The Mutation of a Film Logline!

I am currently working on the breakdown of a short film that a friend and I briefly toyed with at this past Sunday’s REFRESH shoot. I had a couple of ideas before hitting the hay but did not have a clear idea of what I wanted it to be. The wacky B-movie science fiction romp is still being experimented on in terms of plot but it made sense to start with a LOGLINE to provide a clear, concise synopsis to guide me as I beat out and eventually write/rewrite the short. This is in order to better hone my skills as a screenwriter and can potentially help those of you working on your own screenplays.

UNTITLED SCI-FI COMEDY PROJECT
GENRE: SCIENCE FICTION COMEDY

I like the idea of incorporating some black comedy that mixes in influence from GATTACA, MARS ATTACKS, and other science fiction genre films. I have an affection for that particular genre and with the recent blockbuster success of PROMETHEUS, GRAVITY, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and the forthcoming INTERSTELLAR the genre looks ripe for a satiric look at the inner workings of it.

Screenwriters are to architects as scripts are to schematics. In other words, writers are engineers working to deconstruct and reconstruct a story for

I am focusing on honing my blueprinting skills so I can provide logic and reasoning for my screenwriting decisions. The story and characters should be in sync with one another, especially to create drama and comedy. I am looking at my own process one day at a time to motivate myself to be more consistent and analytical, with a more thoughtful approach then I have previously had.

I looked at this screenwriting video to provide me with a better idea of what a logline is and how it could provide clarity to the audience and myself.

I started with the three principal characteristics:

1. Character

2. Want

3. Obstacle

I based my own first draft off the ARGO logline in the video.

Draft 1:

A NASA ENGINEER PLOTS AN INTRICATE PLAN TO SEND HIS FATHER’S ASHES ONBOARD NASA’S FINAL SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION BUT GETS INFECTED BY AN ALIEN PARASITE.

I decided I could potentially mind more comedy and provide more context for the character’s desperation if I switched his position from the top to the bottom of the ladder. It provides more conflict for his character arc.

Draft 2:

A LOW-LEVEL JANITOR HATCHES A DARING PLAN TO JETTISON HIS FATHER’S ASHES ONBOARD NASA’S FINAL SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION BEFORE GETTING INFECTED BY AN ALIEN PARASITE.

The logline seemed to be a bit funner and funnier to start thinking of things to keep our protagonist as he deals with all the pressures of his bosses, demands of his jobs, want to fulfill his dead father’s wishes to get out into space, etc. But something looked wrong, I then switched The Want and The Obstacle to see if it could flow better.

Draft 3:

A LOW-LEVEL JANITOR HATCHES A DARING PLAN BUT GETS INFECTED BY AN ALIEN PARASITE BEFORE HE CAN JETTISON HIS FATHER’S ASHES ONBOARD NASA’S FINAL SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION.

It provided a different but stagnant flow and seemed to be too complicated to follow so I switched The Want and The Obstacle back. I took out and replaced some adjectives describing the protagonist and his goal.

Draft 4:

A LOWLY BUT DETERMINED JANITOR HATCHES A PLAN TO JETTISON HIS FATHER’S ASHES ONBOARD NASA’S LAST SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH BUT GETS INFECTED BY AN ALIEN PARASITE.

After reviewing what I had previously wrote and altered some of my changes back to Draft 3, I reconsidered that Obstacle part and changed it to something that I feel gives more an obstacle to overcome simultaneously as he goes against everything else. Prior draft loglines did not really express how it is an ever-present danger and I wanted to express more immediacy to hook audiences and myself into the story. The more recent draft is something that I feel is clear and concise. I’m sure that there is an even better draft of this however this has already allowed me to start beating out the story and its characters.

Draft 5:

A LOW-LEVEL JANITOR HATCHES A DARING PLAN TO JETTISON HIS FATHER’S ASHES INTO SPACE VIA NASA’S LAST SHUTTLE LAUNCH AS HE BATTLES INFECTION FROM AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL PARASITE.

At the end of the day, syntax may or may not matter when working on a script. From my own perspective, if you are using a logline as a foundation—even a rough outline—it is imperative that the meaning is clear and concise so that the writer can structure the rest of the story accordingly.

We’ll see how this experiment gets out of control.

It is not a clear picture but it shows how I am going through the breakdown on paper. The tactile process provides something more tangible that I can interact with and revise, allowing me to really think through my decisions and see what I can change. This process is something I haven't been as consistent with recently, as I have shifted to more digital application word processors but it is a much better process for me.

It is not a clear picture but it shows how I am going through the breakdown on paper. The tactile process provides something more tangible that I can interact with and revise, allowing me to really think through my decisions and see what I can change. This process is something I haven’t been as consistent with recently, as I have shifted to more digital application word processors but it is a much better process for me.

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