O.k. So you’ve identified your basic idea out of the 20 brainstormed ideas we done in the previous tutorial.Now we need to turn this into a logline. Sometimes, you will hear a ‘logline’ referred to as a ‘premise’ – it’s basically the same thing. This is probably the most important part of writing your short film. Nine times out of ten, when I’m asked to critique folks’ writing, more often than not, the reason why it’s not “working” is that the logline isn’t quite there.
So, what is a logline? It is the single controlling idea of your film. It is the story of your film.
Get your logline right – you’re in pig heaven. Get your logline wrong – you’re in pig swill. It’s that simple. O.k. The process I’m taking you on has three clear, distinct steps:
As far as the logline is concerned, we can’t spend enough time to get it right: it is that important and vital to the success of your short film.
In terms of keeping the logline simple, we’ll reduce it to four component parts:
- Main character 2. Main’s characters want 3. Obstacle(s) 4. Ending
So, to begin with let’s have a look at a simple fairy story: Goldilocks and The Three Bears.
Main character: Goldilocks
Her want: To eat porridge
Obstacle: Bears – three of them
Ending: The bears eat Goldilocks (this is the revisionist version)
Seriously, you get the idea. Once you have your idea for your short film, you have to reduce it to these four simple elements: the main character; their want; the obstacle they face in getting what they want; and the ending.
At this stage, don’t worry about what type of main character – we’ll build them up later and make it more sophisticated. If it helps, express your main character in terms of their job: a journalist, a musician, a scientist – whatever.
And in terms of their want, express it in terms of a “to do” – e.g. “… to catch a thief” (Heat), “… to win the [boxing] Heavyweight Championship of the world” (Rocky), “… to create a new social media tool” (The Social Network).
EXERCISE #002: Structure your idea using the four elements: main character, want, obstacle and ending. THERE WILL BE NO REVIEW TO THIS EXERCISE.