1-2 sentences that say it all

Does your logline get the job done in 12 seconds or less?

“What’s your script about?”

You probably get that a lot. But how do you respond?

The logline to the rescue!

If you’re not familiar with that term, a logline is 1-2 sentences telling what your story’s about.  Sometimes called the ‘TV Guide description,’ it sums up your entire script in one easy description.

“A teenager from 1985 goes back to 1955 and must ensure his parents meet or else he’ll cease to exist.”

“A farmboy must rescue a kidnapped princess to help defeat the evil Galactic Empire.”

“A child psychologist helps a boy deal with his special problem – he sees dead people.”

You’d think putting it together would be easy. But of course it isn’t.

You want to convey what your story’s about, but you don’t want to go into too much detail.  And you don’t want to focus on one particular part of the story. And you don’t want to be too generic (f’r example: “…and learns a lesson about life.”)

This is your one chance to get somebody interested in wanting to read your script, so the logline has to be perfect.

Ashley Scott Meyers wrote a great column about it here.  Definitely worth checking out.  He also links to a just-as-good column by Christopher Lockhart.

A few weeks ago I wrote about TwitPitch from ScriptShadow, where you submitted a logline and the 100 most interesting were selected to submit pages, then scripts.  I wasn’t one of them, which motivated me to go back and rewrite my submission for my own purposes.  I like how it turned out.

There’ve already been some eliminations based on the first 10 pages of the script, which was kind of surprising since some of the loglines seemed to hold so much potential.

I suppose that’s the inevitable follow-up to having a good logline. You better have an even better script to back it up.

Nobody self-laments like a writer

Slap a metaphoric pair of these on when necessary. Or literal if you can

For those in the screenwriting know, this past Saturday was Scriptshadow‘s experimental TwitPitch.  Basically, you tweeted your logline, and if it was deemed good enough, it made it through the first round.

It pains to me report mine was not among the select few.  And I gotta admit: I was devastated. How could it not have worked?  Not even a single mention of it in the comments section?  This is a sign. I’ve got no talent. I’m wasting my time. Done before I even started. Might as well stop trying.

But rather than constantly berating myself and doubting my own ability, I recalled the words of a guy I met way back around the turn of the century. I had three scripts under my belt and wanted to get some professional feedback.  His very first words to me about my work:  You’re a very talented writer.  Now you need to get better.

I’ve held onto that advice ever since.  Every writer loves positive feedback.  But in this business, there are a lot more negatives than positives, which can really beat you down.  It’s extremely easy to get discouraged when all you’re hearing back is ‘no’ and things don’t go your way. Especially when you get your hopes up.

But this is a hard business.  Some people struggle for years and years before achieving any kind of success.

The key, as my dad always says, is perseverance.  Keep going.  There will be lots of bad days, but don’t let that stop you from chasing the dream.

A lot of writers say they can’t imagine doing anything else.  Count me among them.  Like everybody else, I have good days and bad days. And it’s still hard to get past the bad days, but I manage.

And learn from my mistakes.

I try to see what I could do next time to change the outcome more in my favor.  Just as an example, I’ve already rewritten my logline so it’s (hopefully) better than the previous version.

I write because I love writing. If I can make a living out of it, all the better. The important thing is I still enjoy the process.  And no amount of ‘no’ is going to change that.

What? It’s been done?

Similar, yet different

My work schedule has been all over the map lately, so not only has my writing time been limited, but also my script-reading time as well.  Nevertheless, I try to read when I can.

(*If you can, I highly recommend getting an iPad. It’s perfect for reading scripts. Apparently this is also now the industry standard.)

A few weeks ago, Martin Helgeland’s SLAYER was among the selection of that week’s Scriptshadow offering.  “This is the dragon slayer in modern day script that just sold for a boatload of money.” How could I resist?

My immediate reaction: I can see why it sold. It’s a solid, action-packed story loaded with lots of cinematic images that muscles its way forward and jams the action down your throat with a vengeance.

I wasn’t crazy about the writing. It seemed a little too showoff-y. “The sword KEENS.” Huh?

But what really got my attention was how similar the story was to one I came up with about 2 years ago. Obviously, some of the details are different, but they share some basic story points.

This isn’t a big deal because the story itself isn’t completely original. You’ve probably seen or read ones just like it numerous times. Helgeland has his version; I’ll have mine,which isn’t even written yet. It’s still in the outline stage, and I can use this as a guide for how to make mine more different.

This happens all the time, and has been going on for quite a while, as evidenced here. Most likely, everything you or anybody else has ever written is in there somewhere.

So stop worrying about someone stealing your ‘original’ idea and focus instead on how your work can stand out from all the other ones just like it.

It may not be as hard as you think.

Boing boing boing

Yeah, kind of like that

What a day.

Avid readers/followers of ScriptShadow will no doubt be aware that an amateur script is currently the absolute hottest thing in the film industry right now.  Said script will be officially reviewed tomorrow (there, not here). There is so much buzz about this script that when Carson sent it out to his readers yesterday, he mentioned how he’d received more voicemails in one day asking for it than any other time or for any other script he could remember.  And that the writer had received calls from just about every single major agency, production company and studio, asking about making a deal and/or representation.

To put it in perspective, that’s like being the holding the only winning ticket for the highest-ever lottery in the history of mankind.

The first thing I thought: Wow. That must be some script.

Second thought: Lucky bastard.

Third thought: Wish I could get that kind of response from my stuff.

I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other writers who are thinking the same things.  But I can’t stress enough that I don’t resent this writer his success.  I read the script, and it is extremely good.  Definitely high concept. Compelling premise and story. Interesting characters.  A definite page-turner.  Smart.  This guy has earned his rewards.

(Without giving too much away, it came across as a modern interpretation of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Not necessarily a bad way to go.)

While it was easy to feel sorry for myself, I didn’t like disappearing into a “poor me” mood and instead opted to do something about it.

I went for a run. (New Orleans Half-marathon is a week from Sunday. I think I’m ready.) That always helps me reflect on whatever might be bugging me at the time.  It’s also good for clearing one’s head.

After I got home, I knew I had some time to work on DREAMSHIP, including incorporating the additional scenes I mentioned yesterday. That went a lot better than expected. One scene I really wanted to do just wasn’t going to work, but I managed to find a good alternate way of doing it.

I also reminded myself that my script is completely different from his on several levels, but still has to be rock-solid.  And more importantly: this is only the first draft of the rewrite, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  Once I type in “FADE OUT”, then I can go back and see what needs to be fixed.

So a day that started off making me upset ended up with me feeling pretty darned good about things.  The key now is figuring out how to keep that latter feeling going into the next day.

Shameless self-promotion: The Script Adventurer! on Radioslot, live on Mondays 1-2PM PST, and replayed Sundays at 7PM PST. What, you’d rather watch 60 MINUTES?  Of course, the Oscars are this Sunday, so I won’t be offended if you opt to watch that instead.


Good and not-so-good

much nicer to be thinking out here

Working with this director is becoming an exercise in keeping my sanity in check. We had a brief conversation the other night about what exactly he wants, or at least is looking for, in this short project.

I came up with something I thought was pretty unique and, according to a friend who actually writes mysteries, contained some good setups with a “sucker punch twist” at the end. I’ll take that as high praise.

But it didn’t jibe with what he wanted.  Because he’s been reading some mysteries on his own, including a few Sherlock Holmes.  He says there’s a pattern to be followed. Victim, clues, solution.  And he also has a list called something like “50 rules of mysteries”.  Oh dear lord.

I offered that if you saw 4 mysteries, and 3 of them followed the same pattern and the 4th was different, wouldn’t you be more likely to remember the different one?  Didn’t work.

While he appreciated my take on the story, he wanted the more traditional approach, but also to punch it up even more. “Go bigger” seemed to be his mantra.  For some reason, he again referenced INCEPTION. I really hope he’s seen more movies than just that.

He wants the outline by Tuesday, which I’m fine with. Most of the story is in place. I just need to move a few details around.  But he wants a ready-to-go draft by January 1st so he can immediately start on pre-production and casting.  Based on how his previous project progressed, I think he’s being a little too ambitious.

The only positive spin I can put on this is that it’s really testing my abilities.  On several levels.  I don’t mind. It’s good exercise, writing-wise.

Now, while I probably should have been spent time on his outline, I opted to do some more work on DREAMSHIP.  I had two scenes that seemed way too similar, and my protagonist was being more reactive than active.

Implementing the changes wasn’t as hard as I expected, and I think both turned out better than before.  Honestly, this thing is really coming together.

-Just a brief note on something going on over at ScriptShadow. The First Ten Pages competition is taking place this week. Readers were invited to send in their log line and first ten pages, and the rest of the readers would vote on which ones looked the most interesting.

I meant to take part, but never got around to it.  I don’t know what kind of chance I would have had. After reading some of the 50 finalists, I can’t help but wonder if some of these people have a grasp of what is expected of them.  Some of the loglines were just too confusing, or didn’t make the story sound interesting.

I always thought the logline summed up the protagonist’s objective, who/what stands in their way and what could happen if they don’t achieve that objective, all in a way to make the reader/viewer want to know more. How do you screw that up?

Apparently quite easily.