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
GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM
“After nine years, a NASA communications expert reconnects with the astronaut she believed to be dead and helps rescue him from space.”
Steven Fernandez: Firstly, there is a big plausibility problem here. Even if the spaceship has 24th century technology, being lost in space for nine years is a sure way to kill off the astronaut. Theoretically, a hydroponics system could barely manage to provide life support for that period of time. Cryogenics would be better, though this has been an oft-used device for the past 30 years.
“If the scenario is more like the astronaut has come out of some time/space warp, this point should be mentioned or implied in the logline.”
If the scenario is more like the astronaut has come out of some time/space warp, this point should be mentioned or implied in the logline (if only to help suspend the reader’s disbelief). Mind you, even this has been done several times before.
Additionally, there is something weak about only a communications officer helping out the lost astronaut. (What might work for Halle Berry/”The Call” is not going to work here.) But this is an easy fix: Just introduce some engineer character as well (perhaps retired).
Fundamentally, the story articulated by this logline comes across, at best, as clichéd. But, given the problems with this story even at premise level, most readers would be inclined to conclude that this story is like Swiss cheese – full of holes. Whatever merits the script may have, this logline fails to suggest or hint at any of them.
Cameron: The logline suggests a duel protagonist story between the NASA expert and astronaut , but the astronaut’s journey to survive seems to be more compelling and fraught with obstacles and stakes, so if the screenplay is evenly split between the two, having more focus on the astronaut will be much more interesting.
“Is there a ticking time bomb for the astronaut? Maybe whatever he has been surviving on is running out. This would create urgency.”
Also, if the astronaut has survived all these years, what is the urgency to bring him home? Is he running out of whatever it is that’s keeping him alive? Having this ticking time bomb in the logline would generate greater interest.
I don’t believe there to be a plausibility problem in the logline, as the explanation would probably bog down the word count. As long as the screenplay delivers logically on the concept.
“A veteran covert operative seeking redemption for his dark deeds quits a CIA-like agency and devotes himself to helping others where injustice has been done.”
Cameron: Having read the screenplay, this logline serves as the hero’s INNER journey of trying to make good for all the shit he has done and NOT the OUTER journey which the logline (at least in this type of film) should be.
“This logline serves as the Hero’s INNER journey instead of focusing on the OUTER journey.”
The logline should contain the inciting incident which triggers the Hero’s path of action and the conflict generated from his involvement with bad-ass criminals, as well as the girl he is trying to protect.
Steven Fernandez: Addressing the logline in isolation ( as the idea is an remake based on an 80’s T.V series), the premise articulated is interesting, but does not seem to fit within the scope of a single feature film. It would work as a logline for a TV series (assuming copyright hurdles can be overcome), but not as a pitch for a feature story.
“The key thing missing in this logline is a clear story arc that a feature could contain.”
The key thing missing in this logline is a clear story arc that a feature could contain. So, instead of telling the reader about generic and numerous sufferers of injustice, the logline should describe one or two specific innocents and a strong oppressor of both. Then the usual formula for a feature film logline can be started. For example, “A remorseful retired agent of a CIA-like organisation discovers kids in his underprivileged neighbourhood are being conscripted by the local drug gang. After making a solemn promise to a bleeding mother, he sets out to use all his black ops skills to put a stop to it.”