A juicy logline compels potential buyers and audiences to want to know more, read your synopsis and ask to read your screenplay. Vivid loglines are one of the most powerful tools to market and sell your writing. Whether you do it before you complete your script or after, crafting a provocative logline is the key to unlocking your reader’s interest.
- Help us “see” your heroine and or hero with a vocational, emotional, situational, or physical trait so that readers can identify with them, or picture them as a specific movie star.
- Get the genre into the logline, if it’s a comedy, the reader should be able to see/feel what’s funny.
- Give me some conflict and a villain, readers crave the drama and if inspired by the logline, will want to read the screenplay. Fulfill an audience’s desire peek into what makes your movie interesting.
Here’s the synopsis of 99 Homes that played at the Toronto Film Festival. Let’s analyze it using our 3 tips.
Desperate to save his family home, an unemployed construction worker joins an unscrupulous realtor in the dirty business of foreclosing on the disenfranchised, in this enthralling and timely drama. (That’s the Toronto Festival version of the synopsis, the following is the official synopsis).
After his family is evicted, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver, the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him.
- See the hero. The construction worker – our middle class Everyperson – is desperate because he’s unemployed and is losing his home. Not only can we see him, we empathize with the situation.
- Get the genre into the logline. The drama is in the desperation and the dirty business, our hero is forced into bad behavior because of an unwinnable situation.
- Give conflict and a villain. This synopsis is effective on this level as we get both, the evocative notion of an unscrupulous realtor and taking advantage of disenfranchised owners losing their homes. Don’t you hate the realtor already?
A lonely NYC shoe repairman discovers a magical heirloom that allows him to “walk in another man’s shoes,” in this charming fantasy.
- See the hero. Awww, who’s a cobbler anymore? That word enough is evocative and old-fashioned. Of course he’s lonely in the biggest, busiest city in America.
- Get the genre into the logline. We know it’s a fantasy because he has a magical item – the heirloom – and it gives him special powers. “Walking in another man’s shoes” opens our imagination to the cobbler finding love, adventure, and dispelling his loneliness.
- Give conflict and a villain. The magical heirloom could turn out to be a villain if it has some evil quality, but certainly the conflict is clear as the reader can be certain the cobbler will be thrown into unfamiliar situations and lots of conflict by walking into a stranger’s life.
Takeaways from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival
Both of the previous examples were films at the Toronto International Film Festival. There was healthy acquisitions activity at TIFF (always good news for writers), some bidding wars and many interesting projects.
For writers seeking personal takeaways from the festival, there were several. Many genres were offered on the program, and the movies had lots of celebrity cast. This is encouraging for writers on several levels, when big stars get involved in an indie-sized project it’s clearly not about the money but about the material. Good actors want outstanding writing and well-constructed characters so that they can show off their chops. Let this serve to encourage all of us to keep building our skills.
News item: A24 acquired US rights to Noah Baumbach’s (Writer/Director) While We’re Young starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts. An exploration of aging, ambition, and success stars Stiller and Watts as a middle?aged couple whose career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.
Paramount buys Chris Rock’s Top Five $12.5 Million+ Written by, directed by and starring Chris Rock in a bidding war. Rock plays a stand-up comedian turned superstar comic actor who wants to be taken seriously.
Whatever screenplay you are currently working on, mentally plug in actual celebrities as you write and see how the work grows with Adam Sandler playing the lonely cobbler diligently working in his silent darkened shop late into the night, or Michael Shannon as your charmingly devious realtor. The talent of those real actors can imbue your writing as you picture a sneer, crestfallen gaze, or hear banter between your characters. All of life is material, including other movies!
Exciting movies make us eat more, faster, and more mindlessly according to a recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine. “More stimulating programs …, really draw you in …. you eat more because you’re paying less attention to how much you are putting in your mouth.” says Dr. Aner Tal, author of the study. This applies to TV and movies, and is the product of editing, camera placement and movement, and…of course, writing. If you’re interested in getting the study, here’s the link.
Ok writers. October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month so let’s test this latest research with our own writing and edit accordingly. This is a scientific-ish study that’s 3% malarkey, 75% intuition and 12% truth serum. Go on try it, it’s fun and helpful.
- Print the most exciting, heart-pounding, 3 pages of your writing. Climax of the love scene, catching the killer, culmination of the chase, cat and mouse game between heroine and villain – you decide.
- Make fresh popcorn, preferably with butter and salt but I leave that to you. Some people like kettlecorn and that’s not my thing but I would never judge. If you need inspiration for new flavorings, go here: (my personal favorite is Bacon Jalapeno, but that’s neither here nor there).
- Sit down with your pages and a big bowl of popcorn.
- Eat popcorn and read your pages.
Ok, that’s it. Step away from the bowl and record the results of your experiment by answering these questions with or without a number 2 pencil.
A. The popcorn is gone. Y/N
B. I forgot I was eating. Y/N
C. I ate faster and faster as I read. Y/N
D. I was mentally editing my writing the whole time. Y/N
E. My heart is beating faster now than it was when I started. Y/N
F. That was just too damn exciting, I need to tone it down. Y/N
G. Oof, I think I fell asleep, there is popcorn spilled all over me. Y/N
You win! Huh? What you win is an honest assessment of whether you were able to lose yourself in the momentum and excitement of your writing because you put yourself in your audience’s place (mouth). If you can lose yourself in your writing and it builds like a runaway locomotive until the popcorn is gone, that’s good. If you meant to do that and missed, then there’s a problem.
At the point of pushing the climactic moment to the nth degree, can you go too far? Not if you have and pulled back. When it’s time for murder, sex, comedy, a fight, and building tension, make a point to go beyond all taste and believability by rewriting your climactic moments.
Outlines and decision trees can be helpful for editing this issue, then do some testing of your own by giving the a/b pages to friends, families, trusted reading partners and colleagues for honest feedback.
Rock your writing,
P.S. Announcement: Anyone attending the Haifa Film Fest please give me ping and let’s meet!
- More articles by Paula Landry
- FREE Download – How to Write a Synopsis
- Submissions Insanity: Losing it Over Loglines – 6 Big Pitch Mistakes
Get more tips for writing loglines and query letters in Danny Manus’ webinar
Logline and Query Letter Strategies that Work!