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
WHO FRAMED TOMMY CALLAHAN?
“An elementary school student searches for the truth behind the candy bar ring conspiracy that got his brother expelled.”
Steven Fernandez: The logline suggests nothing that would merit this script worthy of the blacklist. I can only assume that there is exceptionally clever dialogue and/or that perhaps the story is highly allegorical of some bigger issue or topic. (For instance, a kind of funny version of Animal Farm or Lord Of The Flies.)
“What is really needed here is to suggest to the reader that there is more here than just shallow cuteness”
Even for a children’s film, even for a quirky comedy, the presented scenario is silly and dismissible. Candy conspiracy? Really? Is that all? Hardly an ‘expellable’ offence!
What is really needed here is to suggest to the reader that there is more here than just shallow cuteness. For example, “In trying to uncover why his brother got expelled, an elementary school student investigates a back-of-school conspiracy involving solar panels, green plants, and government money spent too easily.” This revision hints at all kinds of satire angles without telling too much about what the conspiracy actually is. (It also clearly implies that the story is more than just kiddie-cutsy.)
As it is, the logline is quick and easy to pass over.
Richiev: The logline is interesting but doesn’t tell us what the student is risking; what the dangers are or who might be standing in the way…
“What is the student risking, what is the antagonistic force?”
“When his brother his expelled, a straight A student endangers his academic career by investigating a candy bar conspiracy that could reach all the way to the top.”
“An aging hitman goes up against his boss over a single night in order to protect his family.”
Steven Fernandez: The logline is on the short side but it none the less does convey the key points. It uses its words very efficiently.
My main quibble with it is that it does not suggest much that is distinctive about this story. It certainly makes clear the central character and his stakes, but fails to tell us that little bit extra that would incline the reader to care more about the hitman character.
“It certainly makes clear the central character and his stakes, but fails to create character empathy”
Perhaps if we were told a tad more about this character (to make him seem more than just an aging crook), then empathy would be easier. For example, that he was just about to leave the whole underworld life to make a clean start in another city.
This is the most efficient logline I have ever seen, but it lacks an empathy hook.
Cameron: At first glance the logline establishes a protagonist with a clear goal and stakes but simply describing the hitman as ‘aging’ does very little to create empathy. Aging does imply that he’ll have a hard time at overcoming obstacles but tells nothing else.
What connection does the family have to the story? It’s fine just saying ‘to protect his family’, but if they are threatened or kidnapped, mentioning that in the logline will help with empathy.