Month: May 2015

“Soldiers of Fortune” – Final Logline

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Greetings, Movie Buffs!

The other day I mentioned how a formula from a contact helped me put a logline into working order. With that out of the way, I can move forward with the project. This is the logline that I will be referring to throughout the writing process of the second draft. So without further ado…

“Soldiers of Fortune” | Action/Adventure
When a politician goes missing overseas, a bounty hunter has three days to retrieve him, or risk starting a war.

How does that sound to you?

The formula REALLY helped. Before, I was just trying to throw in all the crazy elements into the logline to try and grab people. It didn’t really work. Gone are the mentions of unnatural phenomenons, senators, pirates, smugglers/treasure hunters, and ships falling from the sky. Sounds crazy out of context doesn’t it?

Probably my favorite part of the logline (besides the positive reception) is that it’s only 20 words long. I’ve heard that a logline should be between 25-30 words, or no more than two sentences. I love thinking about them as the TV Guide description. As brief a summation as possible.

In a few words, the setting is described (overseas — globetrotting), the main character is named, as is the goal and the stakes. The stakes were the biggest change from the first draft. It was concocted to fix the problem with the logline, and it can still work 100% for the original story. Not just that, but now there’s a bit of dramatic irony at play: an ex-soldier has to prevent a war!

Anyway, below I’ve listed some of the previous incarnations of the logline so you can get a feel for how it evolved over time. These start with the most recent, going backwards.

  • When a politician goes missing overseas, a bounty hunter has three days to retrieve him, or risk ruining his reputation.
  • When a politician goes missing overseas, a bounty hunter has three days to retrieve him, or risk everything.
  • When a politician goes missing overseas, a bounty hunter must retrieve him in three days, or be disgraced.
  • A bounty hunter has three days to find a politician who went missing overseas, while investigating an unnatural phenomenon.
  • After his protege fails, a high-level Bounty Hunter has just three days to recover a missing Senator, last seen near a pirate ship that fell from the sky.
  • The government’s go-to Bounty Hunter has three days to find the missing Senator who’s been taken captive by smugglers.

You can read even more of the older loglines here.

As you can see, there’s been a large amount of rewriting JUST THE LOGLINE to get this project into a workable shape. Now is when the REAL work happens. It’s time to start on the character biographies.

I hope you guys found some of this information useful. If you did gain something from this or any of my other posts, please remember to LIKE my Facebook page if you haven’t already.

Until next time, Movie Buffs!


Character Building – The Tier Method

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Greetings, Movie Buffs!

So one thing has finally happened for me: A few months back, I sent out a small mass email to a few contacts to get feedback on a project I’m working on. I’m talking about “Soldiers of Fortune” here. I had sent out the logline at the time with a couple questions about how intriguing it was, and how interested they’d be as John/Joan Q. Moviegoer to see it. And the response was underwhelming to say the least.

I really didn’t know what to do. I had spent weeks, even months toiling away at it, trying to make it sound the best it could.. What wound up happening was that I was too close to it. I knew the story, and I kept wanting to insert all the really cool elements from it and put them into the logline to hopefully gain attention. Unfortunately, they raised more questions that were hard as hell to explain.

So then the task at hand became to write a logline that concisely summed up the plot, while trying not to make it sound too generic. I tried. I really did. And I failed. Several times. It was a disaster.

Then, one day, as luck would have it, I stumbled across an old document on the subject of loglines; hopeful for any help, I opened it. It turned out to have been some copied content from the Write 2 Reel forums. This from the always on-point Lobo Tommy, who shared this observation about loglines:

This is the collected wisdom I’ve gathered on loglines:

With the caveat that formulaic is usually bad, the most elegant formula for creating a great logline that I’ve seen is:


Insert your script’s particulars with “extreme brevity” at the brackets.”

After re-reading this, I realized that I was out of options, so I decided to try out that formula. And by gum, it worked! Well, sort of. See, it helped put the story in a much clearer light. Once completed, I sent it to a most generous contact who’d been putting up with my persistent self for longer than most would, and I thank him for his patience every time. He liked it, except for the stakes. The stakes were not big enough.

Slightly dejected, I spent the next couple days figuring out how to heighten the stakes. And in not a whole lot of time, I figured out how to do it. I sent my contact the new logline, and I received his best response about it. I had a solid logline.

Now, it’s time to rewrite the damn thing! I know the story pretty well, considering it’s been over a year and a half since writing the first draft. There will be some slight shifts in the plot, characters, and events, but the story will be fairly close to the original one. It’ll just be told 1000x better. A ton of the knowledge of how to accomplish this comes from the Scriptshadow site. Again, if you’ve never checked it out, do so immediately.

Anyway, one of the things that was really hammered home to me on the site was that I should Know My Fucking Characters. Inside and out. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that I should write up biographies for my characters. There was a whole section of it in Syd Fields’ “Screenplay.” I’d always thought that I knew my characters well enough, that it was unnecessary. But awhile back, I’d decided to actually put screenwriting teachers’ advice to the test.

I like the idea of actually delving into their complete history to see what all helped form them into the people they are at the start of the script. So the question I asked myself was “How much do I write? Several pages for ALL my characters? There are at least a dozen speaking parts. I work really long hours, I don’t have time for all that; I want to write my damn screenplay.

So tonight, I decided I’d force myself to think up a solution. And I think I’ve come up with one. I’m calling it the Tier Method.

In the current incarnation of the Tier Method, there are three tiers: Tier 1 is the lead characters. The ones that appear the most in your script. They’ll be the ones doing the most in your story. They’ll also have the most lines. Because these are your main characters, I would think anywhere from a 1-5 page write-up would do the job. This is a great article on building characters. It also contains a link to a fantastic character questionnaire. I’ve come up with a few of my own questions about the characters that, for me, really help get a glimpse of a character’s past.

Tier 2 is comprised of supporting characters. People that are present for a great many scenes. A couple of them might even have significance on the plot. You might consider thinking up a bit more for these characters than usual, as they are the ones that typically appear in sequels. For these people, I would say around ½ to a full page is sufficient enough for each of them.

Tier 3 is comprised of additional characters. People that show up for a scene or three. These may most likely be prime for cameos if your film gets made. For these types of characters, you may not necessarily need to figure out what state they were born in. It can be just a description of what they were doing directly before the events of your story. Side Note: These characters can easily get lost in the mix. To help them stand out, it helps if each of these characters are working towards something in their own right. By that I mean, what are they trying to achieve in their lives which are coinciding with this particular story? Generally for these characters, a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs are sufficient.

Another note: When I say write-up, I don’t mean just quickly jotting down the first five things you decide about them and call it done. Really use the aforementioned resources to get to know your characters. Get a history together for them, then decide which points are the most important ones that you’ll be showing (not telling) in your story.

For instance, if an additional character was bitten by a dog when he was a child, it wouldn’t make sense for him to just blurt it out when he’s driving down the road with some other characters. If he raises a gun at a barking dog of a friend, and the friend goes mental on him (as he should), that’s when it would be a relevant place in your story to reveal that bit of background information.

I hope this information has been helpful. As always, until next time, Movie Buffs!

The Tarantino Factor


Quentin Tarantino, Movie God

Quentin Tarantino, Movie God

Greetings, Movie Buffs! It’s certainly been a while since my last entry. My apologies. This is due to working a ridiculously amount of hours at these last two jobs. That’s right. Since moving down to North Carolina, I’ve had two jobs. Thankfully not simultaneously.

That said, let’s get down to it.

A few days ago, a guy I’ve given a few scripts to had a couple really good questions for me: What makes for a great script? And what makes a great pilot script?

I proceeded to give long and detailed answers to both questions. It was during the answering of the first question that I had an epiphany.

Quentin Tarantino is considered a God among filmmakers. He’s my favorite director working today. To put it in perspective, I saw “Pulp Fiction” probably ten years ago. It was, I believe the first of his movies that I ever saw. Ever since then, it has changed my perception of cinema, and it has been my de facto favorite film.

He is the king of writing ten minute dialogue scenes that are iconic for their cadence, and timbre. And as the king, many writers try to imitate. It is here where every single one of them has failed. They all think that all you have to do to write one of these scenes is to have your characters talk about life for ten minutes and maybe introduce a gun into the scene.

The epiphany I had dealt with just how Tarantino can make these scenes work. These scenes of people just talking for ten minutes shouldn’t work as good scenes. So HOW does Tarantino do it? It’s actually quite simple. He treats these scenes like mini movies. Most, if not all of these scenes have a little three-act structure to them.

Take for instance the opener to “Pulp Fiction”: Pumpkin and Honey Bunny talking in the diner. At first, it’s inane, throwing the audience off their balance, not knowing what to expect. Finally, they start discussing the act of robbing a bank with just a phone. Back in the day when this came out, that was an unusual concept, so I can only imagine how interesting it must’ve sounded to the audience. Call this Act One. From there, we get the two dropping lines about their profession: robbery. Now this becomes even better for the audience. Are they planning on trying this method on their next job? Finally, they decide to rob the very place they’re eating breakfast. They pull out their guns. This is Act Two. Then, they actually rob the place. This is Act Three. In this case, Act Three is short.

Care for another example? I thought you might!

I know the previous example wasn’t a ten minute scene, but it did have a three act structure to it. So let’s examine the opener for “Inglourious Basterds”: Act One: Hans Landa interrogates Mr. LaPadite about his former neighbors. Once again, we are thrown into the scene without any real direction to follow. Tarantino likes to let the audience play catch-up. Then we see the very family being discussed is hiding under the floorboards DIRECTLY BENEATH THEM. That is Act Two. Finally, Landa deduces that they are nearby, and forces Mr. LaPadite to reveal their hiding place. He does, and Landa has his men execute all of them. That is Act Three.

So let’s look a little closer at them. Both of those scenes end in major plot points. If these movies were told in chronological order, that fact would be a little more obvious. The little “Inciting Incident,” as it were is utilized in the second act. Usually in a Tarantino film, there is plenty of glorious violence to look forward to. That violence will more likely take place in the Third Act. From the promise of violence in the Second Act, Tarantino can pull the audience along for however long he damn well pleases. He knows the audience will watch the carnage, so he makes the build-up worth our while.

Most amateur writers don’t understand this, and they just write a ten minute dialogue scene where their characters just pontificate about life, and that’s it. The scenes don’t build, they don’t pay off the audience’s patience, they just linger for ten minutes. Or should I say crawl, since that’s what those pointless scenes tend to do.

These “Mini-Movie” scenes can work by themselves and back to back. As long as they build, and have a good payoff, they can work. I wouldn’t advise a novice writer to try writing these scenes, but hey, what do I know? If you decide to, I would advise that you start small, doing a shorter scene as practice before you try the longer ones.

I’m sure more of these examples can be found in Tarantino’s films. The other thing to keep in mind is that these little “Mini Movies” are layered upon actions and dialogue that show so much about the characters.

While scenes that show character are paramount, layering them with a building point will put you well over the top. That was my big takeaway from that realization. I hope you guys found this helpful.

Until next time, Movie Buffs!