The Logline List
I’m on vacation this week – in the beautiful, sunny Midwest – so this entry will be a short one.
One of the best bits of advice I ever received was on what to do when I can’t decide what my next screenplay should be about. I have a word document saved to my Dropbox called “Movie Ideas A-Go-Go” where I jot down any half or fully-fleshed out ideas I have. The problem is, I usually have trouble deciding what idea is worth pursuing when I’m gearing up to write my next script. So a pseudo-mentor of mine offered up this advice:
Take your 10 best ideas, put them as loglines in a list, and start handing the list out to people. Tell them to pick their 3 favorite ideas. Write the one that gets the most votes.
This is how I picked the last two screenplays I wrote, and I’m so glad I did. It allowed me to see which loglines really clicked with people (you know, people: the ones that will be shelling out cash to see the finished product), and which ones needed work. If a logline wasn’t generating a lot of votes, it didn’t necessarily mean that the idea was bad, it just meant that maybe it wasn’t as clearly defined as I thought it was. (If anything, the exercise is a great excuse to really hone your loglines.)
But it went beyond that: When I handed the list out, I had a drama logline that received ZERO votes. I was shocked, because I thought it was a really great idea. So I started talking it over with a friend, and realized that the idea might actually be better suited for comedy. So I switched the genre (not the idea), and suddenly it was generating a lot of interest. It was such a simple switch, but it quickly redefined the entire screenplay. If you really think the idea has legs, just tinker with it a bit and figure out what’s not sitting right with people.
One interesting twist I did with the list this time around was leaving off the genres. I told people not only to pick their favorite logline, but to tell me what genre came to mind for them when they read it. I was surprised to find that a comedy idea I was particularly keen on was being seen by everyone as a horror film instead.
So, give this little exercise a try. Because remember: these are most likely the same people you’ll be pestering to read your script in a few months, so it helps to know they’ll WANT to read it.
About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew? Email PJ at firstname.lastname@example.org. New to P.J. readership? Click here for more articles!