Bad Loglines = Bad Screenplays?

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    wcmartell,

    You're scaring me.

    I read your article :INDEPENDENTS: Dog Juice" and took it to heart. I figured my current project was for the indie market and I crammed as much "juice" in as I could. Then I remembered your remark, "If I wonder whether I've gone far enough, I probably haven't," or something to that effect. And I crammed even more juice into the damned script.

    At this point the script is, well, juicy. Very juicy.

    A couple quotes from your opening comment in this thread are in order:

    "If your scipt is too different than other movies, the audience won't want to see it".

    "If you can't think of any recent films like your script, there may be a very good reason... they don't make movies like that... start looking for similar stories in other media."

    I can put together a logline for my script. It would take the form "Movie X meets Movie Y meets Movie Z". So in that way, I don't feel off the deep end. And yet, we're talking lots of dog juice here.

    Then I think, well, "Being John Malkovich" was weird, original, funny, juicy.

    Question: Is it possible to have too much dog juice for even the indies?

    greg

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Re: Bad loglines

    Ask ANY 20 y/o male what's a good idea for a movie and he'll say "The story of my life."

    And he'll be serious.

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Re: Bad loglines

    Very interesting, and so true. It's nice to see the complete thought laid out. And yes, even daily life on the Bomb Squad is BORING, except for ocassional moments of unbridled fear and stress. To make it as a movie, the bomb squad WOULD have to have a story, with a complete story arc containing dramatic conflict, character challenges, and a resolution. And would have to have character interaction on a level beyond the usual stuff of life, where concise (90 minutes folks), authentic dialogue defines characters. The realism of 'I don't know what I'm doing tonite Freddy... What're you doing tonite?' ain't gonna make it.
    But the thing is, those 40,000 wga registered scripts a year, you know? I think most people really DO believe that their lives ARE interesting. And their scripts are more a cathartic exercise, or monument to themselves than they are entertainment. And that's fine, so long as I don't read em.
    We are all of us, writers... yet only a few will be writers of movies (as in moving pictures, not inanimate scripts).

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Re: real life action: Truth CAN be stranger...

    But often it is not.

    Talk to your bomb-squad buddy again and have him tell you about all the days in between when there are no calls. What they do, the reading, training, coffee-drinking, shooting the breeze around the water cooler stuff. That is NOT interesting.

    Of course he has a multitude of tales to tell, based on the interesting stuff that DOES happen. But it does not happen continuously, a fact for which I am sure he is grateful.

    Air-traffic control is a job constant stress and pressure - but it does not equal a good movie until a "DieHard2" or "Airport" situation ensues. Constant action and stress, yes... filmability: no.

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Re: Hey!

    This has been wonderful. Lots of things to think about...however...my life IS interesting!!! All kinds of people would be dieing to hear about it. Now, let's see, where are those people...????

    When I wrote Sign Language, I had no intention of including anything about my own life into the main character. For one thing, all of my friends and family might recognize it and think I'm really kind of whacked. However, parts of me made their way into the female lead...not the b|tchy parts tho (I have my own style of doing that )

    Thanks for sharing!

    Tina

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    Re: Hey!

    Grrrrrrr

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Re: Hey!

    I almost mentioned that you could probably find a funny way to tell that story...

    But if I saw a trailer for a movie about a really funny woman stuck in traffic, I don't think I'd pay to see the movie. If you were the funniest person in the world and the camera followed you around for a typical day and you cracked jokes about everything, it might be amusing... but where's the story? I could just hang out with my friends and experience the same thing.

    And I've seen indie films that were just that: A bunch of guys sitting around making fun of the world around them. Funny for ten minutes, absolute torture after 90 minutes.

    By the way - don't be fooled by movies that seem like they are from real life like TAO OF STEVE. That's a fine-tuned peice of entertainment with a larger-than-life lead character who we see at the defining moment of his life. It's plot driven! Every scene in that film is there for a reason, every character has a purpose, and it's designed to please the audience.

    - Bill

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Hey!

    >Would you really want to hear GIG describe the day she got caught in traffic on the way to a meeting?

    I will have you know Mr. Martell when I tell about getting caught in traffic on the way to a meeting it is funny.

    Flounce!

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Spicing + More Pitching

    >>With that I have taken that basic story and embellished to a point where it is interesting (inshallah).<<

    Steeves - You spiced it up. These people didn't. They had scripts that were EXACTLY what happened to them. Would you really want to hear GIG describe the day she got caught in traffic on the way to a meeting? This stuff was like watching paint dry.

    Because it was about 3am, I think I didn't make my point very well. Though you can't tell from a pitch whether a script (and story) will be any good, sometimes a bad pitch does indicate a weak story.

    MORE PITCHING:

    It was strange to be on the other side of the desk. Here's some more stuff I noticed...

    Whenever I was confused, I asked a question to clarify... and several people had no answers. I'm not talking brain teasers, here, these are just basic questions about their script.

    One of the writers kept introducing characters and funny bits, one right after the other. After they got to the 20th character, I asked them who the story was about. They didn't know. It sounded to me like a bunch of unrelated comedy skits. I asked how these characters were related - they all live in the same town was the answer. How well do they know each other? The writer didn't know.

    You should know who your lead character is.

    Another writer had a "canned" pre-fab script with a villain from one genre and a hero from another genre and a location that had nothing to do with anything. I asked them what the relationship was between hero and villain... There wasn't one. Why pick these archetypes from polar opposite genres? The writer was combing two commercial genres. I asked some basic questions about the hero's characater... the writer didn't know the answers.

    Other writers didn't know motivations for their characters, too. Several pitches had characters doing really stupid or unusual things to launch the story... but the writers didn't know why they did them.

    You should be able to answer basic questions about your script to clear up any confusion the person on the other side of the desk may have. You might try pitching your script to people who don't know what the story is and see if they "get it".

    ALSO: Listen to what the producer says. I tagged along on one day and a producer at MGM said they were looking for "realistic idea oriented sci-fi"... so one of these writers pitched their horror script, and a couple of others pitched their overly-true-life stories. If they aren't looking for your script, no amount of pitching is going to convince them otherwise!

    - Bill

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Re: real life action

    Well what I think it comes down to is, writing scripts, writing treatments, writing synopses, and writing loglines are four different skills. That is the irony of companies that request treatments or synopses before they will read a script. They are asking for a different set of skills to determine whether or not you can write a script. Which does not make sense. A lot of people who write killer scripts cannot synopsize the script to save their lives, let alone logline it. But you can't get anyone to read a script unless you can at least logline it, put it in that one sentence that explains what the story is about. So you have to learn that. Just the way you have to learn to write a script. The upside is, well, loglines are a lot shorter. But who is it who said "brevity is work"? It really is.

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    real life action

    >>>Just like TV cop shows - the action is not there in real life... the goal of the screenwriter is to combine and embellish.<<<

    While it's certainly true the screenwriter's job is to embellish and entertain, I must disagree with you on the above view. Truth is stranger than fiction, and although the action that occurs in TV or film is far from commonplace, the most entertaining stories are the ones you can't make up.

    I have a cousin who actually IS on the bomb squad and whenever he starts talking job tales, I just keep my mouth shut and listen. Same thing for another cousin who works for his Borough Commander's office on Special Detail. You can't make that stuff up. None of us are really that clever. Many of the most thrilling stories are the ones behind the scenes, the ones you never hear or see on the six o'clock news.

    Yes, even real life events must be embellished to hold an audience for two hours, but if you want a core story that's positively riveting, experience real life and meet as many people as you can.

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  • Guest's Avatar
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    Stories

    Martell---I admire your understanding of mass market stories, but I think I disagree with the underlying premise of commerciality as the basis of solid story-telling. Of course it's an old argument, art versus commerce, but I tend to feel that modern audiences are a lot like me. You may go to a restaurant and pretty much always expect a table, a seat, a knife and fork, and your food on a plate, but just as the cullinary arts thrive on diversity, so the film-goer may often desire spinach ravioli one day, lobster the next, Chinese later, and even try a few dishes he has never heard of, just for fun. It's the producers who are more conservative in their tastes, given that they rely on their own judgement concerning what will bring them the biggest profit. So I will continue to write my "non-commercial" stories, with the thought that the elements in them that appeal to me will also appeal to others. I'd be very happy to write genre pieces, and I have no contempt for the successful and creative action or horror writer, but the kitchen is a place to experiment with new flavors, and perfect dishes that have always been popular. And of course one desires to serve nutritious food, and not poison.

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Agreeing with Steeves. The writer's life can be the seed that inspires the story. Where a writer may go wrong is trying to write the story as it happened verbatum.


    Two Weeks Notice: Jonathan Myers takes an herbal remedy for his fear of dying that will give him two weeks notice prior to his demise. He soon learns that the fear of death is far less painful then the repercussions of avoiding his destiny.

    Inspired by the fact that I hated my job and would have loved nothing less than to give my two weeks notice.

    My second completed screenplay. I'm so proud that I have just finished it. But it was inspired by my near brush with divorce. It was promising to be an ugly custody suit. But the movie is basically a thriller about a woman who's husband finds out she plans to leave him for her ex. She has a child by each. Her husband initiates a conspiracy with the ex to have her thrown in jail instead of killing her so that each respective father can be awarded custody of their children. Once they are successful the husband visits his ex-spouse and discloses the plan to the wife who now seeks revenge upon her release. I haven't written a log line for it yet because I am not very good at them.

    All of that to say. No my two weeks notice to my job would not make an interesting topic for a movie. Nor a messy custody suit filled with alligations from my husband that I hang out with drug dealers (in which the judge actually believed and I almost loss the temporary custody suit based off my ex being in jail for drugs, my ex of six years). But if you take those experiences as what they are, inspiration and not templates it's possible to end up with a very good movie for the big screen, cable, or DTV.

    PPPC

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Phone pitching

    B. Martell

    Enjoyed your pitch story. A couple of weeks ago a director of development had requested one of my screenplays. Later after reading the script he called to say how much he liked it and to make some minor slugline changes. In passing I mentioned another screenplay I was working on and he said "pitch it to me". I hit the broad strokes, main character, conflict, antagonist, love interest, etc..during the first minute. While I'm talking he's going yeah, yeah, and mentioned other movies it was similar to, and asked if I had seen them...said it was very commercial...blah, blah, etc.. the point I'm getting at with regards to pitching it seems that you are under the gun...time is valuable to these people...reminded me of a Jack Webb's Dragnet quote "just the facts please". Since he had called me ...I was caught off guard momentarily...Next time I'm going to hone my 60 second pitch so that it;
    1. flows without interruption
    2. sounds natural
    3. hits the main thrust of the story
    4. has a commercial ring to it

    I would appreciate your thoughts on phone pitches.

    gdover

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Jeez. My life is so interesting. Take that back, Martell.

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