Many writers struggle with coming up with that perfect logline for their project - let alone writing one, and then it's time to take that and turn it into a pitch. Well, it can all become pretty intimidating rather quickly!
Luckily for you, our fab guest post today is written by TV writer (Hollyoaks) Drew Hubbard - where he shares a step-by-step process on how YOU can turn your loglines into a pitch each and every time.
So let's begin by handing over to Drew!
Struggling with the dreaded pitch document, a new writer challenges himself to improve, or face worrying about them forever.
Why now? Why me? - I always thought that all I needed to do was write a script, but the closer I got to breaking in, the more I discovered that the script is only half the battle. You must be able to sell it first. But how do you turn pages of carefully considered dialogue and action, into a single page? I realised I better learn.
Relevant Backstory - Since 2015, I've been doing a quick and easy exercise to generate ideas. I turn a word-of-the-day, into a one sentence idea for a tv series/feature. The only rule; it must be original. I wanted to get in the habit of instantly thinking up ideas, should I ever get asked, “we want a show about X, any suggestions?”. You can take the word literally, or free-associate it. If you try this now, you'd have over 200 ideas by the end of this year. (I use this one).
Synopsis - These ideas fuelled my 12 week logline-to-pitch challenge. Out of the 365 ideas from 2015, I chose the ones I felt had legs and inspired something in me. Those 40 ideas where then carefully narrowed down to the 10 strongest concepts. I turned each idea into a logline (see “relevant info” below).
I gave myself 12 weeks to turn them into one-page-pitches. Why 12 weeks? Well, I had a plan.
Week 1: Work out genre, format, flesh out characters, and outline the pilot episode, or full storyline if it was a feature.
Week 2: Move all those ideas into my one-page-pitch template (see “beyond the challenge” below), and roughly flesh it all out. This often amounted to 2 or more pages.
Week 3: Condense into 1 page. Keep the sizzle of the idea, but be clear, concise and compelling.
I started with the first logline. In week 2, I also started week 1 of the next logline. So, by week 3, I was working on three ideas at once, all in different stages of development. This way I could gradually find my rhythm of working simultaneously on several ideas.
After some initial feedback from peers, I realized my original template wasn't quite right and needed some tweaking. Once I found a template that worked *for me* I was off.
Slowly, the process of crafting a one-page-pitch became easier. Honestly. It started to become second nature writing a compelling synopsis in only a few paragraphs. What was once a thing to be dreaded, became fun.
This was a challenge about pitches, but it also had the added challenge of fleshing out new ideas with a fast turnaround.
It helped that I didn't have a deep emotional attachment to a rigid concept, and I was free to change things up. I found that thinking up interesting B stories, and minor characters wasn't necessary, as they often didn't make the synopsis anyway (save them for the treatment right?).
I also used thesaurus.com a lot. I mean A LOT. Finding a single interesting, active word, that said more than a few words could do, was my saviour in keeping my synopsis short. It added another layer to my challenge. How much white space could I add to the pitch?
So 12 weeks went by, and I printed off my final pitch with a smile. Now, I'm not saying these pitches are perfect, but they're a damn sight better than the kind I reluctantly churned out before my challenge.
If I'm honest, I would spend a little more time on them before I sent them out to a production company, but the important thing is, the hard work is done.
I feel much more confident in turning my latest spec scripts and ideas, into compelling one-page-pitches, and I can approach them with confidence.
Beyond the challenge - This is going to become a regular thing for me. It was a great exercise although next time I think I'll perhaps do 4 in 6 weeks instead.
Thinking of trying it for yourself? Awesome. You'll need to find a pitch template that works for you. There's loads online (try this one from bang2write), so find one, or several, and adapt them to suit the way you write. As for my layout... well, I laid out this article with the same headings as I use for my pitch. Title at the top, logline underneath. A little about why I wrote it and why now.
A little about backstory (or world of the show if it's set in a world unlike ours, such as my dark-comedy set in an infertile 2050). My synopsis also introduces the characters.
I have a little section about what happens beyond the pilot (skip this for a feature obvs), and occasionally I'll have a little bit at the bottom that gives any relevant info I couldn't fit in elsewhere, like if the script won a competition, if it's a book adaption, or a brief description about concepts the reader my not be complacent with (such as info about cheerleading stunts for my kids series).
Relevant info – Loglines. There's plenty of stuff on the internet about how to shape one, but ultimately you end up with something like:
A (specific event) forces a (specific protagonist) to do (something active) against a (specific antagonist)
A (specific antagonist) must do (something active) against a (specific antagonist),
to reach a (goal) or face a (stake)
Anyway, I hope this article has been of use to you.
Please try out my word-of-the-day idea, and even give the 12 week (or shortened) logline-to-pitch challenge a try. You can always give me a shout on social media for any questions or queries. I'm @druzif on twitter, and am always happy to connect with other writers and share ideas.