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 aging hitman goes up against his boss over a single night in order to protect his family.”
Steven Fernandez: Firstly, I can see this story having the depth and engaging tone of redemption that was in Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” (2008). In fact, potentially, this story could even be better than ‘Torino’ … Depending on how well written the hitman character is and how well conflicted his loyalties become.
“The logline nicely draws up the stakes and risks involved.”
The logline nicely draws up the stakes (his family) and risks involved (his age, opposing his powerful former boss). High marks there.
I don’t have any real criticisms against this logline. It is succinct and intriguing.
Cameron: The only issue I have with this logline is the reason why he has to protect is family. Maybe add the catalyst, the inciting incident that propels this story of master versus apprentice over a single night.
“After being severely hurt by a grenade at a Hitler youth camp, a prideful and nationalistic ten-year old boy discovers that his mother is hiding a fifteen year old Jewish girl in their house.”
Steven Fernandez: Firstly, I think the period the story is set in is rather dated. Much the same moral conflict could have been set in, say, Iraq of the nineties or 2000-02. Or even present day North Korea. (Or, if an European setting is somehow important, then any of the Balkan conflicts of the nineties.)
Secondly, I think it would be more dramatically effective if the boy was a more ‘lethal’ and cunning age. Say, fourteen plus.
Thirdly, the grenade accident subtracts, rather than adds, dramatic value. Better the boy is quite capable of killing or hauling the girl to authorities, if he wants to. I see no value in the accident at either logline or story level.
“The conflict of loyalties that the boy will face. This is where the emphasis of both the logline and the story should be.”
The boy faces an interesting and potentially engaging conflict of loyalties, however (between his mother and his political ideology). The logline could have more sharply focused on this. This aspect is interesting and has the potential to make a reader pause and seriously consider this concept.
While it might be tempting to hint at romantic or attraction potential between the boy and girl (for example, by describing the girl as “pretty” or similar), I would advise against it. Mainly because that angle is so cliche and predictable. Much more surprising would be the boy being so blinded by ideology that he sees her as more animal than human.
On balance, despite several things that should be jettisoned off this story, it has one core strong point: The conflict of loyalties that the boy will face. This is where the emphasis of both the logline and the story should be.
Cameron: The first half of the logline seems irrelevant to the second. What has the protagonist being injured by a grenade have to do with him discovering the Jewish girl in his house? It might make more sense in the screenplay, but there is no clear link in the logline.
By describing the protagonist as prideful and nationalistic, it sets up a clear character arc considering the genre and tone it’s set in.
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)