10 Steps to a Compelling Logline

by Angela Bourassa (@angelabourassa1)

Loglines suck. Even for optioned writers, writing a compelling logline can be a daunting challenge. I know this because I’ve personally given written feedback on over 1,400 loglines, and in that group, I came across maybe ten that were flawlessly written.

Of course, “flawless” is a matter of opinion, but in my experience, I’ve found that great loglines tend to share certain characteristics. They are concise, creative, carefully constructed, story specific, and clear. I’ll get into what I mean by all of that below, but first, let’s address the elephant in the room…

Do I Really Need a Logline?

Yeah, you do. Here’s why.

I’m a firm believer that you should write a logline before you start writing a script. This draft logline doesn’t have to be perfect, but even a draft logline can serve as a proof of concept. Whether or not your idea translates into a clear, concise, compelling logline will tell you a few things:

– Whether your idea is high concept

– Whether your idea is original / commercial

– Whether your idea is well structured

– Whether your idea is complete

If you can’t make your idea into a good logline, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad idea, but it is a warning sign that you should consider carefully and honestly. If your idea is a dud, wouldn’t you rather find that out now than after you’ve finished the first draft?

You also need a logline when you’ve finished your script. While query letters have become much less common than they were ten years ago, your logline has several other important uses.

First, if you submit to screenwriting competitions, most ask for a logline. Why? Often it’s so that the contest’s readers can look at the loglines in combination with the title, page count, and genre, and decide which scripts they want to read. Readers don’t always get to see loglines, but when they do, they’ll inevitably read the logline first, and the logline will color their reading of the script.

Is this fair? Yes and no. It sucks that a single sentence could ruin your chances of winning a competition, but it’s also reasonable that if your logline is vague, long-winded, or has typos, the reader will expect the same from your screenplay.

Contests aside, a solid logline is a valuable tool when pitching. And I don’t just mean in meetings with agents or producers (though you’ll need loglines for that, too). When you’re at a networking event or chatting with a writer friend who just got repped and they ask, “What’s your script about?” your logline will help you answer that question clearly and concisely, which will make a much better impression than an off-the-cuff rambling description.

(Mind you, you shouldn’t spit out a memorized sentence, but the process of writing your logline and gaining an understanding of your story at a bird’s eye level will help you share the idea with others more effectively.)

So let’s get to it, shall we?

How to Write a Logline

To help illustrate this process, I’ll use a well-known film as an example: The Godfather.

1. Identify your core story elements.

In most cases, your core story elements will consist of:

a. Your main character – This may or may not be the hero of the story. Your main character might be a group of people or a couple. Identify the unit, but also pick out the person who is the true main character, the one who leads the group or who has the biggest arc.

There are a lot of big, important characters in The Godfather, but the main character is Michael.

b. The inciting incident – This is the thing that happens that takes your main character out of the status quo and sends them on their story journey. It could be something that the character does, like quitting her job, or something that happens to the character, like the death of a spouse.

In The Godfather, the inciting incident is the assassination attempt on Michael’s father. A lot of story and intrigue is set up before that point, including the introduction of the B story (Michael’s relationship with Kay), but the assassination attempt is what throws the family into upheaval and forces Michael to act.

c. The main action – This is the main character’s physical, active response to the inciting incident. It is the overarching thing they do to solve their problem or achieve their goal. The main character will take a lot of different steps along the path to their goal, but the same big external goal will be behind every action. For example, in The 40 Year Old Virgin, the main action is trying to get laid.

In The Godfather, the main action is becoming the new godfather. Michael doesn’t want to do that, but he takes his first step toward that goal when he kills the men in the restaurant. He tries to escape and have his own life, but after that first action he’s trapped on a path which he cements on an external level when he has his sister’s husband killed and on an internal level when he lies about it to his wife.

d. The main obstacle(s) – I like the term “obstacle” over “antagonist,” because I think it’s easier for most people to wrap their head around. Basically, you need to identify the thing or person standing in the way of your character completing their main action.

In The Godfather, there are antagonists around every corner, but as this story is all about loss of innocence, the main obstacle that Michael has to overcome is his own desire to leave the family business behind.

e. The stakes – This is what will be lost if the main character doesn’t succeed at their main action. With each of these pieces, we’re talking about the external. What will physically happen on screen if the character fails? In most cases, a ticking time bomb will be built into the stakes.

In The Godfather, Michael’s family is at stake. Some or all of them could die and/or lose everything they have if he doesn’t step up.

Note: In many stories, the setting is also an important element, but not always.

2. Plug your elements in and write the long, crappy version of your logline.

Before you try to write a great logline, write a bad one. Make sure you have all of the core story elements by plugging your logline together:

When INCITING INCIDENT, CHARACTER must ACTION, overcoming OBSTACLES or else STAKES.

Your plug-and-play sentence could look a bit different depending on the specifics of your story. You might prefer:

CHARACTER must ACTION when INCITING INCIDENT, but OBSTACLES threaten STAKES.

You get the idea. Basically, put all of your core pieces into one big, fat, ugly sentence.

For The Godfather, the ugly plugged together logline might look like this:

When Michael Corleone’s father almost gets assassinated by a rival mob family, he must set aside his desire to start a new life outside of the family business and become the new Godfather or else his family will be torn apart.

3. Replace any character names with character descriptions.

Names are useless in loglines unless they are the names of famous people. Telling you that the main character is “Michael” doesn’t tell you anything about his personality, what he does, his demographic – nothing. So instead, try to use one adjective to describe the character’s personality and one more to describe their most clearly defining trait in relation to the story, such as their job. In character driven stories, two words might not be enough. In some cases a phrase will work best.

You want to describe your character as they are at the start of the story before the inciting incident. This sets the baseline for the character transformation that’s to come.

Thus, Michael from The Godfather can be described as a “promising war hero.”

4. Take out any references to the title or genre.

The reader will always have the title and genre in addition to your logline, so don’t include those in your logline. It looks unprofessional. I wouldn’t even use the term “Godfather” in our Godfather logline, if possible.

5. Restructure for maximum impact.

If your story is a horror, it probably makes sense to introduce the antagonist first to set the tone. If you’re writing a mystery, save your big twist for the end of the sentence. Use sentence structure as a tool for creating suspense.

You also need to make sure that you don’t jar the reader with any unexpected developments at the end of your logline. (If your friendly neighborhood crossing guard kills someone in the last words of your logline, you should probably establish up front that he has homicidal tendencies.)

Just remember that the character who is the subject of your sentence will be interpreted by the reader as the main character. Likewise, if your story is a rom-com or buddy movie, whichever half of the pair you describe first will be interpreted as the true main character.

6. Replace vague words with story-specific words.

If you describe a character as a “young woman” or their main action as “going on a journey,” you need to take out those vague phrases and replace them with the actual core details of your specific story.

Now, some people hear that and then write a long description of their character’s quest. That’s not the answer. You can be specific about your character and your plot while still being concise. The trick is getting down to the heart of the matter. In The Godfather, for example, we could say that Michael must “change his path,” but we don’t know what he’s changing his path to or from. We could also say that Michael must kill two men in a restaurant, flee to Italy to start a new life only to see his wife get murdered and finally come back to America to kill his brother-in-law and cement his role as the new Godfather… but that’s too specific. We need to find the middle ground.

7. Trim, trim, trim.

Ultimately, you want your logline to be about 30-35 words. A little bit shorter or longer is fine, and the ideal length will depend upon the specific story. But as a general principal, 30-35 words and just one sentence is a great length to shoot for. Much longer, and you’re probably going into too much detail. Much shorter, and you’re probably being too vague.

Strive for just one sentence. It isn’t always possible, but you’ll usually be better off if you can make it work.

8. Pick your words carefully.

You could write a logline that perfectly encapsulates your story but is interpreted by readers as the opposite genre. Make sure that the language you use accurately reflects the tone of your script. For example, you might use the term “murders” in a thriller logline but “offs” in a comedy logline.

Likewise, use language that the everyday 20-something reader will understand. Avoid jargon and unfamiliar acronyms, and steer clear of fancy words that most people would have to look up.

9. Proofread.

This one is huge. A logline with typos is a disaster. And commas have rules! Yes, there are times when you can choose whether to use a comma or a dash or no punctuation at all based on style, but in most cases, COMMAS HAVE RULES. Obey them. Thank you.

Likewise, even if your sentence is grammatically correct, you NEED to make sure that it reads clearly. I’ve come to believe that this is the most important element of a good logline. It doesn’t matter how unique and exciting your idea is if the reader can’t make sense of it.

Read your logline out loud. Set it aside for a day or more, then read it out loud again. Ask other people to read it. Whatever works for you, just make sure it’s clear.

10. Go back to step two and do the whole thing again.

Don’t settle for the first logline you write. It might be good, but there’s probably a better version you haven’t stumbled on yet. Try different wording. Try different descriptions. Try rearranging the order. Don’t stop until you have a logline that is clear, concise, and compelling.

That covers the basics of writing a logline. If you use this process, you should end up with a solid, well-crafted logline.

Here’s what I came up with, using this basic process, for The Godfather:

A promising war hero eager to escape the family business must pick up his gun and become the new Don when assassins come after his father.

What I ended up with was CHARACTER OBSTACLE must ACTION when INCITING INCIDENT. That’s not an intuitive way to start plugging, but by putting the elements together and restructuring in a way that made sense for this particular story, this is what I came to.

Is this the best possible logline for The Godfather? Probably not. It’s layered and nuanced (for example, the fact that he “must pick up his gun” underscores the fact that he’s probably already killed people in battle) without being overly descriptive, but it certainly leaves a lot out.

What would you do differently? Write your versions of a logline for The Godfather in the comments. Then get to work on your own loglines.

~

Angela Bourassa is the founder of LA Screenwriter and the co-founder of Write/LA, a screenwriting competition created by writers, for writers. A mom, UCLA grad, and alternating repeat binger of The Office and Parks and Recreation, Angela posts articles through @LA_Screenwriter and unique daily writing prompts through @Write_LA.

What a Great Logline Looks Like: February 2018 Edition

The February Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is David Laurie with his logline for THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED, a darkly comic political thriller:

“A feisty government clerk searches for the people who murdered her friend at a Brexit protest, putting herself in the crosshairs of an incompetent police unit trying to pin the crime on a debonair whistleblower.”

We love that this idea brings some comedy to the political thriller genre. This feels timely and has the potential for lots of fun twists and turns.

About David (misterlaurie@gmail.com – @SICrecords)

After working in music and accidentally writing a book about David Bowie and synthpop, David Laurie turned to his other passion and started trying to write smart, fun, commercial genre movies with original characters and fresh, skewed perspectives. His first screenplay, Small On The Map (now titled That’s Not What Happened), was shortlisted by the TrackingBoard in 2016 and again in the BBC Writers Room in 2017. Now on his fifth feature screenplay, David will be shooting a short film in April 2018.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Ally May with her logline for STUFFED, a drama:

“When the city threatens to condemn their childhood home, a self-righteous realtor over-rules her hoarder sister and cleans house, unearthing long-buried memories and signs of her sister’s mental fragility in the process.”

This idea has so much potential for great family conflict, whimsical flashbacks, and contained storytelling. We would go see this movie!

About Ally (allymay47@gmail.com – @writermother)

Ally May’s screenplay DANDELION WISHES is currently in the top 100 on the Black List. Her screenplays have won top honors in the Page Awards, Fresh Voices, Scriptapalooza, ScreenCraft Comedy, Austin Revolution, ISA Fellowship, and many others. She currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Sonoma.

Next, we have Kyle Spencer with his logline for TERRESTRIAL, an hour pilot:

“After mysteriously crash-landing in 1947 New Mexico, an amnesiac time traveler becomes the catalyst for the Roswell Incident, and to escape government capture, he must fight the man leading the investigation into his sudden appearance–his abusive father.”

This logline could use a bit of trimming, but there are a lot of great story elements here. We especially like how the story turns the famed alien encounter on its head by leaving out the aliens!

About Kyle

(We’ll fill this section in soon!)

The Logline Competition is going on hiatus for at least a month while we work on other exciting projects here at LA Screenwriter. In the meantime, you can always get direct feedback and a professional polish of your logline with our Logline Services.

What a Great Logline Looks Like: January 2018 Edition

The January Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is Ralph Walker with his logline for SOUTHBOUND, a heist dramedy:

“After the untimely death of their father, a soon-to-be-married daughter and her homebody brother attempt to save their sick mother’s taffy shop by robbing millions in coins from Garden State Parkway tollbooths.”

There is so much to love about this idea. Heist movies have been done again and again, but this idea brings in fresh characters, fresh problems, and a fresh setting. We’d see this movie!

About Ralph (ralphwalkerauthor.com@RW_Igloo)

Ralph Walker is an architect and writer from New Jersey. His work has been included in several publications including Uncommon Lands and Into The Ruins, as well as others.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Alex Lange & Scott Davidson with their logline for PAPARAZZO, a half-hour pilot:

“In an attempt to jump-start his career, a humiliated journalist reluctantly becomes a paparazzo and joins forces with a washed up actress eager to eclipse her arch-rival and take Hollywood down along the way.”

This idea has a fresh premise and fun characters. It’s easy to imagine all sorts of laughs, and it’s always fun to tease Hollywood!

About Alex (AELange@gmail.com – @AELange13) & Scott (Scottmichaeldavidson@gmail.com – @SDExperience)

Scott Davidson and Alex Lange are lifelong friends and writing partners from New York. Scott currently works as a director at Nickelodeon, and Alex is an attorney working at a public relations firm. Their pilot, PAPARAZZO, was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Screencraft Pilot Launch contest, and they are looking forward to one day taking this story to Hollywood.

Next, we have Christopher Kühne with his logline for GARLIC BREATH, a drama:

“An ostracized vampire hunter with garlic breath must find a way to cure his long-standing condition so that he can kiss the lady vamp of his dreams without killing her — against the direct orders of his sect.”

There’s something lovable about this absurd, simple premise. We love that this idea takes itself very seriously, but surely it will pack in plenty of chuckles.

About Christopher (christopher.kuhne.writer@gmail.com)

Christopher Kühne is a writer, translator, and fitness trainer originally from Mexico City. Shortly after studying Communications back home, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a degree in film and screenwriting at the New York Film Academy. He’s currently studying film and TV Development at UCLA, and he writes short stories and screenplays when he’s not at the gym or performing magic in the streets.

The February Logline Competition is now open! We have wonderful prizes from Script Pipeline, Virtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, The Hollywood Pitching Bible, and Talentville. Get your loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

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7 Power Adjectives to Strengthen Your Pitch or Logline

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

As writers, words are what make or break us. Our ability to flex a wide vocabulary without alienating the reader can mean the difference between a pitch that opens doors for us and one that lacks anything memorable. While it is usually how we arrange words that determines the strength of our style, having strong words to arrange is a necessary part of the equation.

Adjectives can be an area where writers take short cuts. However, these descriptors can make all the difference when trying to convey the qualities of a character, the intensity of a situation, or the desirability of an external goal. Deafening is more emotionally expressive than very noisyExcruciating affects a reader differently than extremely painful. Even an adjective such as fearless conjures up a different image than a similar word such as brave.

Here are seven power adjectives to consider using when describing the characters, goals, and scenarios in your pitch or logline.

Instinctive

The word instinctive describes a character’s ability to trust their own gut. It suggests that a character may be quite independent and even sometimes operate outside of given expectations. We only learn about the instinctive nature of a character when we see those instincts relied on in difficult situations. If we describe a character as instinctive in a logline or pitch, we infer that the character has been up against challenging circumstances before. The fate of Western Europe hangs on a single decision by the instinctive, newly-elected Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in Darkest Hour.

Horrifying

Horrifying has many uses as a descriptor. While it can suggest something that is truly horrific, such as the death of a child. It can also suggest something comedic, such as accidental nudity. It may also be modified to describe another adjective when suggesting, for instance, a character is horrifyingly unaware. In HBO’s Crashing, a New York comic is forced to make a new start after walking in on his wife in a horrifying sexual encounter with one of her co-workers.

Destitute

Destitution occurs in matters of degrees. It can refer to an individual or a situation. While it can simply describe someone who is poor, it often is used to express an extreme situation. It suggests a lack of options, which creates the type of conflict most desired in storytelling. A destitute salesman takes custody of his son and struggles to build a new life for both of them while homeless in The Pursuit of Happyness.

Ultimate

In one story, a protagonist might be described as the ultimate bad girl. In another, he may be described as the ultimate playboy. In still other stories, the character might search after the ultimate artifact of antiquity. The word ultimate suggest that a person or item is uncommon, unusual, and to be taken note of. These are the ideas, of course, we build stories around. In The Handmaid’s Tale, a woman is forced to live under the ultimate theocratic dictatorship.

Dashing

Historically, the word dashing has been used as a masculine descriptor, though the word has been freed from such patriarchy and is now used to describe the charm or charisma of any character. The words dazzling and enchanting have been similarly used in feminine contexts but also can be used without concerns for gender identity, and may be more appropriate than dashing in the context of your pitch. In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the dashing Madge is pushed from her comfort zone as a 1950s mother and housewife into the burgeoning New York stand-up comedy scene.

Plucky

When a character has shown courage in the face of difficulties, we describe her as plucky. The adjective suggests a certain independence and even quirkiness about the character it describes. It paints the picture of someone who cares less about what is thought of them than being true to themselves. In Lady Bird, a plucky seventeen-year-old girl overcomes her suffocating environment in order to fully be herself.

Shrewd

The word shrewd sometimes calls to mind the image of a businessperson who is more concerned with capitalistic motivations than anything else. However, the word actually refers to someone’s keen powers of judgement – their ability to be astute. A shopper can be just as shrewd as a merchant. In The Florida Project, a shrewd hotel manager bonds with tenants while trying to keep their problematic behavior at bay.

~

John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

8 More Power Verbs That Will Strengthen Your Pitch or Logline

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

Last year, I discussed eight verbs that would make your pitch or logline more commanding. That post ended up being one of the most popular articles I’ve written.

For review, the verbs used in your pitch should be both external and visual. Many writers begin with an internal process or journey as the core of their story. While countless narratives originate with feelings, philosophical beliefs, and experiences in life where we have learned something, eventually those concepts must be externalized if they are to become visual stories on the screen. ‘Power verbs’ assure the execution of a character’s internal journey. They provide insights into what we will see the protagonist actually do on screen. They also stir interest in the mind of the listener hearing the pitch and invite their curiosity. Here are eight more ‘power verbs’ to bolster your logline from being weak and toothless to enchanting and captivating.

Delivers

Bringing an object, a person, or information to people that need it requires the delivery of those things, usually against great odds and conflict. In The Post, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks deliver government secrets to the public in the name of holding powerful individuals accountable for questionable actions. The delivering of the secrets represents the entire external goal of our protagonists.

Extracts

Extracting something or someone from a difficult environment or circumstances can be a richer way of saying a protagonist is rescuing something or someone. In The Shape of Water, Sally Hawkins extracts the amphibian man from the lab of his captors. Extraction suggests the necessity of the time it takes to rescue someone. Where a rescue may be quick and sloppy, extraction requires precision and accuracy.

Launches

Simply beginning a process lacks the urgency that the word launch suggests. Frances McDormand launches a campaign that becomes a personal revolution in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriLaunching something indicates a sense of speed and motion. It can be powerful when associated with a character’s actions.

Mobilizes

Assembling a team or a plan can be a tedious process. However, when a protagonist mobilizes a group or series of ideas, we imagine military-like actions on the part of the character. Hugh Jackman mobilizes a team of people who have been made to feel lesser in their society to create something powerful in The Greatest Showman.

Navigates

Stories where the protagonist is a victim of circumstances or constantly faced with challenges that happen to them can be difficult and sometimes disengaging for audiences. We connect with characters who have agency. Jessica Chastain navigates the legal system, while keeping the gambling underworld at bay in Molly’s GameNavigation suggests a sense of complication as a character moves through the narrative, efficiently communicating action and opening up the imagination.

Defeats

Some of the oldest tales involve a character winning a battle of some sort. When a character does win a skirmish, using the verb defeat does two things. First, it suggests a more powerful victory rather than just inching out a win. Second, it invites a mention of who was defeated – the antagonistic force. Chadwick Boseman defeats a savvy legal prosecutor and the unjust system he represents in Marshall.

Persuades

Persuasion can be tricky in a narrative, as it’s a process that takes place in someone’s mind. However, persuading someone can also be an external action that requires active participation on the part of the protagonist. Jacob Tremblay persuades children to see him for who he really is in WonderPersuading often involves the use of dialogue. However, writers should be cautious not to rely too heavily on words when actions can communicate more effectively.

Procures

Rescuing someone or something can be a powerful action in a story. The word rescue indicates a sense of action, which may be wonderful if that fits the story you are telling. However, if the rescue requires patient calculations and waiting, the verb procure may be more accurate and fitting. Michelle Williams procures her son from kidnappers in All the Money in the World. Using language that most efficiently and mightily communicates the visual storytelling in your narrative will hook the eyes of those that read and the ears of those that hear your pitch.

~

John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

What a Great Logline Looks Like: December 2017 Edition

The December Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is Ethan Mantel with his logline for 2 B3ATS: IN THE B3AT-GINNING, a mockumentary:

When their generic techno track somehow goes viral, two stubborn amateur DJs struggle to hold together a slapdash road tour through middle America to prove they deserve more than fifteen seconds of fame.”

This idea will certainly draw comparisons to other music mockumentaries, but it approaches the genre in a different way and offers loads of opportunities for great comedy.

About Ethan (ethan.mantel@gmail.com – @eman21 Medium)

Having grown up in LA, Ethan Mantel has been working with movies for more than a decade. Whether he’s in front of the camera or behind it, Ethan’s excited by all parts of the craft of filmmaking. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, he moved to NYC, developing his writing through Upright Citizens Brigade sketch comedy classes, producing a short film, and most recently, documenting his screenwriting struggles on Medium. As his day job, Ethan leads the YouTube influencer marketing program at a startup.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Fauzia Algarni with her logline for DIVORCE THEORY, a dramedy:

“With his secret creditors demanding payment, a weary husband spends the night convincing his loving wife that couples should break up at the peak of their happiness, aiming to get a divorce before dawn.”

This unique idea has a lot to offer. It’s contained, it has high stakes, and — if executed well — it should deliver all sorts of provocative thoughts on relationships.

About Fauzia (@arab_comic – hagawii45@gmail.com)

Fauzia Algarni is a freelance screenwriter from Saudi Arabia with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She is taking courses in screenwriting online while working on her own projects. Fauzia is committed to this field and passionate to reach the ultimate goal of “Oscar.”

Next, we have Nicola Ralph with her logline for THE UNEXPECTED, a horror:

When a gruesome amphibian monster viciously attacks two bright-eyed teenagers, the siblings inadvertently lead it back to a burgeoning town where their attempts to warn others get stalled by the town’s shadiest residents.

We like the twist at the end of this logline with the shady residents. That twist takes this from a simple monster movie to potentially something truly, well, unexpected!

About Nicola (@NicolaRalph1 – ralph.nicola@yahoo.co.uk)

Nicola Ralph is a UK screenwriter of Sci-Fi/Horror. She was a 2015 Quarter Finalist in the ScreenCraft Sci-Fi Screenplay Contest and a Finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest — a contest in which she reached the finals three times with different screenplays.

The January Logline Competition is now open! We have wonderful prizes from Script Pipeline, Virtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, The Hollywood Pitching Bible, and Talentville. Get your loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

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What a Great Logline Looks Like: November 2017 Edition

The November Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is Evan Schullery with his logline for THE NEW SCHOOL, a thriller:

“Terrified of the next mass shooting, an embattled veteran teacher at a rural high school obsesses over a troubled new student, but when her warnings go unheeded, her commitment to protecting the school grows increasingly unhinged.”

This idea feels timely, unique, and certainly thrilling. This could easily be a contained thriller with a lot of twists and turns, and producers love that.

About Evan (@skinnycoolkid – Evan@tailormademedia.com  www.tailormademedia.com)

Evan began writing screenplays in 2000 at Ithaca College’s film program. He interned at Malcolm in the Middle in 2002 and has been writing various material ever since. He currently works as a mental health supervisor in a large school district outside of Philadelphia and was inspired to write The New School during a lengthy lockdown drill. Evan also works in Development at Tailor Made Media, a film production company in West Chester, PA. In addition to screenplays, Evan writes and performs music as “Skinny Cool Kid.”

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Fauzia Algarni with her logline for ZOHARI CHILDREN, a crime drama:

A blind mother who lost her little girl 34 years ago works with a jaded FBI agent to catch the still-active kidnappers — treasure hunters who use the blood of special children to locate their riches.

We like the twist that this story has a mystical element. This story could go lots of different ways, and they’re all exciting. This plot stands out from the crowd.

About Fauzia (@arab_comic – hagawii45@gmail.com)

Fauzia Algarni is a freelance screenwriter from Saudi Arabia with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She is taking courses in screenwriting online while working on her own projects, a sci-fi comedy and a TV pilot, along with this project. Fauzia is committed to this field and passionate to reach the ultimate goal of “Oscar.”

Next, we have David Ho with his logline for VAMPIRES IN VEGAS, a horror comedy:

“Proud, in-fighting courtesans must band together to beat off a group of handsome travelers who saunter into their remote desert brothel when the travelers start showing their teeth.”

We like the intentionally campy feel of this logline. This story isn’t particularly original, but there’s lots of potential for fun, raunchy comedy, and horror here.

About David (Stage 32)

David Ho is a Chicago-based screenwriter who has written three features and several shorts. One of his shorts, “The Portrait,” was made into a short film that David hopes to submit to festivals.

The December Logline Competition is now open! We have wonderful prizes from Script Pipeline, Virtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, The Hollywood Pitching Bible, and Talentville. Get your loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

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8 Verbs that Will Strengthen Your Pitch or Logline

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

A listener will usually know in the first ten seconds of hearing about your story if their curiosity has been piqued or not. Every word should be chosen wisely when pitching your idea. However, no other part of the pitch has as much potential to invite the listener in as the action of the protagonist. What are we going to see the character actually do in the story?

It can be highly tempting to use verbs that describe an inner process as opposed to ones that speak to the visuals we will see on screen. Any time we mention that a protagonist realizeslearns, or recognizes something in our pitch, a red flag should go up. These are all actions that happen inside the character’s psyche and must be accompanied by external actions if we are to know these processes have taken place.

Here are eight power verbs that will strengthen your story pitch or logline and leave little doubt in the mind of your audience that the character is actually going to accomplish something over the course of the narrative.

CHOOSE

Forcing a protagonist to choose between two equally compelling or less than compelling options is a sure way to bring significant conflict to that character’s world. These sorts of decisions are universal and we all relate to being in such situations. In Thank You For Your Service, war veteran Adam Schumann must decide between getting the help he needs immediately or instead letting a friend, who might need it more, take his place.

BUILD

A politician named Sam Rayburn once said that any jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a carpenter to build one. When a protagonist is tasked with building something, it speaks to the quality of who she or he is. It tells us that that character comes with qualifications and that other characters must trust that person. Ray Kinsella is tasked with building a baseball stadium in Field of Dreams. The goal of creating this magical space is enough to powerfully drive the entire journey of all the characters involved.

CONQUER

One of the oldest actions to occur in storytelling happens when one group of characters tries to overcome another. This archetypal pattern is the basis for most military and sports films, as well as stories that involve one class of people attempting to win something from another. Kingsman: The Golden Circle has the Kingsman joining forces with an allied spy organization in the United States to conquer a common enemy.

ESCAPE

Another ancient model for crafting a narrative is based around an individual or group that must escape another. Sometimes the scale of the escape is large, as with soldiers who must make it to the border of a dangerous territory. Other times, the scale is personal, as with a lover who must escape their abusive partner. In Panic Room, Meg Altman and her daughter must escape from their own home when three men break in looking for a missing fortune.

CAPTURE

As with an escape, the scale of a capture can vary. A protagonist may be tasked with capturing a villain on the run or simply the heart of another character. When what must be captured is an object, it often must be found first – leaving the capture to occur in the third act. When the capture involves a person, the goal may be accomplished sooner, allowing us to observe the ramifications of the capture afterwards. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Captain Jack Sparrow must capture the trident of Poseidon while on the run from the ghost of another pirate.

PREVENT

Many of the most impactful stories are not about a protagonist accomplishing something at all, but rather stopping another character from accomplishing something. These types of narratives are most effective when a deadline is in play, motivating the protagonist to prevent the antagonist’s actions before they cause damage to innocent characters. Shameless revolves around protagonist Fiona Gallagher trying to prevent the destruction of her family from forces both within and outside the house.

SOLVE

While the entire mystery genre is built around this action, what must be solved varies from story to story and even expands beyond the realms of this genre. Sometimes what must be examined is the past in order to make sense of the present. Other times, the plot of a story involves getting to the bottom of who another character is. In Mindhunter, two FBI agents attempt to solve the mystery behind what causes serial killers to commit their monstrous acts.

SAVE

While often a protagonist may be tasked with saving a tradition, a building, or a relationship, audiences can rarely resist a narrative that involves saving another person – even if that person is the protagonist herself. The Mountain Between Us takes a unique spin on this classic story by combining two characters into a situation where they must save themselves and each other, as their environment becomes more treacherous and their relationship grows.

~

John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

What a Great Logline Looks Like: October 2017 Edition

The October Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is Nicola Ralph with her logline for THE BURDEN, a horror:

“A family on the brink of financial ruin inherits an estranged uncle’s home, but they discover too late what led to their uncle’s untimely end when a demonic presence in the home begins feeding on their terror.”

This is a solid contained horror idea. We like the idea of a demon that feeds off of people’s terror — the potential for intense terror here is excellent.

About Nicola (@NicolaRalph1 – ralph.nicola@yahoo.co.uk)

Nicola Ralph is UK screenwriter of Sci-Fi/Horror. She was a 2015 Quarter Finalist in the ScreenCraft Sci-Fi Screenplay Contest and a Finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest — a contest in which she reached the finals three times with different screenplays.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Ryan Austin with his logline for FIRST DATE, FIRST CONTACT, a sci-fi rom-com:

On the worst first date ever, an overly-sensitive man and a gruff Texas woman get abducted by aliens and must help the invaders reconcile with another war-hungry alien race in order to save the galaxy — and finally part ways.

This one is a lot of fun, and we love how it combines sci-fi with rom-com. That genre mashup alone makes this feel fresh, and the idea itself has great opportunities for both comedy and romance.

About Ryan (ryanraustin@gmail.com – @ryan_r_austin)

Ryan Austin is a writer focused on telling stories about love. No genre is safe from an uplifting, positive injection of romance.

Next, we have J. Jermaine Jones with his logline for THE KANDAHAR MAN, a horror:

After the massacre of her patrol unit by a legendary wild man, a critically wounded battlefield medic must find a way to radio for help before she bleeds out — or gets discovered by the wild man — in the deserts of Afghanistan.

This idea feels terrifying, and it’s also contained. We love how it brings together the genres of war films and horror. Another fresh mashup with all sorts of potential!

About J. Jermaine (jjjermaine1@aol.com)

J. Jermaine Jones is a Lowndes County, Georgia, resident who has been writing for over twenty years, including screenplays, graphic novels, and short stories. He has aspirations of being a heavy-hitter writer/director in Hollywood to bring more influential stories to the big screen and inspirational change to people’s lives.

The November Logline Competition is now open! We have wonderful prizes from Script Pipeline, Virtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, The Hollywood Pitching Bible, and Talentville. Get your loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

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What a Great Logline Looks Like: September 2017 Edition

The September Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is Callum Ramsay with his logline for PLAN C, a comedy:

Desperate to continue his extravagant lifestyle, a broke, washed-up crime writer enlists his crazy-yet-well-mannered stalker to help him recreate a bank robbery from his only best-selling book.”

This is easy to imagine as a big summer release. The idea is high concept, original, and clearly comedic. We’d go see this movie!

About Callum (callum_ramsay@yahoo.co.uk)

Callum Ramsay lives in Perth Australia where he works as a high-pressure water blaster on offshore oil and gas platforms. Callum is currently taking a professional script writing course with two assessments left before completion. He hopes to start writing scripts as a career in the near future.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Morgan Lietz with his logline for SINS OF OUR MOTHERS, a dramedy:

“A few weeks before the biggest hit of his career, an introverted contract killer begrudgingly lets his estranged, dying mother move in, forcing him to keep his secrets–and bodies–buried.”

This one harks back to other classic comedies about killers, but it brings something new to the table. Another great, simple idea that’s easy to imagine on the big screen.

About Morgan (lietznm@gmail.com)

Morgan Lietz is a 22-year-old undergrad student from southern California with a deep passion for writing, partly due to the fact that his brain was unable to fully compute math and sciences post-twelfth grade. Morgan is still an amateur within the field of screenwriting, but he hopes that his continued practice of writing (combined with hundreds of hours of memorized film quotes circling around his brain) will one day help him succeed in creating a full feature film.

Next, we have Simon Chapman with his logline for REDUX, an hour sci-fi pilot:

“A disillusioned priest discovers an alien spacecraft capable of altering reality and uses it to impose his vision of paradise on the world, but the unintended consequences of his “fixes” give rise to a deadly government manhunt for this unwanted savior.

This feels fresh, timely, and full of possibility. This logline manages to pack in quite a bit of plot and character. It feels like a whole story world, which is perfect for TV.

About Simon (crayoncreative@hushmail.com)

Based in Sydney, Australia, Simon Christopher Chapman is a Communications post-graduate who worked for five years at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra before pursuing a career in acting and writing. He has written and produced several short films and is currently writing a children’s book and feature film screenplay.

The October Logline Competition is now open! We have wonderful prizes from Script Pipeline, Virtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, The Hollywood Pitching Bible, and Talentville. Get your loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

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