In the comments to Friday's post, David asked if 'boil down to one sentence' mean "the thematic essence of the story, rather than the plot"?
Short answer: If it helps you to think in terms of thematic essence or plot, go for it.
But I'll tell you the real truth: It doesn't matter. It's whatever works, whatever paints the best picture, whatever attracts attention and sets your script apart.
When I practice a one liner for an exec, I do try on different categories.
For example, if I were to pitch Toy Story, I might go through a series of categories:
- Theme: When a young boy hits an important birthday, he leaves his youthful toys behind.
- Plot: When a young boy gets a new toy, his old toys must readjust.
- Catchy phrase: What do your toys do when you're not around?
- Characters: Woody the cowboy hates the new toy, Buzz Lightyear the astronaut, and gets him into trouble, then must rescue him.
As you can see, I didn't have all winners. Some are better than others.
How do you know what works? I hate to say it, but there's no substitute for experience. I suggest regularly trying a few out on your friends & see how soon they get the picture.
Why? Because speed and clarity is key. If they don't get it, then you can be sure it's going to be a hard sell to folks who see and hear loglines all day long.
WHAT I KNOW: If you think you're good at one liners, you haven't practiced enough.