By now you probably recognize Mike Rinaldi as one of our esteemed Save the Cat! Forum moderators. Besides screenwriting, script consulting, and teaching, Mike has worked in various capacities of production on commercials, music videos, and several feature films. Expect to see Not that Funny and To the Wall at film festivals this year. Blue Like Jazz opens in theaters April 13. Mike was recently honored to serve as a guest juror for the 168 Film Project’s Write of Passage Screenwriting Contest, and even more recently found himself in the role of PR Manager for actress Jenn Gotzon.
Most Star Trek episodes follow a typical pattern. The Enterprise arrives at a new planet, Sulu parks it in orbit. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Expendable beam down to an alien world to see what they can find. Usually they find themselves with one less person to fill the red uniform. In the final minutes, Kirk and his crew solve the dilemma, Scotty works miracles with the engines, and the Enterprise journeys off to the stars.
“A Piece of the Action” is an episode in which the landing party visits Sigma Iotia II, a planet with an Earth-like 1920’s gangster culture. As they leave, McCoy realizes he left behind a communicator. Implying that Federation technology could be reverse engineered from the communicator, Kirk jokes that in a few years, the Iotians may be flying around.
A few weeks ago, I found myself thrust into unfamiliar territory as PR manager for actress Jenn Gotzon. A “sneak peak” of Jenn’s new movie Doonby was about to release in test market cities which the distributor would use as their basis to strategize the film’s summer release. Though a marketing plan had been drafted, I had little PR experience and Jenn was counting on me to get as many people in those theater seats as possible. And this is where my trustiest instrument came in handy: the logline.
The logline is a versatile tool. It anchors your story, it keeps you focused, it pitches your screenplay. The logline can help you reverse engineer multiple forms of writing. Although PR experts may have a different term for it, I discovered it to be the foundational tool of public relations.
“Award-winning actress Jenn Gotzon, best known for Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated Frost/Nixon, stars in the thriller Doonby, a new movie that demands your attention.”
Those 25 words tell the reader exactly why I’m sending him an email, movie trailer, press release, or other materials. In this example, the protagonist is my client. The setting is a movie theater and the goal is for you to watch the movie. The implied obstacle is the finite scope of your attention due to limitations of time.
If I’m mobilizing college students to promote the movie, my protagonist switches from my client to the movie itself — or the college students, depending on the wording and circumstances. The setting becomes the campus, the goal is to distribute movie posters and flyers, and the obstacle is the students’ limited time. In PR, your Antagonistic Force will often be the schedule or availability of the person you’re addressing, which you must always respect.
The logline template can be adapted for press releases, interview requests, company and personal mission statements, captions for photos and videos. And of course, I wrote loglines for the movie Doonby itself. Whatever your purpose, you can modify the template to create dynamic language to excite your reader.
A killer logline is the quickest way to earn your reader’s confidence. People will generally only read your entire screenplay if the first 10 pages are great and the reader won’t get that far unless the first page is a knock-out. But what gets the reader to page one? The logline. And I found it’s the same with a movie review, press release, and nearly everything else. One succinct sentence that hooks the reader’s attention and excites her about the content that awaits.
A screenwriter must always remember your top product isn’t your screenplay, it’s you, the writer. And every screenplay you pitch is part of the bigger story you’re selling, the story of you.
I must close by paying my respects and explaining how and why I ended up with this PR job. On December 21 last year, we tragically lost a member of the team… and he was anything but an expendable red shirt. Jenn Gotzon lost her Scotty, the man who kept the engine running, ensuring Jenn’s safe passage to her rightful place among Hollywood’s stars. Scotty Dugan wore many hats including working as an editor for The Hollywood Reporter before deciding to become a manager-publicist. Most importantly, he was like a father to Jenn, mentoring her since the beginning of her career. I had lost my own friend and mentor on August 4, 2009 and I think this is why something inside Jenn told her that we were the right fit to work together. I may never gain the same level of expertise of Blake or Scotty because they set their respective bars quite high, but it’s my hope that I will honor them by always doing my best work.
Next week: Blake’s Script Frenzy Blog