During WW2, in occupied France, a former underdog cyclist working for the Resistance must compete in a national race organized by the Nazis to secretly carry out a vital microfilm to the Allied Forces at the Spanish border.
Congratulations. Your premise has succeeded in taking root in my mind. Which is not easy to do as the terrain of my mind is mostly inhospitable hard pan. (What, you noticed?)
So here’s a suggested rough 1st draft:
In 1942, a cowardly alcoholic is drafted by the French Resistance to enter a bicycle race in order to deliver a vital microfilm to an Allied contact on the Spanish border.
“1942”: the logline reader should quickly realize the story is set during World War II so this compresses the time frame to 1 word instead of 3.
“Cowardly”: This sets up a stronger implied character arc than is he’s “reluctant”. Why? Well, think about it: as soon as he agrees and enters the race, he’s overcome his reluctance, right? Hence, his character arc is completed by the end of the 1st Act.
But a character arc shouldn’t be resolved until the 3rd Act.
So if he’s fainthearted, averse to taking risks no matter how noble the cause. then he’s afflicted with a flaw that can persist and plague him for the duration of the contest.
Ditto, obviously, with his being an alcoholic. It also suggests a stronger subjective story line than his being an “under dog”. Because the bicycle race becomes a salvage operation, a journey of personal redemption. Which is the most emotionally potent of all subjective story lines.
“An Allied contact”: It’s destined to reach the Allies in general but 1st it has to be delivered to a specific contact, right? Whenever possible, a logline (and script) should focus on specific individuals of a group, not just the group in general. And surely he will be given a specific name and verification information, a specific drop off point.
“Vital microfilm”: the logline need not specify the magnitude of the stakes, how vital the information on the microfilm is. For the purpose of a logline, I think it is sufficient for us to surmise. But in the script proper, I assume you’ve cooked up a good story about just how vital it is.
One other thought: Add a ticking clock. IOW: if he must reach the Spanish border in “X” days — or else it’ll be too late. And some disastrous consequence will befall the Allied cause. So he needs to maintain a fast pace, stay at or near the front of the pack.
This is where “under dog” might come into play but I prefer “out of shape” because of his alcoholism — to be developed in the script proper. You can’t cram it all into a logline. Being an alcoholic suggests a lot of physical and personal problems, more than enough to escalate the jeopardy of his mission, raise the odds that he will fail.
Best wishes for your script.
Will the story be about the cyclist riding through the countryside? Or will it be about his preparations leading up to the race? Or will it be after the race, him trying to hand over the film? Or all the above?
I ask as his action of cycling in the race isn’t going to make for good cinema. Think about it, he cycles, then he cycles some more , etc… Unless there is a conspiracy to take him out during the race, in which case, he’ll be dodging assassination attempts alone on the road – this would make for an interesting action full sequence.
Personally, I find the lead up to the race interesting – Will the Nazis catch him obtaining the microfilm? Will he get under way carrying his precious cargo? The stakes are high and the danger is clear. However, that would only be act 1, therefore I think it would be best to introduce a Nazi spy competing against him in the race and trying to kill him – this will give you an act 2. Act 3 can be him struggling/fighting to deliver the microfilm.
However, I still believe that the story needs a powerfully motivating inciting incident. Perhaps the Nazi’s could kill his brother, and former cycling champion, after declaring they will hold the race?
The wording is awkward. It reads as if the Nazis were conducting the race for the purpose of enabling the cyclist to carry out the microfilm to the Allies which is surely not the intent.
Also “underdog” seems irrelevant to the plot. Why does it whether he is a top dog or underdog matter when the primary goal is to deliver the film, not win the race.
And why would the Nazi’s organize such a race when their primary mission was to subjugate and exploit the French? When civilian activities in Vichy France were nominally managed by the French themselves? When the Nazi’s had more important things to do than to micromanage French recreational activities in Vichy France?
Thanks for the clarification.
But according to Wikipedia (which may or not be a dubious reference), the Nazi’s proposed but the French refused to run any national race in 1941 However, a Frenchman did organize a 1942 race — with Nazi consent, of course. He was a Nazi sympathizer, but the point is, the Nazi’s didn’t organize the Circuit de France. A French sympathizer did.
Well, you can take a little creative fudging with historical fact there.
However, on narrower technical issues, it still seems to me that “underdog” is rather incongruous to the particular plot. What is the particular plot? That under the guise of racing, he must deliver the microfilm.
The purpose of a character flaw is to present a subjective issue that puts in serious jeopardy the protagonist achieving his objective goal. To make the audience worry that he will fail because of some “Achilles Heel” that the antagonist or circumstances will eventually expose and attack.
In this case, how does an “underdog” directly threaten that objective goal? As long as he can pedal the route to the border, what does it matter how good or bad his time is? What does it matter if he comes in first or last ? Isn’t all that matter is that he bicycle the route?
If his objective goal were to win the race, then yes, being an underdog would put that goal in jeopardy.
But that’s not his objective goal. His objective goal is deliver the message. And again, I don’t see how being an “underdog” jeopardizes that goal. How would it make the audience worry about his ability to deliver the message? What “Achilles Heel” does it constitute that threatens to cripple, perchance, kill the cyclist?
Now, if he were cowardly — well that would present a subjective problem for the audience to worry about.
Finally, I think it would make it more dramatically interesting if at the start of the story, he’s more like Rick in “Casablanca”. He doesn’t “stick his neck out for nobody”; he just wants to mind his own business, stay out of trouble, and survive. Like Rick, he’s not a Nazi collaborator but neither does he want to fight for the Resistance. (Rick’s dramatic flaw is not that he’s underdog or cowardly. His flaw is that he is cynical, bitterly disillusioned.)
And then comes the “Call” from the Resistance.