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
MIDNIGHT AT NOON
“On the run after robbing a bank during the great depression, two brothers find themselves trapped in the harsh region known as the Dust Bowl where a ruthless killer hunts them down.”
Steven Fernandez: The ruthless killer makes for a great antagonist but his linkage with the bank robbing brothers is left tenuous. How does the killer know about the brothers and what is his motive for hunting them? Simple desire for the loot does come to mind, though this is a mediocre motive. Better would be a motive along the lines of him recovering the money for someone else. Whether it be on behalf of the bank, or on behalf of some wealthy landowner. (This makes the killer look like a professional, which makes him appear even more chilling.)
“It would also help that we are told something redeeming about the two brothers.”
It would also help that we are told something redeeming about the two brothers. For example, that their home was repossessed, or that they were thoroughly swindled. (Swindled by the landowner would be particularly good here.) Being hunted by a ruthless killer provides some audience empathy potential, but being compelled to rob a bank out of dire necessity provides so much more.
As it stands, the logline is acceptable at a basic level. But it would sell the script more effectively if the two aspects already mentioned were addressed.
Cameron: Giving the two brothers redeemable qualities and empathetic reasons for committing robbery in the first place is key to making this story work. Aside from that aspect, a strong story world obstacle is established with the protagonists’ out of their element and the stakes are clear with a defined antagonistic force.
THE KILLING SPREE
“Heartbroken after being dumped by his long-time girlfriend, a guy’s best friends devise the perfect plan for his recovery and teach him how to sleep with as many women as humanly possible.”
Steven Fernandez: The last element described here (ie the plan to sleep with heaps of women) brings down the whole story to the lowest of the low level. While there is always a market for broad comedy, it is a shame that this story had to include the low element. For, without it, the story could really work and engage a far bigger audience.
Wanting to ‘get back’ at the girlfriend is great. Ruining her reputation would be even better. Doing either with the help of friends is perfectly workable. But why did the recovery or revenge plan have to be so crass? Why could not the plan, instead, be exposing some embarrassing secret about the girlfriend and/or toppling her from some high social pedestal? The crass element is this concept’s greatest flaw. It is a giant let down.
“There’s no clear antagonist here. (Problem!)”
Secondly, there’s no clear antagonist here. (Problem!) If the girl is particularly smart, or has a powerful father, that would be enough to enable the reader to see that the buddies are in far a tough time. But nothing is stated in the logline to suggest much opposition to the plan. (Significant flaw #2.)
Cameron: The way the logline is worded, it sounds less like a movie and more like an internet web series. It comes off as simply being about a guy who gets laid over and over for 90 minutes. I’m assuming there’s more to the story than that, such as guy falls in love with one of the girls he’s trying to play, so why not allude to that in the logline?
So the “heartbroken” bit does create an empathetic resonance in the audience because we’ve all experienced that, but the last half of the logline wipes away any empathy the audience had. It could work if it were structured differently, for instance, Protagonist sleeps with as many woman as possible in order to/and struggling to forget the love of his life. This way the protagonist ( in the logline at least) doesn’t come off as an ‘American Pie’ clone.
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)