Monday, August 22, 2011
Liz's Lair: Guest Blogger Cindy Carroll Talking High Concept Versus Logline
Please help me welcome my friend from Canada, Cindy Carroll. She teaches an online class on how to think like a Hollywood screenwriter and improve your novel. Here's her bio:
Cindy Carroll joined RWA in 1992 and started out writing novels but turned to scripts when an idea for one of her favorite television shows wouldn’t leave her alone. That first attempt, and her second teleplay for the same show, garnered her honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition in the screenplay category. She graduated from Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries intensive in June of 2008. Her interview with David Rambo, writer/producer for CSI appeared in the summer special edition of The Rewrit, the newsletter for Scriptscene, Romance Writers of America’s screenwriting chapter. Currently working on the rewrite of her second feature, Cindy is also developing two new television pilots.
Take it away, Cindy.
First, I wanted to say thanks to Liz for letting me blog with her today.
You’ve heard the term high concept. You’ve heard the term logline. There was a time when these terms were considered just screenplay terms. But not anymore. Now, more and more editors are asking for high concept and they want you to pitch them a logline of your story. Some people think these terms are interchangeable. They’re not.
You can put every high concept in a logline but not every logline is high concept. Clear as mud? A logline is the essence of your story in 25 words or less:
To stop A, character B must do C, but D happens.
When A happens, character B must take some action (C), but D happens.
Character A does something, then when A happens they must do C, but D happens.
But that doesn’t mean any of that will be high concept. High concept must have three things:
It must be unique. It must appeal to a wide audience. And it can be told in a single sentence and you can see the whole movie or book. So back to that logline. If it’s high concept you can convey the idea in a 25 word logline. But just because you can put the idea into one sentence doesn’t mean it’s high concept.
The logline for one of my works in progress is:
When an informant turns up dead, a by-the-book undercover cop models men's underwear to uncover the killer and stop a DVD pirating ring.
Not high concept by any means, but not all stories need to be high concept. They do have a better chance of selling but stories that aren’t high concept sell all the time.
Can you tell which of these movies are high concept and which are not? I’ll give you a hint there are three of each.
Head Over Heels
Little Miss Sunshine
The Blair Witch Project
I talk more in depth about loglines and high concept in my workshop Is That Hollywood Calling? - How Thinking Like a Screenwriter Can Improve Your Novel. Comment here to be entered to win a lecture packet. If you don’t win, don’t worry! There’s still time to register for the class at http://www.writersonlineclasses.com/?page_id=592.
Liz talking now: Practice your logline here, and we'll try to help. Remember, one commenter gets a free lecture packet.