Screenplay Loglines Revisited
May 22nd, 2014
I received lots of positive e-mails in response to the Logline Lottery blog entry. So, feeling akin to Stan Freberg, I dug into the trunk to present another blast from the past. Like the previous entry, I invited some industry friends to comment on the loglines too.
(*** Note this article is from Lockhart's blog Two Adverbs and is republished with his permission.)
A faithless bounty hunter with a death wish is, unbeknownst to him, hired by God and Satan to travel the world and stop a modern-day version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from getting their hands on a pure element that would turn them into living gods.
There are some interesting elements here. However, as a whole, this doesn’t quite intrigue. The notion of God and Satan conferring on this mission is good. (How would this be dramatized?) And I like the idea of the bounty hunter (a touch of CONSTANTINE). But it gets a bit murky with the “stakes.” The notion of a “pure element” is unclear – as is “living gods.”
Maybe this would have been more effective, overall, if it were rooted in something more specific (even iconic) – like let’s say (as an example) a WESTERN. So, using all the archetypes of a western, a bounty hunter – hired by God & Satan – struggles to apprehend the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…. As presented in the logline, we don’t get a sense of the world, the stakes or the whole picture. And it feels a bit generic. PASS
A bright teenage loser moves into the world's first "smart" suburbia -- an all-American town where every whim is met through computers. After bonding with a misfit genius who hacks the technology to manipulate residents' lives, the lonely teen uses the system to achieve more than just fun and games: He sets out to win the girl of his dreams, and soon learns that you can never substitute genuine humanity with technology.
Seems a little “busy.” There is a bit of a disconnect here in regards to the relation between computers and the characters. Are the resident’s connected to computers? Is there some sort of wireless service? How are the denizens manipulated by computer technology? (Is this literal or figurative?) In order for this logline to work, we need to understand this. But the explanation would have to be concise. Because we don’t understand the “technology” here, it’s difficult to understand the actions of the protagonist. Does he sit behind a computer for the whole movie and manipulate the girl?
There could be an interesting idea here, but it doesn’t come to the surface. The writer isn’t able to allow the reader to visual/conceptualize his story. That’s an important element that needs to be worked out. Wasn’t the titled used by the John Belushi biography? PASS.
In order to pay for the expenses to cure his ailing son's disease, a grandfather recruits members of his retirement community to pull a sting on a national lottery.
First thought here is why the “grandfather?” How old are we talking? And how many grandfatherly actors can open a movie? (I doubt Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery or Clint Eastwood would want to play grandfathers.) As presented here, the logline doesn’t pop. That mechanism may be in the nature of the “sting” itself, which we hope is amusing and clever. Perhaps the logline needs to offer some insight into the nature of the crime.
If the nature of the “sting” isn’t all that interesting then this could be a tough sell. The concept is cute but could lack a feature film quality. The concept has some precedent in films like GOING IN STYLE with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg about elderly bank robbers and the more recent THE CREW, which didn’t fare well at the box-office. WEAK CONSIDER.
After an eight year old girl accidentally switches bodies and worlds with a disobedient boogeyman she has 24 hours to make it home or be trapped in his world forever. But first she must overcome her fear of the dark and masquerade as the little monster, pass a frightening boogeyman exam and outwit two boogeyland bullies while the boogeyman must survive a "nightmare" of his own...an all-girl slumber party.
This logline could have stopped after “…in his world forever,” if it had been a bit more precise. It should be perfectly clear from the get-go that the girl and the boogeyman swap lives. We don’t get that info until we learn about the slumber party. The word “boogeyman” makes the character sound like an adult. But the logline suggests he’s actually a boy. (I guess a “boogeyboy.”) Is that the case? (A little confused here.) The concept that a human child switches bodies and worlds with a boogey-child stirs up more intrigue than switching places with a boogeyman. However, the idea of a boogeyman (or boy) attending an all-girl slumber party doesn’t work for me because we don’t know anything about boogey-people. For instance, are little girls part of their diet? It seems like you’d get the same response if a human boy attended an all-girl slumber party.
I think there is some potential here. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to split the story between girl as boogeyman and boogeyman as girl. In order for these scripts to work – regardless if the characters are humans or monsters – we must know the worlds and status quo of each character before the flip. Then when it’s flipped around, we understand the misadventures that ensue. But audiences will be familiar with the girl’s world and not the boogeyman’s world – and may find the latter far more interesting. The juggling act here must be done with a lot of skill. In its current state: PASS.
About the Author
Christopher Lockhart is a Hollywood executive, producer and teacher. For the last 16 years, he has worked within some of the entertainment industry’s most esteemed talent agencies searching through piles of scripts, books, articles, old movies and pitches in search of projects for "A" list actors. He started at ICM, where he worked with legendary talent agent Ed Limato, ran the Story Department, and facilitated the Agent Trainee Program. Later he moved to the venerable William Morris Agency, which eventually merged with Endeavor to form WME, the world's largest diversified talent agency, where he currently serves as Story Editor. He has an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He has taught at Los Angeles Valley College, UCLA and is currently an adjunct professor in the MFA program at National University. He is an award winning and Emmy nominated producer with credits that include THE COLLECTOR (2009) and its sequel THE COLLECTION (2012), as well as writing and producing the documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS (2010) for Oprah Winfrey. He is a member of the Writers Guild, the Producers Guild, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He has read over 35,000 scripts throughout his career.