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
“A Mossad employed father and his CIA agent son team up to hunt an escaped Nazi.”
The Judges verdict:
Steven: Firstly, if this story is set in contemporary times then the Nazi must be around 90 years old – hardly a dramatic antagonist! Secondly, if there is meant to be a father-son clash here, then the writer has failed to set up a powerful contrast between the two. A more potent contrast would be, for instance, Mossad father and Greenpeace son.
The premise of hunting Nazis is almost archaic for the 2010′s era. (I am surprised that the writer did not go on the topical Osama Bin Laden ban wagon.) In any case, this story fundamentally lacks dramatic fire.
“This story fundamentally lacks dramatic fire…”
The only way this basic set up might work (I mean, in addition to contrasting the father and son better) would be if the Nazi has been on some experimental serum that has kept him fit, alert, and dangerous in all this time. (In other words, a dark version of Captain America.) In which case the logline should tell us this.
steveylang: I sadly concur with Steven on most points. I really like the idea of having 2 conflicting protagonists (if that indeed was the point) chasing a common enemy, but this is not quite right. I’m not sure about the suggestion of Mossad and Greenpeace? I think you want to take someone from a nation/culture who is in conflict with Israel.
“Trying to track down a ‘notorious Nazi war criminal’ might be very interesting…”
I largely agree about hunting for Nazi’s. That being said, it depends on the type of movie. If it’s a more deliberate drama rather than action movie, trying to track down a ‘notorious Nazi war criminal’ might be very interesting. But you have to convey that the Nazi is really a bad, bad guy.
It’s a totally different sort of thing if this is an action movie, when then goes along the path Steven described.
“When three friends go missing on a camping trip in a forest rumoured to be haunted, the two left behind discover clues that lead them to a safe deposit box containing video tapes… showing exactly what happened to their friends.”
Steven: The logline is clunky as it currently is written. More importantly, there are bad and unnecessary elements in this story that seriously undermine the whole concept’s dramatic potential. Most notably: Why are the two follow-up investigators being lead to a box of videos instead of into the forest itself? The forest holds the danger, right? Not the bank branch.
“Unnecessary elements in this story that seriously undermine the whole concept’s dramatic potential…”
Furthermore, having the forest already rumoured to be haunted actually subtracts from the story, rather than adds anything. Far more gripping for the audience would be if the hidden menace is not telegraphed at all. “Silence of the Lambs” proved that the best form of horror is implied rather than shown.
Similarly, the videos – even if they are never shown to the audience – cheapen dramatic tension rather than enhance it. A far more effective way to invoke fear and dread would be for the two friends to discover individual body parts of their friends, in the forest, at various stages of their search.
Even by the schlock standards of horror plotting, this concept is poor and unexciting.
Richiev: I agree with Steven, With their friends missing you would think they would go back into the woods with a search party, not to a bank. It’s obvious there is a story logic that is not represented in the logline.
For instance you could start with:
“10 years after their friends disappeared during a camping trip, two buddies receive clues…”
You go on from their telling us the stakes are and who or what is standing in their way.
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.