Logline Madness 2020 – First Round Drama

May 4, 2020 by

Logline Madness 2020

First Round – Drama

Judge: Christopher Lockhart, WME

There were a total of 425 qualified submissions to the Logline Madness 2020 Competition. All Patreon donors were allowed to submit one logline that was automatically promoted to the first round of judging. Loglines submitted via Discord were voted upon publicly online and the nine (9) receiving the most votes were promoted to the first round of judging. Loglines submitted via Discord that were not promoted via the online vote, along with those submitted via email, were given to the selection committee of ten (10) writers, who then decided the remainder of the loglines to compete in the first round based on a vote.

A few loglines were missing required information (title, author, genre, medium, etc.) or the same author submitted multiple loglines and as stipulated by the rules of the competition, and may have been disqualified.

Below are the loglines designated as the top twenty-four (24) in the Drama genre by the selection committee and online vote. The twelve (12) loglines chosen to move on to the Semi-Final round, as determined by the judge, are listed at the bottom.

 

1) Party Pooper by Gianluca Cosentino (TV) – A socially awkward college student, who loses means to afford tuition, starts running an illegal business of house parties around campus, while serving as the student liaison against the uncontrollable party scene.

Judge’s Feedback: Cute concept.  Logline could have a crisper quality given its whimsical nature.   As a TV series, I’m not sure how this survives past season four.  I’m not even sure how this lasts more than a few episodes, as it feels like a one-trick pony.   The concept feels better suited for a feature.

2) No Entry by Angie Engelbert (TV) – After rescuing a man and his son illegally crossing into the United States by water, three conflicted teens put their values to the test by establishing an underground railroad to get refugees safely into the United States.

Judge’s Feedback: Interesting and topical.  I can imagine all the possible episodes given the wealth of conflict that can be mined from the lives of these teens involved in such an endeavor.  Of course, the drama works better given our current administration.  New policies implemented by a new administration could potentially undermine this show.

3) Untitled by Matt Lombardo (Feature) – A teen with avoidant personality disorder who dreams of being a detective forms a bond with his tormentor in high school—a bulimic former professional ice skater—over their struggles with mental illness and together they team up to track down two rival physicians engaged in a decades long competition to see who can commit the most brazen public murder without being caught.

Judge’s Feedback: I think the logline mostly works in a mechanical sense.  While I can guess, I’m not sure the clinical definition of “avoidant personality disorder,” and I don’t have a DSM-5 handy.   So that gets this logline off to a wobbly start for me.  This has too much information.  For example, I don’t think you need “over their struggles with mental illness,” as we can extrapolate that from their introductions. And it could probably find ways to communicate the idea with fewer words.  The second half feels like it could be a movie in and of itself, and the connective tissue between the first half and the second is tenuous.   Why is this their case? For example, are the physicians their psychiatrists?   (I’m not suggesting that because it’s on-the-nose, but without some connectivity, it feels random and impersonal.)

4) Adopted Family by V.Y. Bars (Feature) – A single woman, who’s just left a strenuous relationship, adopts a child and gives him all the love she has. While she believes that their family is complete and perfect as it is, the biological father shows up and wrecks their serene world.

Judge’s Feedback:This feels like another version of KRAMER VS. KRAMER with the genders swapped.  The logline lacks clarity.  I’m looking for narrative propulsion – something that feels dramatic and cinematic and can sustain 120 pages.  “…The biological father shows up and wrecks their serene world…” doesn’t succeed in showing me what I need in a movie.  Plus, this is presented in a way that renders the protagonist (the single woman) inactive.  Suddenly, the father shows up and the logline makes him active, and we have no idea what the single woman is doing – and it’s her movie.  This is the death knell of a logline.

5) Miss Miserable by Marco North (Feature) – After a failed suicide attempt, a charismatic, mentally unstable woman finds her life unraveling in a series of volatile vignettes. Estranged from her teenage daughter, she attempts to reinvent herself. When they eventually reconnect, the reunion snowballs into violence and tragedy.

Judge’s Feedback: The logline feels sloppy, which leads me to believe the screenplay is unfocused, unstructured, and meandering.  I could be WRONG, but I’ll never know because this logline doesn’t entice me to read the script.   I’m not sure what “volatile vignettes” means.  Is that referring to the way the story itself is told (in vignettes)?  If yes, I don’t think a logline should refer to the way the story is presented.  I’m of the school that a logline should simply present its story without editorial or being self-conscious.    “…She attempts to reinvent herself” could be interesting, but it’s neither cinematic nor dramatic in this context.    The final sentence throws a lot of vague conflict into the mix, and I have a feeling it’s conflict found in the third act.  (For the most part, loglines should present only information from the first act.  If you’re padding the logline with story elements from the second and third acts, it’s trouble.) 

6) Wildlife by Calvin Zimmerman (Feature) – In the wake of a lethal mass shooting at his small town high school, the young son of the local police chief must find a way to convict the shooter- his older brother.

Judge’s Feedback: This is potentially interesting, but the logline seems to lack the clarity I need.   This notion to “find a way to convict the shooter” is vague.   Is he the only one who suspects his brother is the shooter?  Is he the only one who knows his brother is the shooter? And why is a high school boy charged with the responsibility to “convict” the shooter?  Isn’t that the prosecutor’s job?  Maybe the word “convict” isn’t the best choice?  The conflict between the brothers is intriguing, but the fuzzy presentation kills the logline. 

7) O, Pariah! by Remi K. Chevalier (TV) – 1870s, Kansas. A former slave becomes the sole guardian of a cult leader’s white daughter and must protect her from vengeful hordes convinced that only the child’s death can put an end to the expanding sect.

Judge’s Feedback: The dramatic elements are clearly presented – though I’m not sure I understand “vengeful hordes.”   This sounds more like a feature than a TV series. 

8) Reconstruction by Jelena Woehr (TV) – A surly forensic sculptor trying to kick her Fentanyl habit discovers that her creations can talk to her and help her solve their murders—but only when she’s using.

Judge’s Feedback: Sort of GHOST WHISPER or MEDIUM – though I hope much edgier.  I like this idea better than those; however, it’s easier for the Ghost Whisper and the Medium to carry around their information source.  This forensic artist cannot carry around her sculptures (at least not without looking ridiculous).  I wonder if the Fentanyl addiction crowds the concept.   Given the drug enables this “super power,” I guess it’s part and parcel of the concept.  (After all, how else could you explain talking statues?)   But the concept feels like two tricks.  It’s all in the execution.  I’m curious as to how this is executed.  For example, when she’s stuck on a case, does she just swallow a pill –  like Popeye eats spinach – and talks to her sculptures?   Why don’t they just tell her who murdered them? And how do the sculptures talk? What does that look like?  I have to assume the tone here is dark but amusing.  Ultimately, this has me asking lots of questions – but the good kind of questions.  That bodes well for the logline.  Unlike some of the other TV pitches, this feels like a series.

9) Ávila by Gustavo R. Rojas B. (Feature) – After the death of their father, two brothers must take his ashes on a trek through The Ávila National Park, a dark journey that will make them begin to lose their sanity.

Judge’s Feedback: This set-up is familiar in that I’ve read hundreds of scripts about characters taking journeys with the cremains of loved ones. This doesn’t sound particularly interesting or hooky.  I don’t know anything about Avila National Park. Is it even a real park? Why is the story set in this park? Does it have some kind of backstory or mythology that sets it apart from Yellowstone, for example?  If yes, it might be wise to include that information (in a truncated manner, of course).  The logline is cursed by its vagueness.   For example, “dark journey” is vague, and so is “begin to lose their sanity.”   Loglines thrive on specificity.  The more vague the logline, the less I’m able to see your movie.   On a nitpicky note, leave out references to time (unless necessary for comprehension).  In this case, “begins” is unnecessary. 

10) Yasferatu by Adam Guerino (TV) – Punk rock drag queen Yasferatu finds they have magical abilities when visited by their best friend’s ghost who was killed the night of her bachelorette party and is hell-bent on solving her own murder.

Judge’s Feedback: Is this a pitch for the pilot or a pitch for the series?   I’ll assume it’s the pilot, since we can’t spend five years following this one investigation.  I’m not sure who’s the protagonist. The logline would be better off to give the goal (of solving the murder) to both characters.  The word choice gives the action to the ghost, leaving Yasteratu out.  Yes, we can assume they’re both going to work together, but we shouldn’t have to assume.  The logline should simply tell us. 

11) Black Russian by Danielle Motley (TV) – A Black woman unknowingly acts as a Russian sleeper agent while under involuntary hypnosis and must discover who’s controlling her before the alternate personality kills someone she loves.

Judge’s Feedback: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and Robert Ludlum come to mind here.  Again, this sounds more like a feature than a TV series, as I don’t get a sense of a season’s arc, or the arc over the course of several years.  The plot feels too small for this genre.  Shouldn’t there be something bigger going on with bigger stakes than just her lover?  After all, she’s a sleeper agent for Russia – not Match.com.  Overall, this works for me. 

12) Leave This World Alive by Joya McCrory (Feature) – An apathetic professional suicide note writer is hired to spend one last night out on the town with a terminally ill girl.

Judge’s Feedback: The anti-hero has definite intrigue (though I don’t know their gender).  Is a pro suicide note writer a real thing? (Is it the next step down after screenwriter?)   Can the script make this kind of character believable? Or even identifiable? Usually, having a writer as the protagonist is a no-no, because (generally speaking)  we can’t watch writers write.  And writing is boring to watch.  I’d say this could be an exception; suicide notes can be short, clever, funny, and heartbreaking.  This is a “small” movie, and it feels slight.   (I hope this isn’t treacly or resolved with relative ease.) I can probably guess what will happen, so I hope the journey is unique and intriguing.   I can see all the potential pitfalls in this, but the main character piques my interest.

13) Made of Dishonor by Megan Bacharach (TV) – A hopeless romantic grapples with the reality that her uber-successful sister is engaged to the man she believes to be her soul mate.

Judge’s Feedback: And then what? What does the hopeless romantic do about it?  How does “grappling with reality” translate dramatically? Is she actively trying to break them up?  Or does she just stew silently?  We’ve seen this kind of conflict before.  What makes this concept different? What’s fresh about it? 

14) Imaginary by Nathaniel Mack (Feature) – After a child forgets his imaginary friend, the disregarded playmate finds solace in the company of a girl dying of Leukemia.

Judge’s Feedback: This feels disconnected from itself because of the way it’s written.   It starts out as if the child is the protagonist and then it switches gears turning the story over to the imaginary friend.   Does the child play a role in the story?  Or is he merely the set-up?  If he’s the set-up (and the imaginary friend is the protagonist), the logline needs to be presented from the imaginary friend’s perspective. It could look like this:  “After being discarded by a child, an imaginary friend finds solace in the company of a girl dying of leukemia.  If, however, the child is the protagonist, he needs to play a role in the story; for example, “the child sets out to win back his imaginary friend.”   Displacing a few words can easily offset a logline.  As presented, it doesn’t work because there’s no story purpose.  The imaginary friend finds solace in the company of a dying girl.  OK.  Where’s the conflict? What’s the problem he must solve?  Look at the word choice.  It says, he “finds” solace.  That’s the END of the movie.  It should be “seeks” solace.  Regardless, even that’s vague and not cinematic (it’s just a more active word choice.)  Ultimately. there’s no forward momentum here.  I don’t see second-act rising action.  I don’t see a feature film. 

15) The Paper Bride by Peter Stead (Feature) – A grieving comic shop clerk embarks on a dangerously obsessive relationship when a girl dies and reappears as a new graphic novel character.

Judge’s Feedback: This feels too vague for my taste.  I don’t know what “dangerously obsessive relationship” means or looks like. This doesn’t help to clarify the stakes.  I guess there’s some intrigue in a dead girl coming back as a graphic novel character, but I don’t understand how the clerk interacts with her.  Is she in his world or is he in her world? 

16) Starlet by Sara Ataiiyan (TV) – Former teen star Madison Jacobs is penniless and desperate to get her career back but must contend with her addictions, family secrets and her younger sister’s emerging career that threatens to overshadow her comeback.

Judge’s Feedback:I can see this as some kind of fun  nighttime soap opera with a little show glitz, glamor, and backstabbing.  I might like to know Madison’s age, which gives me an idea of the demographics.  Is she 22 42?  In my opinion, it makes a difference. 

17) The Danger of Dying by Tiffany L. Fussell (TV) – A gifted linguist takes a job at a university in Arizona to study markings in cave dwellings on Tribal land, but secretly seeks to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance there years ago.

Judge’s Feedback: Is this a mystery that can sustain several seasons? I’m not sure I see the width and breadth of a series here.  It could certainly work as a feature. Why is her missing persons investigation a secret? I’d like to see some connective tissue between the brother’s disappearance and her studies.  Is there an ancient Tribal cult involved, for example?  

18) Post Mortem by Travis Carr (TV) – After a fateful accident, a desperate funeral home director tries to save his failing business by killing citizens of his sleepy small town, convincing himself it’s all for the sake of his family.

Judge’s Feedback: I find the world of funeral homes and its employees to be intriguing.   I like the idea of a mortician killing people to increase his own business (and I’ve seen it before in several scripts).  I think the second part of the logline drops the ball.  I wish the fallout to his enterprise were more exciting than what’s offered here.  But I can imagine his efforts snowballing into something he cannot control.  Is he only killing bad people? How can we relate to this undertaker’s undertaking? 

19) Digg Dogg and the Traveling Kid’s Show by Lucas Pops (Feature) – The star of a touring children’s program is dealing with the fallout from a scandal involving his costar and fellow show creator. His way of coping: drugs, alcohol, and hookers. As he delves into his memories and avoids the truth about his partner’s crimes, his path of self-destruction gets muddled as he tries to put on a family-friendly show.

Judge’s Feedback: This is a character based screenplay, but the logline doesn’t show off its good points – if there are any.  The logline suggests the screenplay has a loose dramatic structure (or maybe no dramatic structure ).  The notion that the character “delves into his memories” sounds like dull, static, expository flashbacks.  There’s too much information here, and this needs to be streamlined.   Maybe Digg Dogg is a terrific character, but I’m neither convinced nor intrigued.  

20) Sink or Swim by Eva Saunders (TV) – An American student plans to spend the summer in Germany helping refugees, but finds herself getting sucked into a seedy smuggling ring instead.

Judge’s Feedback: While this doesn’t feel original, from a technical viewpoint, the logline is off to a good start.  But it’s missing some die or die information.  I’d like to know what the student does once she’s sucked into the seedy smuggling ring.   It’s not enough that we know the character’s problem.  The logline must tell us what the character does in response to the problem – because that’s the drama.   That’s the show.  That’s the movie.  Without that crucial information, this feels like half a logline. 

21) 8-Wheeled Assassins by Tessa Scott (TV) – Outcasted by the other school parents, a shy single mom joins a roller derby team in an attempt to make friends only to realize she’s been initiated into a murdering vigilante crew.

Judge’s Feedback: This is basically the same logline as SINK OR SWIM but with alternate story elements.  It also suffers from the same missing piece of information.  Once she’s been initiated into a murdering vigilante crew, what does she do?  For example, does she try to escape its clutches? Or does she become a willing vigilante?   My verdict is the same as SINK OR SWIM; this feels like half a logline.  However, this is a fun concept.  On a nitpicky note, is “outcasted” a real word? 

22) Stress Monsters by Sandrene Mathews (TV) – When a perfectionist’s plan to provide for his family goes awry, his stress manifests in an unexpected way. He must confront the source of his anxiety and learn to control it before he loses everything he holds dear.

Judge’s Feedback: This is just a lot of vague psychobabble.  Where’s the drama? What are we tuning in each week to watch?  In what unexpected way does his stress manifest?  What is the source of his anxiety that he must confront?  Why the mystery?  Why not simply give us the facts?  It’s a red flag for me when a logline doesn’t reveal the specifics.  It’s either because the story lacks the specifics, or because they’re too convoluted to present succinctly in a logline.   Could I be wrong?  Sure.  But the writer doesn’t get the opportunity to prove me wrong.  The logline must do the heavy lifting and sell the script.  A logline is a window into your story.   If the window is dirty, it doesn’t allow me to peer in.  This logline needs Windex. 

23) Seven Days in August by Joe Swafford (Feature) – In the immediate aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, an African-American teen must navigate the new social landscape in his predominately white private school.

Judge’s Feedback:I like the topicality, and the set-up.  Is the story set in Missouri? Or in or around Ferguson?  If the story is set in Maine, for example, I’m not sure the headline would make much of a difference.   If the story is set in St. Louis, for example, the logline should include that information.  I must admit the logline loses a lot of momentum with the teen having to “navigate the new social landscape.”   That doesn’t have much of an exciting or emotional ring to it.  Does the teen meet with opposition?  Is this like the black & white version of SCHOOL TIES (1992)?   A little more specificity might go a long way here. 

24) Voodoo Macbeth by Daren Wagar (Feature) – A young Orson Welles contends with racial tensions, a drunk lead actor and his own ego as he tries to stage Macbeth with an all black cast in 1930s Harlem.

Judge’s Feedback:This appeals to the film geek in me, and I like these story-behind-the-story screenplays.  I wish the logline focused more on the racial strife rather than throwing in the “drunk actor” and Welles “own ego,” because it dilutes the import of the racial tension – which is what’s really interesting here.  A “drunk actor” and “Welles ego” feel anticlimactic when juxtaposed to racial strife. Adding these additional elements to the logline leads me to believe the logline doesn’t have confidence that the racial strife is enough to buoy the story.  As a result, I lose some confidence in the screenplay.  I wonder if this interesting piece of history is enough for a feature length screenplay.     Having the drunk actor and Welles ego in the screenplay is, of course, fine.  But I’m not sure they belong in this logline.  (Keep in mind,  a director dealing with a drunk actor is an average occurrence.  And Welles ego could be easily addressed by creating an adjective to describe Welles at the start of the logline.  For example, the logline could say, “a young and egotistical Orson Welles….”)  

The loglines selected as the best 12 and moving on to the Semi-Final Round:

#1 Party Pooper / #2 No Entry / #8 Reconstruction / #11 Black Russian

#12 Leave This World Alive / #16 Starlet / #17 The Danger of Dying / #18 Post Mortem

#20 Sink or Swim / #21 8-Wheeled Assassins / #23  Seven Days in August / #24 Voodoo Macbeth

The other First Round loglines (Comedy and Horror/Thriller) will be announced in forthcoming articles. Thank you to all writers who submitted loglines and congratulations to those moving on to the next round of the competition!

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