Writing loglines is an essential skill for screenwriters, from early development through to the pitch. In this section, every week our panel reviews a few loglines posted to www.logline.it. Learn from the feedback and perfect your own loglining skills.
by The Judges
[box] “Embarking on a mission to save his people from a terrible famine a young tribe leader must defeat his demons, both real and imagined, in order to restore peace and destroy a new dictatorship created by his once trusted second in command during his absence.”[/box]
The judges’ verdict:
Steven: “At a minimum, the logline should paint something interestingly different about this tribe. Like, for instance, that they actually had high technology not long ago (say, a couple of generations back). Or even that they have consciously shunned technology for some philosophical or religious reason and are not at all “primitive” in their understanding of their world (for example, they may still have scientific understanding).”
At a minimum, the logline should paint something interestingly different
James: “I often say that in a logline you have to give your protagonist a clear goal. Something that he wants to achieve by the end of the movie. Ironically this logline has given us too many goals. We have his goal to stop famine. But then we have his goal to destroy a new dictator and then his next goal to bring peace to his people (who I thought were in famine?). What this reads like is the entire storyline, squashed into a logline. In movies goals do change and adapt, this is good. A logline doesn’t need to have all of these however. Remove the other goals and concentrate on the famine. That should make this a little clearer.”
This reads like is the entire (movies) storyline, squashed into a logline
Karel: “I sense real potential in this story. The former ally turning against the hero is a powerful premise. Also there are several major obstacles to overcome: famine and a villain. The famine is the backdrop, much like the war in a war movie. The real drama is between the characters. However by putting the famine upfront in the logline, you’re weakening its dramatic power.
So one issue is the order in which you reveal the story information. The story really starts when the dictatorship is installed, which is only mentioned towards the end of the logline. I like when events in a story are revealed more or less (chrono)logically in the logline. That way it makes sense while we’re reading it and we don’t have to re-read too often.
I like when events in a story are revealed more or less (chrono)logically in the logline
“a young tribe leader must defeat his demons, both real and imagined” is the heart of this story and logline. Two problems here: 1) the ‘imagined demons’ refer to the character fears/flaw/weakness. In that sense, the statement is generic because pretty much every hero in every great story has to defeat their inner demons. 2) the real demons are at first not specified, then later in the logline you clarify it is in fact his second in command.
Reset Your Life
[box] “There is a company that can reset your life. If you don’t feel like you have succeed in life you can just reset your life”[/box]
The judges’ verdict:
Steven: There is scope for this kind of film to have some interesting – even philosophical – themes that could be explored. Such as “be careful what you wish for” or some message along the lines that being able to constantly reset your life is not real or genuine living. What the logline really needs is to flesh out who is contemplating resetting their lives and hint at what unexpected consequences their ‘resets’ will trigger.”
What the logline really needs is to flesh out who is contemplating resetting their lives
James: “As a basis for an idea, this works quite well. It’s actually pretty high concept. As a logline however it fails. This is a tagline, not a logline. We need a main character who is resetting his life. We need the reason he’s doing this and what he hopes to achieve (his goal). We need stakes, some urgency perhaps and if there’s room a bad guy for us to hate. With an idea like this it can be hard to create the world and the character in 25 words. I would suggest mentioning the character, what his goal is and then stating that ‘this is possible with the company (insert name here) who specializes in resetting lives. But this creates a problem when…’. And then you’ll have a nice, clear logline with a high concept idea. ”
We need stakes, some urgency perhaps and if there’s room a bad guy for us to hate
If you have an opinion on any of these synopses or the feedback from the judges, please share it with us in the comments below. Please keep the discussion constructive. Even if your first instinct may be subjective, try to give us as objective a reply as possible. The objective is to all (that includes us, judges) learn from the exercise.
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)