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
“Desperate to hang on to his pregnant girlfriend, bumbling Dennis gets caught up in a kidnapping scheme gone awry, leaving him saddled with a sociopathic little girl who seemingly calls the shots.”
Steven Fernandez: By far the most interesting character here is the “sociopathic little girl”. Perhaps she could be toned down a bit and be some kind of protagonist? (Kind of like a manipulative version of Hit-Girl.)
As far as Dennis-as-protagonist is concerned, the logline overplays his incompetence and desperation. It’s pretty plain he must be both if he has botched a kidnapping of a girl he got pregnant. Particularly when this girl now wants nothing to do with him.
The words “desperate” and “bumbling” in this logline are not just redundant, they actually make the character come across way too much as a buffoon. Better to have, instead, let his actions betray his dumbness but to describe his good intentions – such as wanting to be a present father for his child. A fool who has good intentions is far easier to care about than just a straight idiot. This is true even for a slapstick comedy or a way-out absurdist one.
“The words “desperate” and “bumbling” in this logline are not just redundant, they actually make the character come across way too much as a buffoon.”
The linkage between the sociopathic girl and Dennis should also be made clearer. Even if it is to simply state “after the botched kidnapping, Dennis agrees to follow the orders of a machiavellian little girl to recapture his woman.”
Mind you, with the little girl coming across as being so clever, there is every danger that she remains much more interesting (certainly more intriguing) than Dennis as a character can ever be. There is no need for her to be chilling as well. He cleverness is sufficient.
To make this little girl less scene-stealing, perhaps her description could suggest a less focused personality. For example, “clever, yet fickle,”. Or “precocious, yet romantic,”.
In summary, even for a slapstick or asburdist comedy, this logline needs to be majorly re-written. And, if the script is not actually so off-the-wall in nature as the logline seems to imply, then the re-writing imperative is so much greater.
Cameron: Simply analysing the logline, as Steven addressed, Dennis does come of as a bumbling idiot that a reader may not get behind. In the script though, this is not the case, empathy is created for Dennis, the reader wants this guy to succeed because of the vile characters around him. The logline also suggests focus on the little girl (Penny) which is also the case in the script – a dual protagonist story, although Dennis drives much of the action.
But again, just from the logline, the inciting incident is established, the stakes and the arrival of the little girl but no clear goal. ‘Desperate to hang onto his pregnant girlfriend’ is vague. Is she in mortal danger? etc.
GOODBYE, FELIX CHESTER
“After finding out he has a month left to live, high school junior Felix Chester focuses all of his time and energy on one goal: losing his virginity to his dream girl.”
Steven Fernandez: There’s something really banal about Felix’s goal, even for a broad comedy. Not to mention how overdone the arc of a teen boy wanting to lose his virginity is. None the less, I am not blind to the strong universality of the boy’s angst even if he did not have any terminal deadline (pun intended).
The real trick in a proposed story like this is to intrigue the reader with – at a minimum – a different twist on the the trite old tale of boy wanting to ‘lose it’. Theoretically, the impending death could have done it. But, in this specific logline, the threat of death only creates the impression that the protagonist is plain desperate and crass.
“The real trick in a proposed story like this is to intrigue the reader with – at a minimum – a different twist on the the trite old tale of boy wanting to ‘lose it’.”
To elevate the reader’s impression of the central character (and therefore create more interest/empathy in him), the logline should suggest a more romantic (or even tragic) side to this young man. For example, that the girl and he have been best mates since the were six. Or that the girl is the daughter of the mortal enemy of the boy’s father. Or that one or both of them are true-believing fundamentalists. Or even that when they were twelve they swore to ‘wait’ until their high school graduation.
If the logline could suggest that the boy has more than just straight lust in his mind, then the reader could begin to see that this is not just another teen-type flick. If years-long love on the part of the boy was implied, even better.
But, as this logline stands, it does not impress. Does not intrigue. Does not strikingly stand apart from coming-of-age films in the past.
Cameron: Although the logline contains a ticking time bomb element, it borderlines forced and contrived because ‘(insert) left to live’ as been overdone. The goal itself also falls into this category. If the story is about this dying kid trying to loss his virginity, is there a unique twist that will propel this cliché story into original territory?
“Whenever using a seemingly clichéd idea, plant a twist that propels the story into original territory.”
A big twist ( if not already in the story) potentially is established in the logline: The one month left to live gimmick could be spun into a mis-diagnoses, so Felix would have to deal with the consequences of his no-doubt reckless ways in pursuit of his goal.