Mala and I spent the better part of two days working on a 36 word log line for a TV script. It was excruciating, but we finally had something we liked. Log lines are the first thing a reader of your script sees. If it doesn’t grab you by the throat, the script probably goes in the trash. Sometimes this is called the elevator pitch—what you’d say if you had 30 seconds to tell someone what your script or novel is about. It had better be good and it had better be short.
That night I dragged my husband to our county’s 4-H Fair. Dinner out! I insisted. Less expensive than a restaurant and supporting an annual event for a good cause. Plus I get to eat enormous amounts of junk food and pet any number of competition clean farm animals: goats and their kids, sheep, rabbits, cows, miniature horses… heaven! Yeah, I’m weird that way. My husband always checks the trunk to make sure I’m not smuggling some home.
And then I saw the camel. Henry! In a large circular pen. Set apart from the rest of the farm animals. His head rose about four feet higher than anyone in the crowd pushing in on him. He, and his singular hairy hump, was leaning against the metal corral, so much the better for everyone to rub/scratch/touch him, which he obviously loved. It was a mob scene. A dad in the crowd had his two-year old daughter perched on his shoulder. Her blonde curls sparkled gold in the sunset. Her laughter was music as Henry nuzzled her with his big old camel lips. The crowd ooowed and awwwed. It was a Henry love-fest!
As the crowd dissipated, I saw a small 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper taped to Henry’s corral. It read: “HENRY DOESN’T SPIT!”
It was one of those writer’s great ‘show don’t tell’ moments. Then I realized this could be the beginning of a terrific log line. “Snakes on a plane” is my favorite of log line of all time. You get the visual in four words that say everything. I doubt it took that script writer two days.