The Logline Fallacy

Loglines are not created equal. They’re not all humdingers, attention grabbers, they are not the alpha and omega of the quality of a script. They can’t be. They shouldn’t be. While you can judge quite a bit from a logline, I fully maintain they should be treated like the pirate code: more of a guideline.

While two of literature’s most well known figures may not have pitched to a studio, they do have many film credits to their names — William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Here the IMDB synopses replace loglines:

Hamlet (1996) Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, returns home to find his father murdered and his mother remarrying the murderer, his uncle. Meanwhile, war is brewing.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) Rich Mr. Dashwood dies, leaving his second wife and her daughters poor by the rules of inheritance. [The] two daughters are titular opposites.

Twelfth Night (1996) [A] comedy of gender confusion, in which a girl disguises herself as a man to be near the Count she adores, only to be pursued by the woman he loves.

Pride and Prejudice (1980) While the arrival of wealthy gentleman sends her marriage-minded mother into a frenzy, willful and opinionated Elizabeth Bennet matches wits with haughty Mr. Darcy.

The best logline for any of the Bard’s work against the best of Austen’s will result the same every time. Austen’s work would be heckled by the hyenas of Hollywood.

Carson Reeves of Scriptshaddow wrote a diatribe about dramatizing which rails against boring scenes. And he’s right, generally speaking. But what I often see lacking in his posts and elsewhere, is the acknowledgement of the difference between boring and subtle.

While the Bard whips out rapiers and witches, Jane’s characters whisper poisonous advice and their gossip strikes like a dagger. The Bard waxes on themes of Oedipal revenge and his tragic characters lop off limbs. Jane’s social commentary is revealed by candlelight, dancing, or the death of a rich aunt.

They both address love, gender roles, the rich, the poor, and fate. But Austen is no less worthy for leaving out the sword fights, the tempests, sexuality, or politics.

Certainly drama is no less filmable for being subtle and loglines are no less interesting. If anything her content is the definition of dramatic, while Shakespeare trends toward the melodramatic. Merchant Ivory versus Marvel Studios.

Yet somehow writers, with content as divergent as Austen and Shakespeare, are held to the same exact standards when it comes to loglines.

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About Saint

Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Cinephile, Coffee Zombie
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One Response to The Logline Fallacy

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