Those arguing that American Beauty didn't have a great logline shall rejoice! (Well, not really).
Today's post is going back to that age old nightmare - loglines. When I look through the amateur submissions to see what I'm going to review every Friday, I often find myself saying, "How in the world did this writer think this was a good idea??" I know that's harsh but spending months (or even years) on a bad idea is one of the worst mistakes you can make as a screenwriter. So I try to be harsh. Because I don't want you, the aspiring screenwriter, wasting hours your life on something that nobody's going to read.
On top of this, I continue to get loglines that don't make sense, that are grammatically incorrect, or that are loaded with spelling mistakes. It's one thing to mistake a bad idea for a good one, but it's another to screw up the one sentence you're using to sell your screenplay. I mean it's only one sentence!!! And you spelled a word wrong? Or worded it in a funny way? Why haven't you gone over this line hundreds of times? Why haven't you sent it out to all your friends and have them proofread it for you?? This is your shot to get read. Don't give anyone a reason to say no.
Having said that, there are logline-unfriendly scripts. American Beauty is a logline unfriendly script. The Help is a logline-unfriendly script. The Kids Are All Right is a logline-unfriendly script. As are Milk, Babel, There Will Be Blood, and Atonement. Not every script is going to have that "I have to read it now" logline. But what I will say is that unless you're a known entity who has worked in this business for awhile, rarely will anyone read your logline-unfriendly script. They just won't. They can see from the logline that it's going to be a hard sell. History's also taught them that scripts from unknowns usually suck. So why would they waste their time on a script that's probably going to suck and even if it turns out good is going to be impossible to sell?
But Scriptshadow to the rescue! I'm going to offer up the loglines that you, the readers, have submitted, and let you, the readers, decide whether they're review worthy or not - irregardless of any of those funky industry standards. I'm going to post the first 10 pages for you as well so that even logline-unfriendly scripts get a shot to pull you in. Whichever scripts are getting the most heat in the comments section, those are the ones I'll review for next week. And hey, hopefully we'll find something great!
Now while you're looking through these, I want you to be aware of the "But I'm different" bias. This is a common problem us writers have where we believe that even though our logline isn't very good, we're different because we've been writing longer or we're a better writer or we have a cool third act twist. As you look through these, imagine your own logline in there. Does it sound as uninteresting as the majority of these? Try to be totally objective. Would you pick up your script off your logline if it was sent to you amongst a sea of other submissions?
As a reminder, most managers, agents, and producers gravitate towards three types of loglines. Loglines with some sort of conflict - note, these are not full loglines, just synopses - (A small beach town must battle with an influx of shark attacks), some sort of high concept (A cyborg is sent back in time to prevent the birth of the man who will one day lead the resistance against his kind), or some sort of irony (A genius MIT janitor is recruited by the university's top mathematician). The only exception to this is personal preference. If you're covering subject matter that the receiving party is partial to, they might take a chance on your script even if the logline stinks. So if you send your otherwise unexciting tennis concept to a tennis nut, they might still read it. But, as you can guess, that avenue is completely dependent on luck.
So, now that you've ingested all that, here are 30 loglines to choose from, including the first 10 pages of each. If any of these loglines or First Tens excite you, make sure to talk about them in the comments section, which I'll be watching closely. Whatever gets the most reaction/interest is what I'll review. And don't bring in your friends to tip the scales in your favor. I always get suspicious when a bunch of random new commenters love an idea, that something fishy's going on. Otherwise, just give us your opinion on these loglines (or pages). Oh, and I DID NOT filter these ideas. They're all randomly submitted loglines for my Amateur Friday slot.
After moving to a quiet town, a young family's new neighbor; with a disturbing past, becomes instantly infatuated with the wife and young daughter. When his sexual advances are rebuffed, his warped psyche spins frighteningly out of control.
Would I read? - This has some nice conflict built into the logline. A contained and easy to imagine scenario. Can see the poster. Could be good if the writing's good. I might check this one out.
To stop terrorists from destroying New York City, a rookie bodyguard must take an experimental drug that reverses time.
Would I read? - Very high concept. A little confused why they'd send a bodyguard back in time, but this is another idea I can see the poster for. I'd give it a shot.
The Legend Of Spring Heeled Jack
An aristocratic woman born for marriage disguises herself as a man in order to join the London metropolitan police force and catch the infamous serial killer known as Spring Heeled Jack.
Would I read? - Hmm, not sure why we're including that this woman is born for marriage. What does that have to do with the concept? Also, "metropolitan" seems extraneous. Makes me think the writing is going to be extraneous. With that said, serial killer movies sell, so if this were good, you never know what might come of it. I MIGHT give this a shot.
When an experimental male-enhancement drug turns all the men in town into sex-crazed zombies, it's up to a rag-tag band of women to survive the assault and stop the epidemic from spreading.
Would I read? - I don't know. This sounds a little too goofy to me. It is a zombie take I haven't seen before, so I'll give it that. But otherwise, it's just too broad for my taste.
Time and Time Again
Only one man can help fiery-tempered Louis save multiple universes from destruction and rescue his kidnapped wife... her lover.
Would I read? - We do have a high-ish sounding concept here, but some things worry me. What does being "fiery-tempered" have to do with this story that it's so important it be included in the logline? It just feels random. Plus, the ending confuses me. Who's "her lover?" Is that Louis' lover? Isn't Louis a man?? I never want to read the script for any logline that confuses me.
While investigating the disappearance of her best friend, a college coed and group of Amish teens on 'rumspringa' encounter a monster out of Penn Dutch folklore that preys on wayward kids.
Would I read? - There's nothing exactly wrong with this logline, so maybe it's just not a genre I'm interested in? A monster that preys on wayward kids seems kinda random so I probably wouldn't open it up.
A mysterious boy brings together a racially charged small town before the Mayor's son kills him.
Would I read? - I'm not sure this logline was very well thought-through. It's almost as if it was thrown together right before it was sent. A logline should tell a story. But this one just tells us a boy does something good and then he dies. There is some conflict implied (racially charged town and a clearly unhappy Mayor's son) but it's thrown together so haphazardly that it makes me question if the script itself will follow the same sloppy formula. Wouldn't pick it up.
An alcoholic mother living in a desolate town must protect her teenage daughter when a man she tormented as a child shows up looking for blood.
Would I read? - The logline implies a sort of "History of Violence" vibe, which could be cool. There's a clear line of conflict here. But there's something a bit plain about it. I might pick this up if I'd just read 15 bad loglines in a row and was tired of looking for something to read, but it doesn't have that 'wow' factor that makes me want to read it RIGHT NOW.
Dark Side Of The Moon
A depressed young writer, spiraling down to a suicide attempt, discovers he may only be a character in a movie – the worst reviewed movie of the year.
Would I read? - First think I notice is how depressing this sounds. The "may be a character in a movie" thing is kind of interesting, even if it's been done many times before. What concerns me is the end, which states, "the worst reviewed movie of the year," which places us in comedy territory, something that's not included in the genre. That worries me. Probably wouldn't pick this up.
A poker pro on death row gets a chance at freedom on the live comeback TV show of a cruel, disgraced Idol judge
Would I read? - This is what I call a "too many disjointed elements" logline. A poker pro. Death row. Chance at freedom via a reality show. By a disgraced Idol judge (American Idol?). What does an American Idol judge have to do with poker reality shows? Why would a poker pro be on death row? This logline is all over the place - too unfocused - which tells me the script will be the same. Wouldn't pick this up.
A detective delves into an investigation following the murder of a teenage boy in the quintessential 1950's American suburbs, unaware of the secrets buried behind the veneer of this picture perfect society. (*Note: intended to imitate the style of classic '40s-'50s film noir)
Would I read? - Put simply, this isn't my thing. So I wouldn't pick it up for that reason alone. The investigation of a murdered boy gives the story some structure, but I'm not sure the murder of a boy in the 50s is unique enough to warrant a read, even if I was a big noir fan. This idea needs something extra.
The Lasso Man
Genre not given
The protag: Andy, a London kid. Whose passion with the lariat accompanies him through many escapades: Some hilarious,some compassionate and moving, life affirming, life changing and life saving. As the war clouds gather in the late 1930’s. his sister forges his birth certificate at age 17 so he can join the R.A.F and become a fighter pilot.
Would I read? - Whoa, lots wrong here. Starting your logline with "The Protag:" already screams amateur. Then you have a period after "kid" when there should be a comma. That's two punctuation mistakes and an odd sentence beginning all within the first seven words. Writer needs to go back to basics - study punctuation, grammar and sentence structure before submitting anything.
When a man involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident learns the victim is his brother's wife, he must decide whether coming clean and appeasing his conscience is worth the risk of shattering his family.
Would I read? - An intriguing situation. Some implied dramatic irony. There's definitely a story here. Is it big enough? Can the writer create a compelling enough second act to keep us interested long enough to get to the end? That's to be determined but I might give this one a shot.
The Gentleman's Prestige
An insecure homeless man puts everything on the line when he enters a male beauty pageant in hopes of proving to his talented family that he's not a loser.
Would I read? - I'm confused by writers who keep placing these trivial adjectives in their loglines to describe their protagonists. What does being "insecure" have to do with this idea? Had the writer said, "unbearably ugly," that would've had more relevance, since he's entering a beauty pageant. Regardless, there's something about this idea that feels off. Homeless man in a beauty pageant. I can imagine a couple of funny scenes that might come out of that, but not an entire movie. Probably wouldn't read this.
A henchman for a terrorist group sees a chance at redemption when he's inspired to write a story. But before he can develop his newfound talent, he not only has to flee the group, but also confront his worst fear: the hero hell-bent on eliminating the terrorists, including him.
Would I read? - Hmm, this logline feels unbalanced and confused. A henchman who decides to write a story doesn't sound very cinematic or interesting. Main characters who are writers are rarely interesting since writing is (as I'm sure you guys know) pretty boring to watch! Also, why do terrorist groups need henchmen? Aren't they, almost by definition, henchmen? When I have too many confused questions, I'm not picking up the script.
A twenty something signs up as a weapons tester in a high-tech duel to wipe his debt, but to get his pay he must defeat his next opponent--an adversary he can't seem to kill.
Would I read? - This logline suffers from being too vague. A "twenty something?" Can we come up with a protagonist we can actually visualize? How about "A genius computer hacker?" Also, the ending kills this logline: "An adversary he can't seem to kill." Way way waaaay too general. You need to be more specific.
Geek and Destroy
Two sexy female spies turn the world’s largest video game convention upside down when they are hired to steal a hard-drive containing millions of dollars worth of online weapons.
Would I read? - Clever title. Very important since if a writer can make me laugh at the title of his script, there's a good chance he'll be able to make me laugh in the script. I've read these comic-con-type heist scripts before, so that's a strike against the writer, but this is the comedy with the most promise so far. I might read the first ten pages.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl
"High School" Horror
When indecisive high school student, Charlie, falls for a beautiful, enigmatic older woman she turns out to be a homicidal maniac.
Would I read? - Hmmm, something's not adding up here. What does a pixie dream girl have to do with an older woman? Is she the pixie dream girl? How does that work? Are we dealing with a "woman" or a "girl?" Also, there's a comma missing after "woman," which may only be a comma, but there are only 21 words in this logline. It shouldn't be hard to get all the commas where they need to be. Finally, the "homicidal maniac" portion of the logline seems to come out of nowhere and therefore feels random.
Bond Of Blood
Contemporary telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son, set in modern day South Africa.
Would I read? - This is a very general synopsis of the story, not a logline. There's no conflict or irony implied anywhere. There's not even a main character. On top of that, it feels really heavy, and therefore boring. I would rewrite this sucker with a focus on trying to make the story sound as exciting as possible, because it very well might be. I'd just never know after reading this logline.
After a horrifying vision, the town drunk finds a purpose in protecting the locals of a sleepy southern community from a mysterious tree and its fruit that addicts all who taste of it. His resolve is challenged when it appears something more insidious may be using the fruit as a vessel from their world into ours, and the people as the final gateway.
Would I read? - I don't know. There's something here. But the ending of this logline really kills it. It just dissolves into general muckery. "...the fruit as a vessel from their world into ours, and the people as the final gateway." Plus, this is pitched as a creature feature and yet I don't see the creature in the logline! Wouldn't pick it up.
With temperamental technology thwarting them at every turn, three brothers get tangled up in love, lust and infidelity.
Would I read? - This is one of the most confusing loglines of the 30. I'm not sure I have any idea what this script is about. What's "temperamental technology?" That seems to be the hook of the concept yet I don't know what it means. And what does "Pocket Dialing" have to do with what's stated in the logline? Then the three brothers getting tangled up in problems is way too general. Wouldn't pick this one up.
A washed up major league pitcher is blackmailed into a scheme to steal one of baseball's most coveted pieces of memorabilia, Barry Bond's 73rd home run ball, the very same ball he threw to Bond's that fateful night.
Would I read? - There appears to be some irony in that the pitcher who pitched to Bonds must now steal the home run ball he hit off him, but there's something very low-stakes about it. I start thinking about things like, "Is this ball really that important anymore?" Hasn't the whole steroids thing destroyed the value of memorabilia like this? Feels like we need to go deeper into history here - a home run ball hit by Maris or Gherig. In the writer's defense, my reaction to this feels personal, not so much a judgement of the logline itself.
The Power Of Max
Max wants to be with Emma, but first he has to get past Ricardo...and survive an alien invasion.
Would I read? - This is one of those loglines that really doesn't tell us much, but then hits us with the shocking wild ending. Whether that ending inspires you to pick up the script is up to the individual. Unfortunately, this sounds a little too random to me. Why does he have to get past "Ricardo?" Who's Ricardo? That information seems important. And I'd personally like a little more set-up as to why there's an alien invasion. Wouldn't pick this one up.
The Suicide Theory
A disgraced former New York cop must track down the man who shot the Mayor in order to uncover the truth about an identical case that led to his own downfall three years earlier.
Would I read? - This is not my thing but I do like the idea of a man hunting down a criminal who ruined his life to clear his name. That personal journey tells me the main character would probably be pretty interesting. This would have to be written well, but I'd read the first 10 pages.
Like Father, Like Daughter
The hunter for extraterrestrial animals has to take his teenage daughter with him in search for traces of an alien civilization. The adventures they experience together give them an opportunity to fix their family relationships.
Would I read? - Some grammar mistakes in this one. Not "The hunter" but "A hunter." Not "relationships" but "relationship." Some of these elements have potential, like extraterrestrial animals and alien civilizations, but they don't really come together in a cohesive natural way in this logline, so I probably wouldn't open it.
Chase The Night
On his 25th birthday, a troubled orphan receives information about his estranged mother, sending him into a world of corruption as he investigates the circumstances behind her life and death.
Would I read? - It's not "must read now" material, but I like the idea of orphans having to come face to face with the lives of their real parents, and this story seems to take that to the extreme. This is something I'd probably read the first ten pages for mainly because the last 15 options have been so lackluster.
A broken-hearted young woman is told by a psychic that she'll never find true love if she doesn't get over her ex-boyfriend by her 25th birthday...which is one month away.
Would I read? - The premise feels a little forced, but then these romantic comedy ideas usually do. I like the ticking time bomb here, which creates a lot of urgency. If we love the main character and really want her to find true love, this might work. But if she's just an amalgam of all the other romantic comedy protagonists we've come to know throughout the years, Breakup Rehab could find itself dumped. I might open this.
A group of men are hired by a mysterious client to remove Jim Morrison’s casket, give it to him for 24 hours and then return the casket into the ground before it is publicly exhumed to be moved to the United States.
Would I read? - Personally, I'm not a Jim Morrison fan, which pretty much takes me out of the running for reading this. Also, I'm not sure the general mystery of someone wanting to exhume his casket for 24 hours gets me very excited. Maybe if something was added like, "...to see if his body was really inside," that would at least provide a more specific storyline. Will be curious to see if Jim Morrison fans think this sounds interesting but it's not my thing.
U.S.S. NIKOLA TESLA
The American Navy's latest destroyer, the USS Nikola Tesla, disappears without trace. Two years later she reappears with no sign of her crew. But no one realises this ship holds a dark secret that dates back to World War Two and a horrifying experiment.
Would I read? - Hmmm. I've seen the whole "ship disappears and then reappears years later" idea before. I mean, we've seen it as early Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. So I'm wondering if there's anything new here to mine. I might thumb through the first few pages to see if the writing was strong, but despite this being high concept, the familiar-factor would probably keep me from picking it up.
A bottomed-out actor takes a Vision Quest to reasses his life – one week in the wild without women or booze – and is targeted by a sexy forest ranger with exotic, uh, tastes.
Would I read? - Why does the main character need to be an actor? Wouldn't it be more ironic if he was a businessman who's never left the city? That would make him more of a fish out of water. I'm also not sure what a "Vision Quest" is. Isn't that a video game? Is the "one week in the wild without women or booze" the definition of a "Vision Quest?" If so, why is it not placed right after "Vision Quest?" The elements don't quite come together naturally here so I probably wouldn't open this.
And that's it folks. Read what you can and discuss your thoughts in the comments section!