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
Serial Killer Sister
“When a Newly recruited police officer discovers that his younger sister is a serial killer, he does everything to keep anyone from finding out.”
The Judges verdict:
Paul Clarke: “This happens to be the major storyline for season seven of Dexter, just with the roles reversed.
I think it makes for an interesting conflict. But I know nothing about the characters other than he’s a new recruit and she’s younger. Give the officer a trait, the obvious would be that he’s idealistic and believes in the law in black and white. Hence some internal conflict when it comes to saving his sister.
“Give the officer a trait…”
Also, there needs to be some direction. Something that will happen, some endpoint or goal. Otherwise the story has no direction. He’s just going to protect her? Then what?”
Geno Scala (sharkeatingman): “One of the issues I see right off the bat is the genre. Without knowing what the “everything” implies, one can’t tell if it’s a drama, a crime drama, a comedy, or a dark comedy (yes, you can make a serial killer-themed story funny). To me, the whole logline is a bit clunky and lacks depth. It’s missing an antagonist, an obstacle and the stakes, but have an excellent starting point with the word “When”:
” It’s missing an antagonist, an obstacle and the stakes…”
“When a top police recruit discovers his sister is the killer terrorizing his city, he struggles to maintain his acclaimed reputation while sabotaging the detective bent on killing the killer.” (30 words)
Steven Fernandez: “Two serious protagonist-related problems here from the start. Firstly, it is debatable whether a young – and presumably idealistic – policeman would be so willing to cover for his clearly unrepetent sister without any attempt to try to stop her behaviour. More profoundly, even if you could contrive your way around that, there is little prospect that your film’s audience will feel much empathy for a protagonist who has no moral conflict in abetting an unrepetent killer (she being his kid sister hardly manages as a satisfactory extenuation). In fact, he acts with greater immorality than she does, because she could be labelled as being ‘sick’, while he does not have even that excuse to hide behind.
“Your film’s audience will feel much empathy for a protagonist who has no moral conflict…”
The only way this brother-sister set up could be commercial is if the logline makes clear that the sister is being coerced to do bad and the brother is taking it upon himself to not only protect her but to hunt down the genius sociopath who is pulling her strings.
Otherwise the story concept is too fundamentally flawed to be able to be sold by any logline.”
“On the day of the NFL Draft, Bills General Manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to save football in Buffalo when he trades for the number one pick. He must quickly decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in pursuit of perfection as the lines between his personal and professional life become blurred.”
– The Black List
The Judges verdict:
Karel Segers: “I’m the worst person to give feedback to a sports movie as I switched off at the word “NFL”. That said, let’s stay objective. Don’t mention the protag’s name, as it only consumes word space – and to the non NFL-devotee it doesn’t mean anything anyway. “He must quickly decide” means to me that the key dramatic question is answered quickly. Not so good. My question is: what exactly is it that he is going to sacrifice? Tell me, and if it sounds dramatic I might want to watch the film. Does he have to leave his young family behind? Will he have to kick his best friend off the team, who turns psychotic as a result? This logline remains too vague to generate much interest. “The lines between his personal and professional life become blurred”… Seriously? These days the lines between personal and professional get blurred in so many people’s lives! Why is this interesting? Is Bill’s morality tested?? How then? Now, there I might be interested…
This logline remains too vague to generate much interest.
Steven Fernandez: “The logline is clunky but the set up seems quite different from the norm for a football movie. So me thinks there is potential here. The protagonist, however, is hard to sympathise with as stated – since he seems to be on the cold side. But this point can be easily fixed by emphasising his desire to resuscitate his low profile town. In addition, one positive thing about the protagonist is that he does not seem to be the straightforward former-player-macho-bonehead stereotype.
So here’s a logline suggestion: “To resurrect the flagging fortunes of his beloved home town, Sonny daringly drives his football club to buy up the number one pick of the NFL Draft. But the pick is hotly contested property and the cost on Sonny’s personal life will be high.”
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.