LOGLINES REVISITED REVISITED
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.
Here are the results from the Logline Lottery dated December 15, 2005.
PURITY - Action/Supernatural
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
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
WIRED - Comedy
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.
LOTTO FEVER - Comedy
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.
MR. BOOGS - Animated/Family/Adventure
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.
THE JUDITH SHIFT - Sci-Fi/Thriller
On the run in a futuristic totalitarian society, a rebel talk show diva struggles to escape with her brainwashed daughter to a better world, while fighting increasing dangers at every turn as both the state - and her vigilante daughter - try to kill her.
This lacks the fun irony of something like
Although this offers some of the right elements, there’s no hook here. In order for this to leap off the page, there needs to be something more compelling within the concept itself. Without understanding the specifics of the world and an intriguing hook, this is a PASS.
RAT PACK - Animated Comedy
In the vein of CHICKEN RUN meets COOL HAND LUKE.
A cool street rat is captured for use in cruel experiments and struggles to lead the institutionalized lab mice in a daring escape past the scientist's diabolical cat.
Very cute! Tight logline. The script would need to duplicate stories like ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ or THE GREAT ESCAPE to carry the singular concept for 90-pages.
Very one-note but with potentially interesting characters (other than just rats and cats, I hope) and narrative modulation, this could be good. Traditionally, animation is not spec script material. Regardless, it earns a CONSIDER.
PASTE - Comedy
An ailing jeweler is about to realize his dream when his favorite actress agrees to wear his most famous gems to the Oscars. But when she claims the gems as a gift, it's up to his would-be son-in-law to steal them back -- on Oscar night -- before the real owner realizes they're missing.
This could be streamlined. The story is potentially amusing, but it’s unclear as to what the obstacles may be. Why will it be tough to steal them? And why do they have to be stolen? Can’t the misunderstanding be cleared up? Why is the old man giving the actress the real owner’s gems? Wouldn’t the real owner know? And how do you keep that a secret when it’s the old man’s most famous gems and the actress would have to answer a zillion questions about the gems on the red carpet from the likes of Joan Rivers? Too many characters: ailing jeweler, actress, son-in-law, real owner. It should be one piece of stunning jewelry – instead of “gems.”
The logline definitely suggests a movie but there are some logic issues for me (as suggested above). It’s not clear what the obstacles are to stealing the gems. And the logline would have been better served setting up the main character instead of spreading it thin amongst four characters. WEAK CONSIDER.
ROCK HARD - Comedy
When the washed-up singer of an 80's heavy metal hair band is ordered to make his child support payments or go to jail, he struggles to reconcile with his estranged band mates and relaunch their career - as a children's musical group (ala' The Wiggles).
Good logline. Good concept. Note the unity within the logline. We have a metal head, who isn’t connecting with his kid and finds himself on the kiddy music circuit. This works better than if he were, let’s say, struggling to patch up a relationship with his girlfriend, which wouldn’t offer the most effective “connection.” Since an important factor in setting up projects today is having talent attached, this seems like it would be ripe for attracting a good comedic actor.
Not particularly original, but THE PACIFIER did quiet well recently, and this could tap into a similar audience. On the flip side, there are several projects with a similar slant in development – most notably ROCK AND ROLL NANNY, which is a hybrid of this idea and THE PACIFIER. On a side note: a few days before I received these loglines, I read another called “Rocking the Cradle.” It went like this: “In order to get their music label to produce their next CD, a veteran Rocker and his band mates must first record a CD of kid’s music and take it on the road.” In my reply, I said, “Kids music, a la THE WIGGLES, is ripe for spoofing.” So, when I saw the logline for ROCK HARD, I assumed it was a re-tooled version of “Rocking the Cradle.” After all, the similarities were way too coincidental. According to our rules, any logline previously commented on by me is not eligible for the lottery. I was prepared to disqualify it, but after some investigating, I discovered that the two were developed separate of one another by two different writers who did not know each other. Just another case of simultaneous development. If your idea is mainstream/commercial, the odds are someone somewhere else is already working on it. CONSIDER.
DISCO SKATE KING - A comedy on wheels
Unable to escape eighteen years of humiliation and on the verge of divorce, a miserable man has a chance to prove to everyone he's not the loser he thinks he is when he gets to re-challenge a skater and high school nemesis in a disco roller tournament.
There is a bit of a disconnect between the set-up (verge of divorce) and the pay-off (disco roller tournament). That could be worked out. The ROCK HARD logline has a stronger unifying connection between set-up (child support) and pay-off (kids’ music). It’s not clear why a divorce makes him a loser or how winning a disco roller tournament can change any of that.
This is clearly going for a kitchy, Ben Stiller sensibility. This project wants to exploit a piece of the 70’s, but it was an obscure piece to begin with. Disco dancing – which was much more of a phenomenon – has a universal quality to it. But the appeal of disco skating was limited. (Did anyone see ROLLER BOOGIE?) On the other hand, DODGEBALL was a game played by everyone (until many schools banned it), so it has a nostalgic and universal quality to it. Can this attract the crucial younger audience (who may not relate to disco skating) or will it appeal mostly to the baby boomers of the disco period? WEAK CONSIDER.
BROTHER EDDIE - Comedy
When a lovable lug unwittingly joins a dangerous cult, he converts the other members to his optimistic way of life and makes enemies with the evil powers that be.
Doesn’t quite feel like the writer has found his concept yet. More so than converting others to his optimistic way of life, he needs to have unwittingly started a cult himself. If this is the intention, then the logline should clearly state it. That would be funnier. It’s not clear what the protagonist does here. After the others convert to his optimistic way of life, he does what? We understand he makes enemies but what sort of action does that trigger? Is he trying to actively accomplish anything through the story? Without a sense of what the protagonist needs to do, we get a tarnished concept instead of a polished logline.
There’s plenty of comic fodder with this character in the world of a dangerous cult, but we need to know the character’s goal, which will enable us to envision a second act and get a sense of the script’s tension and climax. PASS.
I recently gathered some industry friends around my fireplace to roast chestnuts and drink eggnog while discussing the loglines.
Having already made my decision, I was interested in hearing different perspectives from folks that make a living dealing with story and concepts.
The guest list:
ICM’s Senior Story Analyst JASON PATTI.
Industry readers RYAN and JOHN.
ICM talent agent BJ FORD.
ICM lit agent BRIAN SHER.
BOB SOBHANI, lit manager and co-founder of Magnet Management.
Screenwriter (the upcoming PRIDE starring Terrence Howard) MICHAEL GOZZARD.
FEAST screenwriters PATRICK MELTON and MARCUS DUNSTON.
SEAN HINCHEY, the author of the upcoming, "39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest and the Nine Mistakes New Writer's Make.”
With Nat King Cole’s Christmas CD playing in the background, the
PGL winners PATRICK MELTON & MARCUS DUNSTON have a lot going on lately (and recently appeared in our chatroom - look for the transcript here in the forum) and were too busy to stay.
But they managed to sit long enough to suck down some free booze and confirm their winner: ROCK HARD.
They said, “As a comedy, the big concept is important. And this has that. Additionally, including the personal journey that the protagonist must achieve provides the emotional arc (the real meat). '80s metal hair is always good. And putting someone from that world into the world of children music is ripe for comedy. Sounds fun. Off this logline, I'm sure several people looking for comedy or comedy writers would want to take a look.”
Ryan agreed with P&M but didn’t place ROCK HARD in the winner’s circle.
“ROCK HARD is third for me,” Ryan said. “While the premise is not particularly original (father needs to reconnect with kid by humiliating himself and ultimately changing), this logline has legs that could carry it through a full ninety pages, and provide enough laughs in its fish-outta-water story to make it worthwhile. Its subject matter might limit its audience.”
Although ROCK HARD wasn’t top on Ryan’s list, it was even lower on Jason’s list.
Ryan’s second place pick is MR. BOOGS. He said, “While a little reminiscent of MONSTERS INC., it still has more than enough of an original and funny concept to escape comparison, something that parents and kids alike could enjoy. However, according to the logline, it is difficult to see how her tasks will help her out of the boogeyman world - it seems more unnecessarily like HARRY POTTER than ESCAPE FROM
Again, Jason disagreed, “It’s cute -- but I don't see a strong A-story here. The list of incidents at the tail end of this logline makes me believe that the script will be supported by a series of episodic moments. The narrative spine is missing from this one.”
Bob Sobhani liked MR. BOOGS enough to make it his clear winner. “It's imaginative and original. It feels like it will have all of the right elements (heart, central conflict, never before seen setting, etc.) you look for in a kid's movie. In contrast, most of other loglines are a mixture of storylines and themes we’ve seen a hundred times, some of them without a central narrative.”
As his first place winner, Ryan picked WIRED.
“WIRED is a great logline that illustrates a great ‘hyper-reality’ setting that allows for a lot of physical and domestic comedy. The artificiality of suburbia is prime territory for both comedy and commentary, and the logline has a built in rom-com structure that can easily be subverted for a fresh story. The only drawback is that the central character's young age might limit the audience, but playing up the parents roles could easily solve this problem.”
Jason saw WIRED as a suburban MATRIX.
“There is something here,” he commented, “but the concept doesn't stand out. The idea doesn't give me a clear picture of the movie. I feel this one will run out of steam by the midpoint - and a lot depends on how much the lives of these residents can be manipulated.”
But Mike Gozzard also sang the praises of WIRED, “I love this logline. It is a cool new world I haven’t seen before. Feels contained, easy to understand and also produce. Lots of ways to have real companies pay for production by donating their products to these smart homes (i.e. Sony) could find money that way. The main character could be cast with a name young actor, which is key. Great, easy concept I can pitch and sell in a room. Seems fun. Touches on issues of technology, privacy. I get the whole story here, know where the drama and conflict will come from. This could sell."
Although Jason and Ryan couldn’t agree on a winner, they did agree on THE JUDITH SHIFT.
Ryan complained, “NO WAY. While certainly different than most, this logline is, frankly, confusing. It’s difficult to imagine a totalitarian world where there is a talk show diva, a job in our current culture that promotes mainstream culture and image that would be considered a 'rebel.' Do they really have enough power to be given this label? Furthermore, where is this better world - another country, or another planet?”
Jason was a bit kinder and more pedagogical in his opinion. “It’s
Sean Hinchey reads scripts for several major contests and was busy pitching his book "39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest and the Nine Mistakes New Writer's Make." With his fixation on odd numbers, his number one choice was RAT PACK.
“Best title with the best pitch,” he said matter-of-factly. “Alas, trying to actually sell it is something else. Kinda has that feel of the WB GOOD FEATHERS - about a bunch of pigeons based on the characters from a similar sounding Martin Scorcese film.”
Jason shares in the kudos, “RAT PACK is the winner - simple, clean - I can see the movie from start to finish."
Not wanting to sound like Scrooge, Brian Sher (who reps big writers like Kevin Bisch) agreed but was cautious, “To be honest, I couldn’t do anything with any of these loglines. None of these concepts grab me. I like RAT PACK the most too but I can’t sell it. Animation doesn’t sell on spec; it’s developed within the studio. Anyway, animation projects take a long time to get made – any agent’s worst nightmare. I have to look at these from my own perspective. I’m just being realistic. New writers shouldn’t be writing animation to break into the business, because those who want to help won’t be able to.”
Like Brian, John gives RAT PACK the lead but with only a “mild consider.”
He explained, “I literally got a smile as I reminisced about TOM & JERRY, SYLVESTER and TWEETY and countless other toons from my youth. The logline is very lean and easy to understand. I can visualize the story from what the writer has given me. I get a strong sense of action, thrills, and laughs. The writer appears to have constructed a solid throughline, giving me the impression that reading this script would not be a waste of my time.”
But John repeated Brian’s concern. “The only real drawback is that it’s animated. While I wouldn’t mind reading this screenplay, I would be wary of the fact that positioning it would be difficult. A request from me would depend highly on whom I happen to be working for.”
Ryan thought RAT PACK was cute but ultimately a “pass.” He said, “It’s far too similar to CHICKEN RUN, which already has enough of a COOL HAND LUKE feel to it as to not merit another spin. It also has strands of THE SECRET OF NIHM" which is all right, but not wholly original enough. More needs to be shown in the logline to separate RAT PACK from its predecessors.”
BJ felt like the odd man out but soothed his woes with some Christmas cookies. His vote went to PASTE.
“I liked PASTE," he said confidentally. "I feel it’s the most original and commercial, funny idea. It sounds like people would go to the movies to see it.”
Jason grabbed the last cookie and countered, “On the surface, the concept doesn't appear to be strong enough to sustain a feature length film. There’s also an issue of focus here. The first sentence leads me to believe that the ailing jeweler is the protagonist - but the second sentence changes gears by throwing the son-in-law in the driver's seat. However, the stakes remain secondary to the son-in-law character. He's only involved as a result of his looming marriage. Is there a way to make the connection between the protagonist and "the stakes" more direct?"
Ryan questions the plausibility of the story, “If the jewels are really famous - which in itself is hard to believe considering the jeweler's apparent anonymity - then there are legal outlets to take other than stealing the jewels, on Oscar night, to boot.”
Jason wanted to give “honorable mention” to BROTHER EDDIE.
He said, “This is a funny, oddball idea, but if it gets too dark it won't work. However, as I can easily see this falling into the Vaughn/Stiller/Ferrell mode - I'm seeing Ferrell as the lug and Vaughn as the cult leader - I'd be willing to take a look.”
He also thought LOTTO FEVER has promise. “It has a nice hook. I'd be interested to see how it's carried through the second act. I'm also wondering if this is a more commercial idea in reverse: ‘In order to save his ailing grandfather, a boy gathers his pals and….’ Either way, I'd be interested enough to take a peek.”
John agreed and gave LOTTO FEVER 'honorable mention' along with ROCK HARD. He explained, “While the loglines didn’t work for me the way RAT PACK’s did; they do have some potential in that they deal with concepts that could - if exploited properly - lead to very entertaining stories. But, sadly they get a PASS.”
So as the informal gathering waned and the ten different voices faded off into the December night, I was left with dirty dishes and glasses and a final score that settles down like this:
RAT PACK: 4
WIRED : 2
ROCK HARD: 2
MR. BOOGS: 1
Would my decision follow the party line here? Do all execs thing alike?
The winner: RAT PACK.
For those interested, my Inside Hollywood Screenwriting class runs for six consecutive Saturdays at Los Angeles Valley College (Coldwater & Fulton).
March 10 - April 21 from 10AM - 1PM.
Registration starts on January 3, 2007 at 8AM.
Call 818 947 2577, Extension 4172.
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