On the verge of winning the grand prize on a popular Indian quiz show, an uneducated young man from the slums must convince the police he’s not cheating to stay on for the final question.
It’s a clever structure, and this is often hard to convey in a logline.
But – and you saw this coming – I would have made the suspicion of cheating the Inciting Incident. Or isn’t it?
“When an uneducated man is suspected of cheating when he’s about to win Who Wants To Be. A Millionaire, he must build the case of how he knows the answers, and win the freedom of the woman he loves.”
What do you think?
Doesn’t your version give Jamal two objective goals?
Further, the movie is very culture and country specific and I think the logline should indicate that.
My standard m.o. is to post loglines for movies already made as if they hadn’t yet been made, as if the logline were pitching an unproduced spec script from an unknown writer. Imagine how shocked you would be if you asked to read a spec script from an unknown writer on the basis of your more generic version. Wouldn’t you initially expect it to be set in Australia or in the U.S.? And then you discover on page 1 it’s set in India.
But, then, you might be confused before that because of the working title “Slumdog Millionaire”. Slumdog is not American slang and I’m guessing it isn’t Australian either. WTF? Well , maybe that might enhance your interest. But it might also confuse you or others and loglines should entice, not confuse.
More confusion: While the love story is well-established in the 1st Act, it doesn’t become obvious (at least to me) until the end of the 2nd Act — way beyond the MPR — that the quiz show is only a means for Jamal to realize his real objective goal: he wants to re-establish contact with Latika in his ongoing struggle to free her. So a logline stating his come-to-find-out real objective goal might be something like:
Suspected of cheating on a popular quiz show, an uneducated young man must explain to the police how he knows the answers in order to stay on and win the freedom of the woman he loves.
But again, were it an unproduced spec script would this confuse you? How does staying on the quiz show enable him to win the freedom of the woman he loves? Taking the logline at face value, there is no apparent logical connection between his means (appear on the quiz show) and his end game (free the woman he loves). Does it mean he wants to win enough money to buy her freedom? (How can that be credible in Australia or Australia – remember, the logline doesn’t disclose the setting . So the default assumption for an Australian or American producer would be that it’s set in his country, or one like it.)
That logline version only makes sense retroactively after you have either read the script or seen the movie. But again, my m.o. is to write loglines as if the movie hasn’t yet been made and you, the logline reader, now nothing about the script.
Which brings me to an issue I debated with myself when writing a logline for this film. (And others.) Should I write a logline in terms of the “fabula”, the way the story unfolds linearly in time, or in terms of the “syuzhet”, the way the story is told. My logline for Slumdog Millionaire” reflects the “syuzhet”.
(And of course, the classic example of a film story being told in terms of the “syuzhet” is” Citizen Kane”. The plot is framed around the reporter’s quest to find the meaning of Kane’s deathbed utterance, “Rosebud.” That’s the unifying action line, the clothes line on which everything else is hung.)
All good points.
I am totally with you that here on Logline It, we should aim to write loglines as if the movie had not been made yet, i. e. we need to convince the reader 1) that there is a story and 2) that we understand how to develop this story structurally.
I somewhat agree on the cultural angle, although the core drama would have worked in any culture IMO.
The way the love story is incorporated is clumsy, I know. But I think that will always be difficult if we want to stay under 50 words…
As to the fabula/sujet (“syuzhet”??? 😉 ) that would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Sujet takes my preference, but it’s not always possible to do this coherently.
Thanks for you notes. Gold, as always!