandez: This scores good points for a very dramatic set up (the crashing of Air Force One), but the logline fails to excite the reader beyond that point (which is a real shame). Yes, a conspiracy is hinted at. And, yes, it’s an easy implication that there are likely to be suited agents out to “eliminate” the journalist. But the logline really should not have missed the opportunity to tell a little about the calibre of these agents. For example, “When … crashes, a journalist discovers a cover up. He must unravel the mystery before a ruthless and efficient black ops squad silences him forever.”
The words about the black box could easily be cut in preference to telling more about the stakes and the hunting agents.
I also have a technical quibble about how a journo’ would know how to interprete black box data in the first place. Isn’t this the expertise of a technician or engineer? Not a difficult point to fix, however. And not critical to the effectiveness of the logline.
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)