Tuesday, February 23, 2010

QUESTION FOR THE READER: One Liners That Work

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.
- Etc.

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.

1 comment:

David said...

Thanks for the response. I guess I'd refer to this as "the hook", at least that's what I call whatever gets my interest in a particular movie, and you're right, it may be the plot, or it may be theme, or something else. A film has to have a hook to get your interest and the hook is, by definition, brief and to the point.
This also reminds me of one of the columns on the Wordplay site, the "Warner Bros. Hallway Test" or something like that.

Good stuff.

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