Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Screenplay vs synopsis vs logline

There was a world a long, long time ago when screenwriters would write a spec screenplay and the agent would call the producer on Friday and tell the producer the writer has a new "spec" screenplay. Then the agent would courier the screenplay to the producer who would read the screenplay over the week-end.

Then on Monday the agent would get calls from the producer, or producers, to tell him the screenplay was a pass or an option.


The idea of spec screenplays came about the late 70's and really into the 80's. Spec screenplays were being sold for up to $4 million. You read right, $4 million to Joe Eszterhas and it wasn't even a screenplay yet, just a few notes on a napkin.

The point here is that producers used to read screenplays, and if they didn't one of their lower end interns would read it.

But as the years went by, and more screenwriters appeared, coming from film schools who saw a way to make money from all these wannabees by offering classes in screenwriting. Of course there were some good writers, but most of the schooled writers would never really sell a script.

And with this growth, producers began to get lazy and would ask for a 1-page synopsis. And this is where the problem began and still remains.

They would now read the synopsis, one single page that would tell them how great the screenplay would be.

The problem with this was that the 1 page synopsis gave the reader a very limited view of what the story was. And the problem with this is that the screenplay could be completely different.

One thing I noticed is that those who could write "dynamite" 1-pagers often didn't write good screenplays. As for myself, I despise 1-pagers, it's sort of like when your friend tells someone your story in front of a stranger, he may give some highlights, but not the feeling that you did when you said it.

But just to make it even worse, something else came to be.

The "Logline."

This is the single line that explains the entire movie. It comes from TV and newspapers, wherein they give the title of a TV show and a little piece of information as in:"

State of Affairs: A CIA operative who's aboard a Russian submarine is Charlie's best hope of recovering a wealth of stolen U.S. information.

That is a logline. A real one from the LA Times on last Monday.

And now, producers just want a logline to get them excited about your 100-page screenplay. In other words you have to create a fantastic idea in one page.

Not a hell of a lot room there to tell you 100 pages, at this point, the 1-pager is almost a novel compared to the logline.

And that's where we are today.

So what's next?  Two words to describe your 100-page screenplay?

1 comment: