Tuesday, December 19, 2006


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
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

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.


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
LOGAN’S RUN (where the cop who kills people over thirty – turns thirty). There is some confusion as to the daughter character. The diva escapes with her daughter – yet her daughter is trying to kill her? (Not sure how this works or why the diva puts up with it – daughter or not.) The world is too generic. It isn’t interesting. Think about how interesting and SPECIFIC the worlds are in stories like FAHRENHEIT 451 (books); MINORITY REPORT (pre-crime); ROBOCOP (urban crime); I, ROBOT (robots); BLADE RUNNER (replicants) ; LOGAN’S RUN (aging), TOTAL RECALL (memory) and so on. The intrigue of the world could be boiled down to one thing for each of these examples. If your character is a talk show host, does the “world” revolve around media?


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.


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.


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 Hollywood

boys’ club was prepared to rattle off their opinions.

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.

meets 'anything' seems to be a popular launching point for scripts these days,“ he said. “This one will need to set itself apart a bit more. Specifically, I like the humor of a rock star being forced to join a children's music group -- but I don't see where the story goes from there. Does the washed up singer have anything to lose? After all, his popularity has long since faded. It might be more interesting to see a successful rock star in this position. For example, what if Marilyn Manson was ordered by the court to join THE WIGGLES...?”

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
. The idea of the boogeyman surviving the slumber party is hilarious.”

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
'S RUN meets OPRAH. The logline is a bit vague for me. Why does it matter that the protagonist is a talk show host? Does this somehow play into the story? For example, in the screenplay adaptation of Philip K. Dick's FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID, protagonist Jason Taverner is a famous talk show host. But it plays into concept because he wakes up and discovers that he is suddenly an unknown. I don't see the same type of concept-to-character connection in THE JUDITH SHIFT. Also, the description of the action suggests that this might become a long series of repetitive run-and-chase sequences without enough variation - "the increasing dangers" - to keep an audience engaged.”

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:


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.

Tuition: $93.00.

Registration starts on January 3, 2007 at 8AM.

Call 818 947 2577, Extension 4172.


Send comments and questions to theinsidepitch@sbcglobal.net

Thursday, December 14, 2006


The Hollywood Blacklist of 1947 began with ten names of writers and directors who were found by the House Committee on Un-American Activities to have ties to the Communist party.

The Blacklist meant shame and led to the professional and personal ruin of many artists.

Sixty years later, the "blacklist" has taken on new meaning, a more positive one, a list on which writers want to see their names.

Each year, ninety Hollywood executives are polled and asked to mention their favorite scripts of the past twelve months. Although the organizers make it clear that the list does not represent the best only favorites, it is difficult to separate the two in a town where subjectivity rules.

Below are the ten scripts which received the most “mentions.” I’ve included the loglines (when applicable). All told, THE BLACK LIST contains 87 titles, the majority receiving two mentions.

On a side note, most of the scripts come from six major agencies, CAA, WILLIAM MORRIS, ICM, UTA, ENDEAVOR and PARADIGM. Of the 87 titles, 9 come from other agenices.

These titles provide execs with some holiday reading and should be on the "wish list" of aspiring writers.



After the siege of a small town by outlaws leaves over sixty dead, a sheriff teams with a mysterious doctor to find the responsible villains.


STATE OF PLAY by Matt Carnahan

A tabloid reporter struggles to uncover the truth behind the suicide of a Washington intern who was the lover of a popular, married senator.


RENDITION by Kelley Sane

After an Egyptian expat/Canadian citizen, wrongly suspected of terrorist ties, is captured and rendered by the US to Egypt for questioning, his American wife, a congressional aide, and a CIA man try to gain his release.


VILLIAN by Josh Zetumer

Two slightly deranged brothers stalk each other in the wilderness of Alaska until their angry rivalry starts claiming innocent lives.


THE GRACKLE by Mike Arnold & Chris Poole

A thug, who beats up bad guys for a living, struggles to overcome the revenge plot of a victim - an ex-con with plans to takeover the French Quarter.

THE CITY WALLS by Caleb Kane

A young man feels remorse after he delivers a teenage girl to his pimp benefactor and attempts to rescue her and himself from the mean streets of Eighties New York


LAST MAN HOME by Jamie Moss

An AWOL Marine battles a Special Forces team and a crew of CIA hitmen as he struggles to locate his missing Air Force pilot brother - smack dab in the middle of the shock and awe of Uncle Sam’s assault on Baghdad, circa 2003.




SEVEN POUNDS by Grant Nieporte

An IRS agent tracks down good people whose lives have been ruined by tragedy and arranges to help them all before killing himself.


HIMELFARB by Andrew Mogel & Harrod Paul

After one bad blind date, a hopeless geek becomes obsessed with a small-town girl and crashes her family Thanksgiving to try to make it work between them.


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.

Tuition: $93.00.

Registration starts on January 3, 2007 at 8AM.

Call 818 947 2577, Extension 4172.

Send comments and questions to theinsidepitch@sbcglobal.net

Friday, December 08, 2006


With the holidays approaching, things have been busy, so I thought I'd offer up some reading material without having to do too much work.

What follows are results from the former Logline Lottery at twoadverbs.com.

For two years, we randomly selected ten loglines a month to be critiqued. The most effective logline - as judged by me - would win a prize of script coverage (for the logline's screenplay) by a professional story analyst.

The point of the lottery was to examine both the presentation and effectiveness of loglines.

The lottery lasted two years and left a library of material in the twoadverbs forum.

This is from the December 2004 lottery.


To get back into his fiancée's good graces after an argument, a compulsively punctual corporate raider agrees to drive his flight-phobic future mother-in-law cross country to attend the wedding. But when he loses his license and is relegated to the passenger seat, her dawdling, doting ways jeopardize not only the upcoming nuptials, but the deal of a lifetime as well.

Sort of MONSTER-IN-LAW meets PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. Road movies certainly conjure up momentum and visual resonance. However, they can also be one-note. Although this logline could be a little wordy (maybe a few too many adjectives), there is enough information here to assuage that "one-note" fear a bit. (For instance, we get a hint of a "deal of a lifetime," which lets us know that there is another level to the story which may open it up.) Casting could be a mixed blessing; the script puts a potentially "older" actress in the driver's seat here - which may not be a benefit from a "spec" perspective. On the other hand, the male lead could go to anyone from Ashton Kutcher to Ben Stiller to Will Ferrell (which could excite producers). If the "mother" role were well-written (and this needs to be a funny, memorable character), it could attract the likes of Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, and etcetera.


A perfectly competent comic concept that enables us to see various scenes - like groom and mother-in-law being put in embarrassing and compromising situations. (A good logline is one that allows the reader to see a swirl of story possibilities.) The most important aspect of this kind of comedy is the interrelationship between these two characters. The logline doesn't offer up a strong sense of conflict between groom and mother-in-law (other than the fact that she dawdles). Think of DeNiro's character in MEET THE PARENTS - a much stronger offering than simply a "dawdler." (Of course, this mother could have all sorts of great idiosyncrasies.) Most importantly, the logline suggests two very "castable" comic characters - which is a big plus. This is a CONSIDER.

"SCIENCE" OF LOVE - Family Comedy

Disgusted by the thought of becoming stepbrother and stepsister, two rival grade school science wizards grudgingly team up to break up their single parents' re-kindled passionate college romance.

A workable twist on THE PARENT TRAP. The "science" angle seems prominent in the logline but doesn't work much into the story (as presented here). Are the kids using their knowledge of science to break-up their parents? Also, is there some sort of science fair/competition to add an extra level of conflict? Like the logline above, this could fall into the "one-note" category, so it's important that there be an additional narrative element to add an extra level of story dimension.


This is frustrating, because the "grade school" leads are a bit of a turn-off. After all, there aren't many kids that can open a movie. (Dakota Fanning is great, but box-office receipts haven't been put on her shoulders yet). It would be much smarter to age these kiddies from grade schoolers to high school seniors, which would make it much more appropriate for a spec script. Plus, the script could deal with a burgeoning attraction between the future step siblings. As a writer hoping to sell a script, it is almost irresponsible that this concept would be developed with little kids instead of teens - the very audience that pays to see movies over and over again. This is a serious note, which could make the difference between the script being used as a martini coaster or earning six figures. As presented here, it's more of a Disney Channel movie - but there's nothing wrong with that. CONSIDER.


After a young journalist invents a story about a nursery rhyme that unleashes a supernatural killer on those who say it, his friends who recite the verse are brutally slain. Accused of the murders, the journalist struggles to evade a relentless detective and destroy the killer before the NY Times prints his article containing the rhyme.

Inspired a bit by CANDYMAN. When one reads a logline, it needs to appeal on two levels. 1) The logline itself needs to be well constructed to convey the major throughline of the story. 2) The story itself must appeal to the reader, if he is to solicit a synopsis or script. For the most part, this logline works. However, the story being offered up here is questionable. Although the dramatic plot points hold up, this story could work better if it flushed out its motif. The most interesting part of the story is the "nursery rhyme". When one thinks of nursery rhymes, children come to mind. But the log line is filled with adult images. If a nursery rhyme serves as some evil incantation, it would seem to make more sense if children were at stake. (Maybe the adults who are slain are parents of children.) To further this idea, it would also make more sense if the nursery rhyme were to be published in a magazine/paper (or released in a book) to which children had access. As presented, the story doesn't support the reasoning behind using a nursery rhyme. It could be a poem. It could be a song lyric. It could be a limerick. ("There once was a man from Nantucket....") Look at how A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET exploited its motif of "dream" or how CANDYMAN exploited its "urban" motif. Since horror movies rely heavily on imagery and motifs, it is important to think this through. Also, we don't get a sense of the killer - which may or may not be important to the story. (It probably should be important in the story.)


The concept definitely offers up some momentum and suspense (not an easy task in a few lines). This is a tricky situation, because the writer wants to present an accurate and effective logline. While this presents all the drama inherent in the story, it downplays the elements that a producer or agent may think are most important: the nursery rhyme and the killer. To play it smart, this sort of logline should suggest FRANCHISE, since horror movies can often spawn several sequels. But the sequels would revolve around the incantation and the killer - not the newspaper man. (Horror sequels bring back the KILLERS for the encore and not usually the scream queen who survives the onslaught.) We're also getting mixed motifs here - a point that may or may not bother a reader. We're dealing with a nursery rhyme that conjures up certain motifs, and dealing with the world of newspaper publication, which conjures up a completely different set of motifs. It is perfectly acceptable to do this, provided there is a stronger bridge that effectively connects these seemingly disparate pieces. MILD CONSIDER.

SMALL TOWN SLICKER - Romantic Comedy

A big city oil exec secretly discovers a massive oil reserve under southern swampland and struggles to swindle the property from redneck owners of a local tourist trap by romancing their prodigal daughter who wants to keep it as a nature preserve.

This is a perfectly solid concept for a romantic comedy. It has a folksy, old fashioned quality to it. The log line hits upon all the key elements: the protagonist, the mission, the antagonistic force (the redneck family), the stakes are inferred, and we can see some story momentum with the inferred romance between the exec and the comely daughter. There is a straightforward nature to the storyline here that seems to detract from the concept. Perhaps this needs more of a hook. (For instance, maybe a "creative lie" scenario - like the big city oil exec posing as someone he isn't.) There are several tacks the writer could take to dress this up a bit more. However, as presented the story can certainly play.


Although this is a perfectly good presentation, the story doesn’t quite jump out. Perhaps the straightforward nature of the dilemma (no real hook) is part of the culprit. Of course, we know that the oil exec will face the real dilemma when he falls in love with the girl and must choose between her and his mission (but that won't happen until later in the script). The logline does allow us to see some comic characters - namely the redneck family. And the "tourist trap" (whatever that may be) also allows the mind to drum up comic possibilities. Overall, there is more than enough here to warrant a CONSIDER.


An undercover investigation turns deadly, when a former Army officer looking into "friendly fire" incidents discovers the Arrowhead missile's fatal flaw was known but squelched by high-level insiders. After his cover is blown, he must dodge assassins to stay alive while securing the evidence that will expose the conspirators and derail a multi-billion dollar procurement deal.

This provides all the information we need to see the overall arc of the storyline. Although it doesn't have an easy flow (this logline needs to be read twice), it provides all the important plot points that enable us to understand the dilemma and see the action. Like the concept above, this is pretty straightforward and lacks a really intriguing hook. Think of the hook in THE BOURNE IDENTITY, as an example. Since spec scripts are more concept driven today than they have ever been, it is crucial to amp up a story idea to make it something more exciting.


The logline definitely suggests its chosen genre: thriller. Of course the subtext here is topical - as the United States engages in an unpopular war in Iraq. The tension is palpable within the logline but this feels like it's more of a direct-to-video sort-of-concept rather than one for the big screen - because it lacks a compelling hook. Its lack of hook also gives it a 1980's action quality, which is problematic in today's market. VERY WEAK CONSIDER.

WHISPER - Supernatural Thriller

After a car accident leaves a despondent lawyer with the ability to see phantom men controlling people's minds, he struggles on a dangerous mission to find and destroy a portal to the phantom world that is guarded by a powerful secret society.

Supernatural thrillers - like THE OTHERS and THE RING - are still in vogue. However, this takes the genre a few steps beyond. The overall logline is well crafted, but my objections here are with the story. This starts off well. The car accident and subsequent supernatural symptoms are intriguing. There is something inherently creepy about "phantom men" (whatever they may be). However, the concept of these phantoms controlling people's minds is a bit murky. It is also difficult to visualize, which is a red flag. (This could simply be my limited scope and vision, but the writer must face all sorts of prejudices when trying to sell a story.) The logline deflates from this point on. The notion of a "dangerous mission" is too vague here. Have the phantom men always been at work - prior to his ability to see them? Why is it so important that this portal be destroyed now versus six months ago? What is at stake? Is the secret society a group of mortals?


Delving into a world that the reader is unfamiliar with means the logline will be under greater scrutiny. For example, we can understand the world of an oil exec trying to woo rednecks into selling their land or even a soldier trying to uncover a conspiracy. (This identifiable quality comes from two majors factors. 1) These stories take place within a world we live and understand. 2) These stories are facsimiles of stories we have seen before. Pitching STAR WARS might have been a bitch since the world was something we had never seen before - but the writer wisely used archetypes to make it all more digestible. THE MATRIX writers actually pitched with story boards.) Because WHISPERS deals with an unfamiliar world and images, the log line needs to be less vague and more specific. Great title, by the way, but this is a PASS.


After an experimental drug gives a suicidal woman the ability to see a murderous demon, she enlists the help of an ex-priest to destroy it--before she becomes its next victim.

This has a similar ring to the logline above. This sets-up (most of) the information we need to know, but the concept feels a little hollow. The first half is more interesting than the latter part. The ex-priest feels a little too familiar and that part of the story doesn't resonate with much excitement. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is how they set about to destroy the demon and maybe that piece of information could be included (if it were an intriguing plot development). Of course, as we say over and over in this lottery, choosing what information to include is always the hardest part.


Although the idea of an experimental drug causing this vision is interesting, there isn't enough of a hook here, and the priestly sidekick feels too clichéd. This could be effective with some skilled execution, but the logline doesn't whet the appetite enough. PASS.


A distraught mother fights biased evidence, vigilante neighbors, and a nervous breakdown to prove her innocent son didn't molest a child before he's sent to jail for life. Based on a true story.

Sounds more like a LIFETIME TELEVISION movie rather than a feature film. The material has some inherent drama - especially since it deals with the hot button issue of child molestation. And the fact that it is a true story helps a lot. This could be more interesting if the son's innocence was in question; the logline makes it quite clear that the boy is wrongfully accused. The "black and white" take may be too static. Conversely, the juxtaposition of her son battling molestation charges while being "molested" by the system is interesting and ironic. Strong female roles are sparse in feature films (which could be why this feels like TV). Regardless, this does have the potential to offer a beefy role for an actress.


Its movie-of-the-week quality is a strike against this (as a feature) but the (potentially) juicy female role is a plus. WEAK CONSIDER.

NOT SPARKS, BULLETS - Romantic Comedy

Determined to keep her mobster father out of prison for a murder he didn't commit, an engineer disguises her high-tech expertise and uses the DA's low ditz-tolerance to counter every surveillance move, until the DA, her former HS crush, puts the moves on her.

This is a little confusing. The first part makes perfect sense, but the "low ditz tolerance" is baffling. Does this mean that the DA has a low tolerance for dumb women? And is the smart engineer going to pose as a dumb woman? (Is this a "creative lie" scenario?) The surveillance stuff is also murky, and the "high school crush" conflict doesn't flow smoothly from what comes before it.


Not clear as to what this is about. PASS.


A comedy about a pampered heiress who is tricked by a mischievous Genie into trading identities. Trapped in Genieland to a life of poverty and servitude, the heiress fights to escape before the greedy Genie bags her fiancé and blows her trust fund.

Like the log line for WHISPER (above), this entry is weighed down by its vague world. Furthermore, the central conflict isn't particularly compelling, and the stakes don't feel dire. It isn't clear why a genie has to trick the heiress. Can't she just "blink" her into oblivion or something? And what does the genie need with a trust fund or the boyfriend? One assumes that a genie could have all the money in the world and access to any man on the planet.


There is probably a good GENIE idea out there. But this "hook" feels a little forced and doesn't generate much intrigue. Other than our heiress being trapped in GENIELAND, the genie concept doesn't feel maxed out here. After all, anyone could try to spend the heiress's trust fund and woo her boyfriend - not just a genie. This diabolical plan doesn't seem genie specific. As stated in past lotteries (and on this board), the trick to this genre (unless the movie is animated) is to set the fantasy in our real world. In other words - NO Genieland! (HEAVEN CAN WAIT and BIG are excellent examples of this.) PASS.

LOS MATADORES (The Killers) - Supernatural Thriller

When an adolescent girl's burgeoning supernatural powers destroy her seemingly normal life in the suburbs, she and her estranged family struggle to unite and battle to exorcise the evil spirit inside her by embarking on a dangerous journey to its mysterious origin deep in the perilous jungles of Central America.

Although the idea of a jungle adventure is interesting, the two halves lack a strong connective tissue. The "embarking on the dangerous journey" doesn't follow smoothly with the girl's dilemma, and the estranged family also feels like an incongruous detail. As a result, the logline feels a little scattered. Also, the nature of her supernatural powers is unclear. Is she possessed by the devil or are her powers and the devil two separate entities?


Cool title (though I don't know if it fits). The "thriller" elements are absent here, as this feels more like a "supernatural adventure." Although, as presented, this seems a little spread out, there could be potential here if the concept were focused. In its present condition, however, this is a PASS.


The members of twoadverbs picked their winner: SMALL TOWN SLICKER.

However, I wanted to get some additional opinions.


Firstly, I recruited my newest partner-in-crime, JULIE RICHARDSON. Julie recently produced COLLATERAL (voted one of the ten best films of the year by the National Board of Review). She has a slate of projects currently in development and met writers here in the chat room this past summer. Julie has a great story sense, and, more importantly, she has a lot of integrity - something sorely absent in this business. She is also extremely passionate about storytelling.

She scrutinized the loglines and said, "I decided to respond as a producer - as if I were considering new material for the company. Hence my results are based not on the construction of the loglines, but the perceived quality of the material which they describe."

"Of all the loglines, the comedies worked best. I was really torn between two. My first pick goes to FOR BETTY OR WORSE. It struck me as funny. SMALL TOWN SLICKER could also be very funny if executed well. It's my runner-up." Julie concluded.

I couldn't ask for opinions without soliciting a response from my original partner-in-crime, JACK D'ANNIBALE, who left ICM to find and develop projects for Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

His pick is "SCIENCE" OF LOVE.

"Why? I understand what's at stake," he said. "Although I wonder what happens after 50 minutes of break-up hi-jinks. It feels very castable. But grade school kids is off - it needs to be like Wilmer Valderramma and Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfeiffer. At the end of the day, this needs to be about the kids falling in love. There's potential here, however," Jack said.

His co-worker, CHARLIE BANKS, a story god in the business, says it's a toss up. "A tie between FOR BETTY OR WORSE and "SCIENCE" OF LOVE - with Lindsey Lohan and Ashton Kutcher as leads."

MATTHEW ESKANDER is an ICM talent agent (a young turk) working in the MP (motion picture) department. He trained under the legendary Ed Limato and wunderkind Jim Osborne. Matt "covers" projects - meaning he finds potential roles for clients and submits his suggestions to casting directors, using his "agenting" skills to give our clients the edge up on the part. He reads a lot of material.

Matt said, "It's a tie for me. "SCIENCE" OF LOVE is a simple premise and could be a fun family movie. However, the kids could be tough to cast. As a talent agent, who's always looking for good parts for clients, WELL TOLD LIES sounds like a meaty role for an actress, if the script is well written. Those two hold equal interest for me."

DJ TALBOT is an ICM lit agent. Despite his very busy schedule, DJ gave the list a perusal and said, "I like DEADLINE first. It sounds like a commercial thriller, and I like serial killers. But those scripts have had a hard time getting set up in the last few months. As a second choice, I'd pick SIDE EFFECT."

JASON PATTI has a law degree, writes scripts, and has been a freelance story analyst for many years. He recently filled Jack d'Annibale's job at ICM as the new SENIOR STORY ANALYST.

Jason's choice is "SCIENCE" OF LOVE. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about it. "I can already hear the agents pitching this one: 'It's Spy Kids meets The Parent Trap - in reverse!!' A good logline is one that allows the reader to "see" the movie before reading the script. Based on this sentence, I have a clear image of the protagonists, the set-up and the major conflict that will drive the story into the second act. I worry a bit about act two, as the writer will need some strong story threads to avoid a repetitive, episodic second act [specifically: the same situation over and over with the only difference being a new 'gadget']. Nevertheless, the idea has a good hook. I'd bite and pray for a strong plotting anchor at the midpoint."

In a round table discussion, I gathered the opinions of an eclectic group, all story pros dealing with dramaturgy on a daily basis.

GIDEON started as my intern, then assistant, and bloomed into an excellent (and tough) story analyst. He now reads scripts part-time at ICM and MBST and is finishing up his MFA in screenwriting at LMU.

GARTH FRIEDRICH is an ICM lit agent, who is on the team representing recent Nicholl winner Doug Atchison (AKKELAH AND THE BEE). Garth also oversees the Story Department, which is the portal for all literary material into the agency.

ROB is a freelance story analyst and an award winning teacher (recognized by the White House). He's read everything from "Gilgamesh" to Patricia Cornwell and lots and lots of scripts in between.

PATRICK MELTON & MARCUS DUNSTON recently wrapped shooting on their first feature film, the gory, five million dollar FEAST - which won PROJECT GREENLIGHT. They have since penned another entry in a popular Dimension franchise and look forward to starring in their own TV series, PROJECT GREENLIGHT, the documentary which chronicles the making of the movie. It airs on Bravo in March. PATRICK has an MFA in screenwriting and worked as my intern before being hired as a freelance story analyst. MARCUS is a horror movie aficionado and is delighted that his first movie could be in the genre he loves most.

Here's what each had to say on the ten loglines:



GIDEON: The idea of the mother-in-law having to drive is a mildly funny set-up, but this presentation doesn't explain how she jeopardizes "the deal of a lifetime" and generally fails to show enough of a throughline.

ROB: What deal? Also, what else does the hero need to do but speed up?

PATRICK & MARCUS: For whatever reason, comedies, such as this, tend to pop better as log lines. It's an interesting visual of a groom going on a road trip with, in essence, an older version of his wife. Seems like fun. This is our WINNER.


GARTH: Pass. A tad confusing with the "passionate college romance" line. Did the parents date in college and just all of a sudden meet again? What happened to the other spouses?

GIDEON: Nice logline construction, but the concept feels a little antiquated and is definitely not original. This idea also presents an entirely predictable throughline, we know the kids are doomed to fail and ultimately be happy they did so. Why the quotes around "science" in the title?

ROB: Cute but feels limited; what happens after the break-up?

PATRICK & MARCUS: Not bad. Kind of cute. Very Disney PARENT TRAP-ish. For those looking for this type of thing, it would probably be effective.


GARTH: Interesting. I think it's a combination of elements from movies I've seen. but it effectively conveys the story.

GIDEON: This sounds like half an idea, since there's no explanation given as to why the rhyme kills people. Without this key element, the script could end up like THE FORGOTTEN - an interesting set-up ruined by the lack of a valid explanation.

ROB: Confusing. If the demon says the rhyme, won't he have to vanquish himself?

PATRICK & MARCUS: Too big. And also vague. For us, these types of things are better in smaller circles. The set-up could work, but the threat of the NY Times article is a bit over the top.


GARTH: It sounds cute and you can see where it's headed just from the logline. This is my choice as the WINNER.

GIDEON: Logline could be a better read, but the idea may have some potential. Questions left unanswered: why are the swampland owners "rednecks" (this word has strong negative connotations) and why is swampland a local "tourist trap?" I'd pick this as the WINNER.

ROB: A nice Beverly Hillbillies/Doc Hollywood/ Local Hero (the wisdom of the locals trumps the arrogance of the city slicker) ethos here which should figure in the romance as well. Could be a very charming flick and a cute title, too. This is my WINNER.

PATRICK & MARCUS: We think this one is kind of cute. Very clear setup of very different people being forced to be together. However, it feels like it's just a different setting for a familiar story.


GARTH: The idea feels dated. Pass.

GIDEON: The idea of the protag discovering a government/military conspiracy, then having to go on the run as he looks for evidence, is hardly a new concept, and the friendly fire element isn't enough of a twist to make this stand out.

ROB: Don't all arms deals eventually turn deadly? Old hat. Sounds like DEAL OF THE CENTURY (with Chevy Chase and Gregory Hines) minus both of its jokes.

PATRICK & MARCUS: A routine, but possibly good thriller. A type of story that hasn't been out in a while (says Marcus). It seems somewhat familiar and overly earnest (says Patrick).


GARTH: Pass.

GIDEON: Way too many questions here. How does a car accident do this? Why does it matter that protag is a despondent lawyer? What are phantom men? Why/how do they control people's minds?

ROB: Way, way too complicated. Also, "I see mind-controlling people" doesn't cut it as a filmic mantra, especially coming from a lawyer.

PATRICK & MARCUS: A tad vague. Not sure how this happens or what or why he has to shut these "portals."


GARTH: Pass.

GIDEON: Too vague. The manner in which the plot elements are presented - the woman seeing the demon, then enlisting the help of the ex-priest to stop it before it kills her - comes off as almost random.

ROB: Why an "ex" priest? Did THE EXORICIST retire? (Blatty should.) Old hat again.

PATRICK & MARCUS: Good up to the "murderous demon" aspect. Why is the woman really needed if it's ultimately the priest taking care of the demon? Could be good, but not in great shape right now.


GARTH: I don't know how many people would see it, but I'd be intrigued.

GIDEON: Like the TV movie based on the MCMARTIN TRIAL, but without the scope (and without being first in the medium to tackle the subject matter). This sort of concept, even if written brilliantly, hardly seems as if it would draw big audiences, considering its unpleasant nature.

ROB: Sounds good but is too limited. If the mother doesn't exonerate the kid, will she commit suicide?

PATRICK & MARCUS: Nice title. Very straightforward and realistically disturbing. For those looking for this type of thing, very good.



GIDEON: Presentation sounds disjointed, as if the script starts off as a straight drama (or possibly comedy) then turns into an - almost - slapstick romcom. And the protag's actions aren't specific enough. What does it mean that she uses "the DA's low ditz tolerance?"

ROB: How about the old fashioned way, getting a lawyer? The throughline seems gratuitous.

PATRICK & MARCUS: Rather cutesy and inconsistent.


GARTH: Pass.

GIDEON: A wacky idea that suggests the potential for some funny moments. Still, the logline fails because it implies that most of the script will consist of the protag fighting to escape from genieland (which simply isn't defined enough).

ROB: "Bags?" "Blows?" What's the rating on this one? Do the girl and the genie exchange identities or just places?

PATRICK & MARCUS: At best, this sounds like a cute Nickelodeon cartoon. However, it's not very appealing as a feature. The "Genieland" thing is a tad much. Setting it in reality, a la SPLASH, would make it more attractive.


GARTH: Sounds overly complicated. Pass.

GIDEON: Way too vague. Also, the presentation makes it sound like the script is about the journey to Central America - so why not just take a plane to Honduras or wherever and get the exorcism done?

ROB: What powers? Can't she use them against the demon? Also, how does an "estranged family" unite while trying to help one of its members?

PATRICK & MARCUS: Vague. She has supernatural powers? And they have to go to Central America? Second best title - if it only had a plot that lived up to it.


The official winner was "SCIENCE" OF LOVE, but the various opinions here demonstrate that much of this business is about love connections: Matching the right script with the right person.

Flash foward to the present:

Julie Richardson recently set up THE MIDNIGHT MAN at Dimension and a TV pitch at ABC.

Jack d'Annibale left Bruckheimer Films and is currently adapting "A Nation of Lords: The Autobiography of the Vice Lords" for Reason Pictures. Bob Goldhirsch and Bob Teitel will produce. George Tillman is attached to direct. He has an article in the December 06/January 07 issue of Audrey Magazine about USC running back Emmanuel Moody.

Charlie Banks remains a force at Bruckheimer.

Matt Eskander and DJ Talbot continue to make deals for clients at ICM.

Garth Friedrich left ICM and is an executive at Davis Entertainment.

Jason Patti runs a not-for-profit organization benefiting the homeless in Los Angeles.

Gideon graduated from LMU and is currently producing a film based on his screenplay.

Rob is pursuing a Ph.D in comparative literature and has no time to read scripts.

Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan saw the release of their first film FEAST and have since sold three more projects (with Marcus attached to direct two - including THE MIDNIGHT MAN) and a TV pilot for Fox. In November, Patrick became a father.

"SCIENCE" OF LOVE never collected its prize.


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.

Tuition: $93.00.

Registration starts on January 3, 2007 at 8AM.

Call 818 947 2577, Extension 4172.

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