Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (07)

A COMPELLING MENTAL PICTURE

The second most important element that a good logline has is that you must be able to see a whole movie in it. Like Proust’s madeleine, a good logline, once said, blossoms in your brain. You see the movie, or at least the potential for it, and the mental images it creates offer the promise of more. One of my personal favorites is producer David Permut’s pitch for Blind Date: “She’s the perfect woman – until she has a drink”. I don’t know about you, but I see it. I see a beautiful girl and a date gone bad and a guy who wants to save it because… she’s the one! There’s a lot going on in that one-line, far more than in the actual movie, but that’s a different subject altogether. The point is that a good logline, in addition to pulling you in, has to offer the promise of more.

In the above examples for new spec script sales, we even see where each film begins and ends, don’t we? Although I haven’t read more than the one-line for Ride Along, I think this movie will probably take place in one night, like After Hours. That actually goes for each of those examples. All three loglines clearly demarcate a time frame in which their story takes place: Christmas Day, the weekend of a corporate retreat, and in the case of Ride Along, a single night.

In addition, the Ride Along example offers an obvious comic conflict as opposites face off over a common goal. It will take a naive, scaredy-cat teacher and throw him into the crime-ridden world of his brother-in-law, the cop. This is why “fish-out-of-water” stories are so popular: You can see the potential fireworks of one type of person being thrust into a world outside his ken. In that one set-up line a whole story blooms with possibilities.

Does your logline offer this? Does giving me the set-up of your comedy or drama make my imagination run wild with where I think the story will go? If it doesn’t, you haven’t got the logline yet. And I’ll say it again: If you don’t have the logline, maybe you should rethink your whole movie.

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