Screenwriters, how many times have you seen this?
"Un-named agency/management/production company has a policy that neither it nor any of its agents or other employees accept or consider any unsolicited materials, ideas, concepts or suggestions of any nature whatsoever ("Unsolicited Materials"). Accordingly, you may not use this website or information obtained there from to submit Unsolicited Materials to Un-named Company by any means (including, without limitation, by mail, fax or e-mail). Should you nevertheless send Unsolicited Materials to Un-named Company in contravention of this express policy, please be advised that the Unsolicited Materials will not be considered by anyone at Un-named Company, and if possible they will be returned to you without anyone at Un-named Company retaining any copies. Un-named Company shall not forward or discuss any Unsolicited Materials with any third parties."
Frustrating isn't it? Unfortunately, it's the nature of the beast, and there is nothing we can do to change it.
The TLOL Contest's main objective is this: To open a line of communication between undiscovered screenwriters and producers, agents and managers.
We assist screenwriters in breaking down the first of many doors that stand in their way of establishing themselves within the industry. We are not here to promise you the stars. There is no such thing as "over-night success". We take a pragmatic approach to success. Baby steps--the first of which is to get your saleable pitch into the hands of potential buyers.
So. Register your screenplay. Write that killer logline. Enter our monthly contest for a minimal fee of $10. And, if you are one of the 25 finalists, we'll send your logline to our collegues at production companies, agencies and management companies. Also, the writers of the top three loglines will recieve some fantastic prizes.
Lets see if we can get some requests to read your masterpiece!
Notification: Writer's will be notified around the end of the first week of the new contest period
One Grand Prize Winner and Two Runner-Ups will be named, and the top 25 loglines will be distributed to contacts. Please see website for a complete list of prizes.
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by David Santo
Join me now as we travel to a screenwriting seminar in Los Angeles, where the celebrity screenwriter in charge dispenses knowledge on how to properly construct a riveting and attention getting logline. It sounds simple – you get one sentence to explain your story - and you must construct it in such a way that people want to read more. Then the Q&A portion arises and it becomes clear that writing a logline is anything but clear.
Is it always just one sentence? Does it contain the ending? If it does contain the ending will people want to read more? And it needs to sizzle but how much? And speaking of sizzle; what's the difference between a tag line and a logline? And is logline actually spelled "logline" or is it spelled with two separate words "log line"?
This conversation goes on and on to the point of exasperation and I wonder why I just plunked down serious jack to get this kind of screenwriter abuse. Then, I remember, I'm in a room filled with writers, and we are not the most well adjusted group of people in the universe. But there's a good reason for this maladjustment.
All of us just spent 6 months writing a 100 page script that will be judged under the harshest conditions imaginable then dismissed if one single sentence isn't…dazzling and splendid and informative (but not too informative) unique and universal and sets up our hero for a quest with a valuable life-lesson (she learns) that coincides with her external goal that makes the audience feel triumphant, yet, bitter sweet at the same time, so she's not a clichéd character, and people will leave the theater joined hand-in-hand with complete strangers and encourage other complete strangers to spend more money than Scrooge McDuck has hidden under his bed to see this flick…and…just like the improper use of these ellipsis we…inevitably…fall short of the impossible demands the industry places on a logline.
It turns out the real usefulness of a logline is it's just the quickest way for a producer or reader to say "no" to our script. Then our screenplay languishes in obscurity - our hard efforts never see the light of day or get read by anyone of importance because of one freaking sentence – and we know this so it makes us a little squirrely.
So the necessary evil is; I need to create a spiffy logline, the best possible one I can write. And I'm going to need all the help I can get to do this. So wouldn't it be great if I could talk to a logline expert?
THIS JARED DOES NOT SELL SUBS
Jared Dunne is the contest creator of "Three Lines Or Less" – a logline contest that's listed right here on moviebytes.com.
He focuses on loglines. And more loglines. And I recently chatted with him via email…
Three Lines Or Less is a great concept. How did you come up with it?
The idea came about from examining the current screenwriting contest circuit. There was a major gap in this market for a logline contest. There was also very few, if any, contests or services that offered a truly affordable way for broke, undiscovered screenwriters to get an opportunity to have their material read by development execs. What's the average fee to enter a screenplay contest, $45? What's the goal of entering one of those contests? Prizes are nice, no doubt, but ultimately most screenwriters want to have their material read. In most contests, how many writer's get an opportunity to have their material read by development execs? The top three - maybe the top five? The financial obligation doesn't seem to match the potential opportunity for exposure.
Now my screenplays have won a couple of contests (I'm not looking for a cookie; there is a reason that I mention this) and part of the prize for winning those contests were that my script would be considered by development execs. Did anything come from these opportunities? No. Does that mean that I got lucky in winning the contest and that my writing really isn't that good? I'd like to think not. The reason the development execs gave me for not wanting to pursue my project was that the subject matter of my screenplay wasn't something that they were in the market for. And, I've heard the same story from many other contest winners.
So I decided not to sit on the contacts that I've made over the years while working in story development and create a contest that has a very low financial commitment-$10. Award a higher number of finalists--25. Deal with loglines instead of screenplays, and make the contest bi-monthly-- both which seem to better suit the ever-changing market of the film industry.
Isn't a logline supposed to be single sentence?
Yes, in general, loglines are usually only one sentence. However, I've also seen loglines that were up to 5 lines. For the purpose of this contest, I wanted to open it up a little so writers could convey a better sense of the story as a whole. This ends up being more beneficial to both the writers and the producers/agents/managers who read the finalists' loglines. Because if you consider the fact that when the loglines hit the desk of the producer/agent/manager, they've never heard of the writer. They don't know the writer's ability. So it's easier for the producer/agent/manager to take a chance and request to read your script if they have a more substantive logline to determine whether or not the story meets their current needs.
What elements do you look for in a logline that tells you the script might be worth reading?
We judge our log-line entries based on "originality" and "marketability". The difficulty with this is that these two terms are often contradictory. The independent-world is often more concerned with the originality of the story telling. The studio-world is often more concerned with the marketability of the story telling. No matter which world you're looking to enter, you still have to "sell" your story. If you're too "original" you run risk of under-selling your story into the "obscure". If you're too "marketable" you run the risk over-selling your story into the "cliché'. Ultimately, the most effective log-lines strike a great balance between the two. With that said, there are also instances where everything is thrown out the window, and a log-line simply strikes an emotional chord with you, and you just have to read the script.
What's been the biggest surprise you've experienced since starting Three Lines Or Less?
A) How many times writers haven't followed the proper submission guidelines for entering the contest! It's pretty simple! Sorry, I've wanted to get that off my chest for a while :) B) The biggest [negative] surprise is how little time that writers seem to spend developing their log-lines. While we've had many absolute killer log-lines, we've also had way too many duds. Consider the fact that we have 25 places for the top log-lines for each contest. Not once have we had enough quality log-lines to complete a top-25 list. C) The biggest [positive] surprise is that our finalists have received 43 requests to read their screenplays based on their logline entry into Three Lines Or Less since April!
Deep down inside where it really counts, does genre matter to you?
Absolutely not. In no way are we in the business of following trends of genre. We'll leave that challenge to the reps and producers. Our utmost concern is the quality of the loglines - period. On our blog (http://threelinesorless.tumblr.com) we do archive our "best of" loglines categorized by genre. This provides free long-term exposure for the writers, and makes it easier for development types to find what they're looking for.
JARED'S TOP 3 INGREDIENTS
Writing a great logline is pretty simple --
The difficult thing is to be able to mix these ingredients, distill the essence of the story, and capture the emotional and physical needs of the characters in so few words, without sounding like a million different other stories.
Any final words of wisdom?
It's a well known stereotype that writers have a penchant for being reclusive and introverted and that they consistently balk at having to "pitch" or "sell" their material. It's frustrating to see writers continue to draw a line in the sand between business and craft. Writers could benefit from taking a creative angle when considering the business of screenwriting; stop dreading and being cynical about the business-need of having to write up a log-line, treatment or synopsis. Look at it as an extension of your creative ability; approach them as different creative writing disciplines. Have fun with it -- it will shine through. Also, if your logline reads like a generic description of the genre itself, rewrite it! Find the emotional core of the physical conflict, create irresistible characters, and don't be afraid to be irreverent!
An interview with screenwriter Eli Kornstein regarding the Three Lines Or Less Writing Competition.
An interview with screenwriter Mike Dean regarding the Three Lines Or Less Writing Competition.