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Archive for November 19th, 2009

The Creative Screenwriting Cyberspace Open – Part 2 Nov 19

Cyberspace Open


A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about my experience in the first round of the Creative Screenwriting Cyberspace Open writing tournament. After spending a weekend crafting a decent five page scene, I had made it to the quarterfinals.

Round Two

I was feeling good heading in to round two. 16 hours to complete the next assignment? Pshaw — piece of cake. I eat stress for breakfast.

The rules of round two were simple — you would be given a story premise at 5 PM and had to complete a 3 – 5 page scene, based on  the premise, by 9 AM the next morning. What could possibly go wrong?

The Preparation

In anticipation of having to stay up all night and write, I had already started modifying my waking hours. I was getting up at noon and going to sleep at 5 AM so that I would be footloose and fancy free come competition day.

Oh they did not know who they were messing with! Heck, they might as well give me the winning check now.

On The Day

5 PM. I get the premise… This was not going to be a walk in the park.

The Premise

“Your PROTAGONIST’S allies have turned on him (or her). His reputation is now in tatters, largely due to his own screw-up — which has been magnified and broadcast by the ANTAGONIST. Write the scene in which the protagonist tries to win the allies back. The scene should include a heartfelt mea culpa. You may use any setting, era or characters in addition to the ones indicated, as needed.”


Remember, unlike a real world scene assignment, this competition required that you come up with a unique concept for the world of the scene (i.e. a movie) and introduce/develop your characters — all within five pages. Now they throw a premise at us requiring “allies” — plural — to be in the scene.

At first I thought I could simply have the protagonist walk onto a stage, or some such, and offer his heartfelt apologies. That way I wouldn’t have to necessarily create and develop a number of specific allies in such a short page span.

But having my hero give a speech in that manner seemed lame to me. 25% of the score was originality after all, and that felt like a cheat. Nope, I was going to have to create a team of allies, each with unique personalities, having it out in an original location.

That Sounds Easy

Now all I needed was an original concept and location. Damn — was it really 8 PM already? Okay think brain, think!

9 PM

The plan for my scene finally crystallizes. I am ready to write.


I have 2 or 3 solid pages. Things are looking good. I’m in the zone, wide awake and just hitting my stride with plenty of time left.

Feeling a little peckish, I take a fateful trip to the kitchen.

Fridges by Mother Hubbard

Bare! Except for some banana bread. One week old. Maybe two. But banana bread doesn’t go bad, right? It lasts on the shelves for months. Or maybe that was Christmas cake… Oh well, whadayagonnado?

2 AM

You know that feeling when you’ve been in the sun too long and you start to feel nauseous? Yup. As a tethered Ralph Wiggum would say, “I don’t feel right.”

But I was almost done. Only another half a page to finish the scene. Then maybe an hour or so to tidy things up.

Why was it so damned hot in this house?!

3 AM

Things are swirling. I was on a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory boat ride, with a pack of angry Oompa Loompas inventing a new farewell dance on my stomach.


The too-gross-for-theaters deleted scenes of Trevor Will Never Eat Banana Bread Ever Again.

5 AM

All is lost.  My main focus has shifted to simply surviving the night… and stopping the room from spinning.

8 AM

I look at the clock. I only need like a 1/2 an hour to finish this damn thing! But alas, I can’t even sit up without a wave of nausea overtaking me.

This year’s victory dance was not to be. I spend the rest of the day in bed. The almost completed script was never submitted.

The Following Day

The contest deadline had long since passed. But I did spend like 10 hours on this bloody scene. I figure, I might as well spend an hour polishing it off.

And so I did. It’s not my strongest work, but it’s not too bad given the circumstances.

If you’d like to take a look at how I tackled the premise, here’s my unsubmitted scene.

Would it have made the cut?

Moral of the Story

Never leave your fate up to questionable banana bread.

Category: My Experiences  | 2 Comments
A Logline Primer Nov 19

The Logline or “One Liner”

Blake Snyder used to refer to loglines as “the coin of the realm” in Hollywood. Having a great logline is extremely important — both for pitching your script, and for making sure your story is focused and engaging.

If you don’t have a killer logline, your script will probably never be made into a movie, or even be read by a producer/executive/agent/actor in the first place.

So what is it?

Here’s my definition:

logline (noun): one sentence (or in rare instances — two) that captures the essence of your screenplay in the most compelling and succinct way possible.

Here’s an example of a logline:

Falsely convicted of murdering his wife, a doctor desperately searches for the real killer, with a relentless federal agent hot on his trail.

“captures the essence of your screenplay”

Your logline should give a sense of the genre, tone, main plot, protagonist’s struggle, antagonist, time frame, location, target audience and budget. That’s a lot for one sentence! They don’t all have to be in there explicitly, but a good logline should imply all these things.


There needs to be a hook to your logline; something that compels people to want to learn more about the concept (i.e. read the script or see the movie).

Terry Rossio wrote a brilliant article about your concept needing to have a “strange attractor.” I think that’s the best way of thinking about it. Whether it’s something unique, ironic, gripping, or comedic, there has to be something that attracts you to the concept.


A logline is not a synopsis. You only have one sentence to pitch your movie. The full plot and subplots of your script have no place in your logline. Less is more.

At a recent panel of Hollywood screenwriters that I attended, I believe it was Shane Black who said, “Your logline shouldn’t have more than two commas in it.”

Avoid These Mistakes

Here are some mistakes to avoid in your logline:

  • Don’t use the names of any of your characters
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS to highlight any words
  • Don’t try to tell your entire movie
  • Don’t describe analogous movies (e.g. “It’s like Aliens meets Dirty Dancing“)
  • Don’t include your movie’s tagline (e.g. “This time it’s personnel“)
  • Don’t start with, “It’s about…”
  • Don’t forget to describe your protagonist (i.e. “… a clumsy surgeon” gives us a better feel for the story than simply “… a surgeon”)

It’s important to have an effective logline before writing your script, and after. Sometimes if you can’t create a compelling logline, it’s symptomatic of a problem with your story.

Is your logline up to snuff?

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