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
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
“A twenty eight year old woman is about to get engaged to her great boyfriend, when the ex she hasn’t gotten over moves back into town. All of a sudden she isn’t sure if her boyfriend is really the one, and so she spends time decorating her ex’s new condo, trying to figure it all out.”
Cameron: The stuff about decorating is irrelevant to the reader and is a gross waste of word economy. The logline pin-points the dramatic potential, which is the love triangle but what it doesn’t accomplish is describing both the boyfriend and ex. What are the traits which differentiate the pair that will ultimately cause conflict between themselves and our protagonist?
“What are the traits that differentiate the boyfriend and ex that would create the greatest conflict between themselves and the protagonist?”
Also “about to get engaged” doesn’t work. The stakes are much higher if she is engaged and her entire family knows about it which would have a greater impact if she does skip off into the sunset with the ex.
Steven Fernandez: Firstly, definitely verbose. Half the words could be hatcheted off as they add no interest to the reader’s take on the story.
Secondly, the girl in this story comes across as a real ditz. Which is both boring and politically incorrect. (This incorrectness will definitely impede any prospects for government funding, as those kind of funding bodies want to see women portrayed more ‘acceptably’.) Even if this story is supposed to be some quirky comedy, an all-ditzy girl is yawnsome. The logline must hint that this girl has at least a modicum of substance.
Thirdly, rather than telling the reader that her current boyfriend is “great”, use adjectives that imply this. For example, is he a doctor? Is he an international charity worker? Or perhaps just a good listener and an uber-understanding kind of guy?
“the logline fails to use adjectives that set up an engaging contrast between the two male rivals.”
Similarly, the logline fails to use adjectives that set up an engaging contrast between the two male rivals. For example, a ‘proper’ and responsible boyfriend versus a fun-loving and carefree ex. Or a nice and understanding guy versus a cocky and unashamedly masculine ex. (I am trying to steer away from the often-done “bad boy” ex with these examples.)
Fifthly, the ‘decorating the condo’ scenario is lame and has no symbolic nor metaphorical value. A well-written film would include some nominal task that could be used as a metaphor for the choice that the girl must face. Such as clearing out an attic full of her old childhood and teenhood things. Or resuscitating an abandoned garden. Or pulling down her old cubby house. Or similar.
In summary, there is nothing in the logline that suggests or hints that the script is at all well-written. And quite a lot to suggest the contrary. Which is a shame if the script happens to be quality. This is an anti-logline in that case.
THE BALLAD OF PABLO ESCOBAR
“After his family is almost killed in a car bombing, Pablo Escobar wages a war with a rival cartel and his own government in an effort to protect his family.”
Steven Fernandez: Sounds like a Latino version of “The Godfather”. And I doubt this concept will measure anywhere close to Francis Ford Coppola’s effort.
“The one thing that the logline does NOT lack is dramatic potential.”
Firstly – and very importantly – is Escobar really a person the general audience can care about? Does he clearly have any believable redeeming qualities? I don’t think so (not even with the ‘protecting his family’ motivation). And, for this reason, a quick reader could be forgiven for dismissing this as a pure shooting and explosions film. While there is certainly a market for such films, I’m going to make a suggestion on the basis that the writer wanted to hint at a deeper tale than that:
Don’t mention the Escobar name (with all of its publicity baggage) until the very end of the logline. Almost as an afterthought. That way the logline can begin to build and entice empathy for the character. For example: “After a car bombing almost kills his family, a man is driven to bring down a ruthless drug cartel and a corrupt government. Banding together hired guns, he begins his war against these mighty forces. Escobar is his name.”
This way there is the suggestion that there is more to this story than just bangs and booms.
To be fair, however, the one thing that the logline does NOT lack is dramatic potential. It’s clear that the stakes and the action are both going to be huge in this.
Cameron: Short and snappy: Protagonist ( whether or not the audience can establish empathy for Pablo is debatable), An inciting incident ( car bombing) , multiple antagonistic forces ( cartel and government) and stakes (family).
The search for revenge would just be that bit more satisfying if one of his family members died in the explosion, but since it’s a based on a true story…