The first chapter of Save the Cat, ‘What is it?’ is mostly talking about loglines for a screenplay idea. (The fact that the character of The Cat on the British show Red Dwarf, played by Danny John-Jules, had a great comedy bit in one episode centered around repeating the words ‘What is it?’ when confronted by a bit of Star-Trek-ish technobabble – is completely irrelevant.)
Blake starts by talking about pitching a movie idea, with a lot of different examples from a group of friends trying to pick a movie to see on a Friday night, to movie executives at the height of show business. His central premise is that you need to be able to sell other people on a movie idea quickly, not after ten minutes of explanation, and tell them quickly ‘What is it about?’
He presents a few examples, including Four Christmases, (which was probably still in development when the book was written?) and breaks down his four critical elements for a good logline pitch:
– Irony: A good logline must show something that is unexpected and emotionally intriguing, which is pretty much the same thing as having an element of dramatic irony.
– A compelling mental picture: A good logline should present the potential for the entire movie to blossom in your brain, from one or two sentences.
– Audience and cost: A good logline should convey a sense of who would be interested in watching the movie, and a rough idea of how much it might cost to make.
– Killer title: Not really a part of the logline proper, but the title also plays a part in the logline pitch, and the part the title needs to play is to say what the movie is, as clearly as possible, and with an ironic punch of its own. (He mentions ‘For Love or Money’ as an example of a vague title that really tells as little as possible about what’s going on in the movie.)