Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reps: How to Get Your Script Read

Two weeks ago, I met with a rep. He talked about thrillers and I said I wrote one. He asked about it... and 30 seconds later he asked to read it.

How'd I do it? A good logline.

This is the magic and madness of the Logline -- you have a very brief window of time, a sentence or two, to sum up your big, fat script. This is your elevator pitch between floors 1 and 2.

But it's not all magic. Let me share with you the bare bones that have worked for me after lots of trial and royally screwing up:
[TITLE] is a [genre] about an [adjective] [hero - job/social status/family status, etc.] who wants [universally identifiable goal] when [something exciting happens] -- only our hero's bigger problem is [the twist].
Let me break that down for you:

1) TITLE: Your script's title evokes your tone, genre, style, etc., which is why it's good to either open or close your logline with your title since it can sum up the feel of your story.

2) GENRE: Let them know the Genre right up front so they know to be smiling, scared, teary-eyed, etc., by your screenplay's premise. Last thing you want is to hear a rep say "That sounds hilarious!" when you just told them about your tearjerker romance.

3) HERO: Describe your protagonist. You get one adjective and one noun. That's it. Think of this as your teaser trailer for the script... you're only giving them a taste of the movie, the bare essentials, just enough to get them to want to read the script.

But here's a hint for the adjective: What's your protagonist's greatest flaw? The one character trait that's going to get them into the most trouble? In BACK TO THE FUTURE, our hero Marty McFly hates being called chicken... so you might call him an insecure or impulsive teenager. That's all you need because...

4) GOAL: Tell us what our character wants and make sure it's something we all want. Hunger. Sex. Survival. Protection of loved ones. Something primal. In TAKEN, Liam Neeson's character wants to save his daughter from vicious criminals. Audiences the world over identify with that goal -- because it's a primal, instinctual desire we all have.

5) SOMETHING EXCITING: Some screenwriting gurus call it the "Inciting Incident," "The Call to Adventure," or "The Catalyst" -- whatever you call it, it's something exciting that happens around the end of the first thirty-or-so pages that propels your protagonist out of his or her ordinary world into the exciting, adventurous part of the story. In PRETTY WOMAN, it's the moment Richard Gere's character agrees to hire Julia Roberts' character to be his escort.

6) THE TWIST: This is where the magic comes in. And to show the cards up my sleeves -- the magic is conflict. Your logline needs to overflow with conflict. Your protagonist is in conflict with him- or herself, your protagonist is so far away from his or her goal, your protagonist is the least likely person to be able to deal with this something exciting happening -- when The Twist takes that conflict to the edge and pushes it over.

To give you a better ideas, here are some loglines to some amazing screenplays:
PRETTY WOMAN is a romantic comedy about a hardhearted businessman who needs an escort for an important business function when he's left with no choice but to hire a free-spirited prostitute -- only to fall in love with her.

DIE HARD is an action thriller about a lone cop who comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and save their failing marriage -- when terrorists attack!

BACK TO THE FUTURE is an action-comedy about an impulsive teenager who teams up with a wacky scientist to go back in time and save his parents' marriage when he disrupts history -- and now he has to make his parents fall in love or he'll cease to exist!
But notice how none of these fall perfectly into that cookie cutter model above... and none of them perfectly capture the movie, right? That's where your hard work comes in. Trying different adjectives for your hero, different phrasings for the goal, the twist, etc. Write, rewrite, tweak, polish, hone, again and again.

Most importantly, practice. Pitch your logline to people. Not just friends and family, because they'll love it since they love you. Ask the guy behind you in line at the coffee shop. And really gauge their reaction. Keep pitching and keep reworking it until it feels like the most natural, organic, and most exciting way to sum up your story.

That way, when you get that lucky break to have an agent or manager or producer ask about your script, your logline can roll off your tongue like the weather forecast, and hopefully you'll hear those lovely words:

"Sounds great! Send it over."

Speaking of great, I have more good news!

Jessica Marie Sutherland, good friend and now paid writer (hooray!), shares all in how to go one step further from getting read to getting paid to write: Holy F^@k, Or How I Got My First Writing Gig.

Also, my screenplay FURIOUS ANGELS -- the one I sent to the rep -- made Quarter-Finalist at the Page Int'l Screenwriting Awards! More on the Page Awards here.

My meeting with the manager went well with promises of another meeting down the line. Lastly, I'm in talks with a producer to write a few graphic novels. Exciting! Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Yay! So much exciting stuff! And that logline breakdown was super helpful. I cowrote my first ever screenplay (we're talking, like, first draft) and I've been tackling the logline, so, thanks!