I have gone through all of the loglines submitted for The Quest Initiative, each and every single one of them. I didn’t count them as that would have slowed down my process considerably, but since most people included 2 or more loglines, my guess is the total tops 2,000.
What was it like reviewing 2,000+ loglines in a 72 hour period? I had a mix of emotions:
* Exhaustion: It’s a lot of work. But in a very real way, I think this condensed time-frame approach is the appropriate one because it really highlights the importance of what I am looking for: A strong story concept, one with a central conceit that jumps out of the crowd and hooks me right away. That’s important because I believe that’s what Hollywood buyers are looking for in a spec script [along with great writing, execution, etc].
* Surprise: There were some recurring themes and motifs that kept popping up. I’ll get into that in a future post after the dust has settled, but some of you were clearly on similar tracks in terms of story concepts.
* Impressed: I’d say on the whole, the quality of the loglines — speaking strictly about how they were constructed — was a notch above last year, so evidently folks have been doing their homework.
* Frustration: And yet a well-constructed logline does not necessarily translate into a winning story idea. While many submissions had some resemblance to what I could possibly conceive of as a movie, many did not. As Max Millimeter kept saying, “You cannot put fucking lipstick on a fucking pig.”
So the experience was a mixed bag. But I couldn’t help but come away from it with a sense of admiration that so many people are spending their time thinking creatively and having the courage to expose that creativity to someone else’s scrutiny.
Speaking of Max, he was a constant annoyance, hovering over my shoulder, spewing his creative vitriol at one logline after another, and yet his presence kept me locked on target in this review process. It is incredibly hard to set up a project in Hollywood, let alone get a movie made. He kept reminding me, “Ya’ wanna play with the big boys, ya’ gotta bring the high heat. The. High. Heat!”
What’s the hook? How would I sum up this story in 6 words? What’s the one thing about this logline that will get someone’s attention? Why is this a movie? Who is the audience? Is there an audience for this story? Can I really envision this opening on 3,000 screens? Do I really think millions of consumers will commit their own time and money to watch this story?
Those are the questions that kept rolling through my head as I went through 2,000+ loglines.
As a result, I have come up with a preliminary list of loglines submitted for The Quest Initiative which strike me as having potential based on the criteria I laid out multiple times in the run-up to the submissions period: Strong commercial, character-driven high-concepts with a focus on Action, Comedy, Thriller genres.
How many made that list? Again since I don’t know the actual total of loglines submitted, I’d have to guess, but I’d say we’re looking at 1%.
I am reviewing each logline on the list and will go through that series of questions noted above. I’m looking for High Heat, the best, most marketable story concepts. Based on that, I will end up with a list of writers who I will contact per the schedule below.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room: A vast majority of people who submitted loglines did not make this initial short list. The dull virtual silence of not getting an email from me on Wednesday will likely sting.
Part of this reality is due to the fact I am only targeting 4 writers maximum for The Quest Initiative. Short of someone finding a way to give me 36 hours in a day, I simply cannot take on any more Questers for free.
There’s also this: What I’m looking for in a story may not reflect what you’re looking for in a story. Your creative take on things could just be different than mine. What’s more, I could end up being flat-out wrong.
Still I understand there will be disappointed writers out there.
How to respond? Well, I would suggest you consider this part of the learning experience. Professional writers deal with disappointment — a lot. There’s not a writer in Hollywood, I suspect, who hasn’t been rewritten by another writer. There’s not a writer in Hollywood who hasn’t lost out on a writing assignment. Most of us have worked up pitches that didn’t sell. Written a pilot script or even produced pilot that didn’t get picked up. Had a movie released that underperformed or even bombed.
This kind of thing happens all the time.
The key question for any writer is how will s/he deal with that disappointment?
That’s the beauty of being a writer. Unlike actors or directors who, if something falls through, have to scurry around looking for another gig, writers can initiate a project. We can be proactive.
We can write.
Bottom line, if you don’t get selected and you truly believe in your story, then I encourage you to write it. If you need extra motivation, how about this: Prove me wrong! While I’d likely kick myself for not selecting your idea — my own disappointment! — nothing would make me happier than to see you pound out a spec script, get representation, and sell that baby.
I mean that in all honesty.
To that end as discussed previously, I will be providing a structure to facilitate you writing your next spec script, something that arose last year called Go On Your Own Quest. More details as we approach the July 15 start date.
Here is the schedule related to The Quest Initiative:
June 19: I will email those of you who make the first cut. That will be determined strictly on the merits of your story concept and execution of your logline. Those writers will need to provide information including a writing resume [basically your background and history as a writer], story synopsis [if you have fleshed out anything more of your logline], writing sample [screenplay or screenplay excerpt, short story, novel excerpt], bio, plus a brief questionnaire.
June 22: Information due from first round writers.
June 24: Emails to writers who make the second round to set up phone call interviews with me.
June 25-June 28: Interviews.
July 3: Contact the Questers.
July 8: Announce the Questers.
July 15: The Quest begins! Core [Theory]: 8 weeks.
September 9: Prep: 6 weeks.
October 21: Pages: 10 weeks.
December 29: The Quest ends!
Finally let me thank each of you who submitted loglines for The Quest Initiative. Yes, it was hard work for me, but I knew as I was going through your story ideas, they represented hard work from you. The fact you did that and considered me as someone you would deem worthy of considering your loglines, and potentially work with as a mentor was a humbling experience.
For me, this all goes back to January 1987, when I was a Hollywood outsider. I had no formal training in screenwriting. All I had was a lifelong love of movies, a passion to learn the craft, three spec scripts I had written including one called K-9.
I have never forgotten those feelings and that state of mind, outside looking into Hollywood
That’s one big reason why I started this blog to give a point of contact online for aspiring screenwriters.
It’s also a chief consideration why I created The Quest to provide a coherent, comprehensive, character-based approach to screenwriting that grounded writers in both professional theory and practice.
I want to see more writers succeed and better movies in theaters.
I want to do whatever small thing I can to provide another path into Hollywood.
That’s what The Quest Initiative is all about.
Thanks again to everyone who submitted loglines.
Onward and upward!