When an African American public school principal challenges lazy and incompetent teachers, opposing forces conspire to get rid of her. She is arbitrarily demoted and must fight to regain her position.
Copy the link below to share this page:
it sounds like Lean on Me but with lower stakes.
I believe is good regards Ivan
I like it. I agree with maybe raising the stakes. WHY does she need her position? And what word describes her besides African-American? Other than that, I'd watch this movie.
I would try to combine it into one sentence and I wouldn't be so insulting to teachers. Like.... When an African American pubic school principal challenges her incompetent and uninspired teachers, she is arbitrarily demoted and must fight to regain her position against forces conspiring to get rid of her.
Larger issue for me is: why would I pay $12 to see this? Most of the movies dealing with school teachers are based on famous true stories. Why they get made is that they were in the public consciousness already, due to news and talk shows and magazine articles. LEAN ON ME is a good example.
Thanks Danny for the rewrite. I'll use it in my Joey pitch session. Do you think "lazy" might have a negative influence on some prospective investors/producers?
I wouldn't worry about that as much as I would worry about Williams point, which is very true. what makes this a MOVIE? what makes this new and different? If you told me it was a true story that had been in the news and this principal was forced out BECAUSE she was Black, then maybe. But it still sounds like a TV movie to me.
This is a true story based on autobiography; CONDUCT UNBECOMING: A Principal Under Siege. The protagonist is the first principal in the history of the Chicago Public Schools ever to be demoted. She was forced out, not because she was Black but because she expected teachers to teach. It speaks of the difficulty facing school principal when dealing with dissident teachers backed by the union. It renders an eye-awakening account of the deeper turmoil, confusion and division existing in the arena of public education. The story was covered in the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun Times, and The Chicago Metro News .
My post was a reply to Danny Mannus query and comment
I would specifically say what the opposing forces are so it gives a better grasp about what the protagonist is up against. And for those who responded, Beulah was asking for our opinion about the log line and not the marketability of the script. That's a whole other conversation.
Hi Beulah The description in your 'This is a true story ...' post rings clearer than your pitch. Specifically - XYZ was the first principal in the history of the Chicago Public Schools ever to be demoted. Forced out and publicly humiliated, not because she was a Black radical, but because she expected teachers to teach. Hope this helps and good luck with the project. Robbie
Alle, Beulah explains in her second post that the dissident teachers are backed by the union. It sounds a very interesting story. How about: 'When a dedicated public school principal is demoted after she challenges lazy and incompetent teachers, she must fight forces inside and outside the school to restore not only her position but also the integrity of her profession.' Or if you want to give away slightly less of the story: 'When a dedicated public school principal challenges the status quo, she must fight forces inside and outside the school to save not only her own position but also the integrity of her profession,'
The character descriptions you have kind of turned me off. I think there is a simpler way to write it without giving so much of the story away. Is the main bulk of the movie her trying to uplift the school, or is it her fighting for her job back. I feel it should focus on one or the other.
Also, saying she's African American doesn't really tell us anything. I like what the others said about the dedicated public school principal.
I’d say that “opposing forces” and “challenges” are too generic in definition that they don’t help build the story. How, specifically, does she challenge the teachers? What are the opposing forces? These are certainly necessarily elements of the logline but it needs to be more specific. I’m also not sure how the fact that she is African American is relevant to the logline. It might play out in the story if the screenplay is about race but at the moment it doesn’t add anything. Having her arbitrarily demoted removes the cause and effect and therefore rids the logline of the connective tissue. A demotion would be from her boss so you have a clear villain who should be mentioned. The below title and logline might not be the screenplay you are writing but it’s specific and connected. Scholarship of hard knocks. When a new school principal replaces her incompetent teaching staff with street-smart students, the board want to shut down her school. Her students must win scholarship to each of the ivy-league schools to stay open. Sorry - just read that your screen play is based on a true story. You should still have specific details and specific villains in your logline. Hope that helps.
The comments are very, very helpful. So far the rewrite is: The true story of when a public school principal who is hell-bent to have the best school in the nation challenges her lazy and incompetent teachers, is demoted and to regain her position must fight the union, parents and school administrators who are conspiring to get rid of her. How is it now?
Alle. All of your questions are answered in the synopsis and or treatment, Too much for a one or two sentence linelog.
Hi Beulah, this true story sounds inspiring. However, the logline, as it is now, sounds a little stiff and somewhat "preachy" like a personal opinion. The words "lazy" and "incompetent" are a real turn off and are counter intuitive to the plot. Lazy and incompetent people are not capable of being a threat to anyone. Those adjectives certainly do not raise the stakes but rather make the script sound dull. Plus, the added description "African American" seems unnecessary. Perhaps it could be simplified and sound more active. Perhaps something like... "When an idealistic and results-driven principal pushes against Chicago's dysfunctional public school system, she not only battles for her position but also for her students' better education." I hope that helps! Best wishes to you!
Beulah, I think 'hell-bent' isn't right as it implies she's driven by ruthlessness and recklessness for her own ends rather than someone who's fighting for the good of others. (Also your sentence construction is a bit muddled in the rewrite.) I think Beth nearly has it!
Thanks Beth, I'll try another rewrite. What about "determined" instead of hell-bent? What is meant by raise the stakes?
I wouldn't use "hellbent" for a principal. As Benson said, it sounds too ruthless. "Determined" is fine, but sounds rather typical or ordinary, anyone can be determined. What would describe the principal more specifically, more to her personality? I used "result-driven," only because it hints at the conflict between the principal who wants things to change and the lazy teachers who don't. Plus, I like the word "driven." It seems somewhat more unique. Active. Again, I think it's making the story sound more active while better describing the principal and also making the stakes seem higher. :)
I'm sorry, Beulah. Here's that logline again, if you need it. :) "When an idealistic and results-driven principal pushes against Chicago's dysfunctional public school system, she not only battles for her position but also for her students' better education. Based upon true events."
Hi Beulah, how about, "A demoted principal fights to regain her position to save the school". I'm not sure what the stakes are if she doesn't get her position back, just a thought to include what the stakes might be.
I would avoid 'lazy' and 'incompetent' like the plague. "Based on true events, Chicago principal Beulah Jones battles the dysfunctional school system and fights to not only keep her job but to give her students a better education." I like the idea of saying yout name and that's factually based right off the bat. I added Chicago for a sense of place.
JC Young knocked it out of the park! I love the logline he wrote and I can see there definitely being a market for this type of film - you don't often see this type of lead protagonist and the fact that it's based on a true story is a huge plus. Yeah, it's reminiscent of other movies about a teacher struggling against the system, but so what, it's a new slant on it. Samuel L. Jackson did both 187 and Coach Carter and they were both quite similar yet also very different. Could be a vehicle for Angela Bassett or Queen Latifah or Viola Davis or any other number of African-American actors - I really think you should get on IMDBPro and try to see if you can get the script to their management or if any actors have their own development companies, many do. When is the film set - the 80s, 90s, or present day?
My head just went up a hat size, thanks Dave. :)
To add to what Beth said about mentioning that she is African American, it's only relevant to the log-line if her race enters into the plot itself. If it does, it should be emphasized in the log-line.
Thanks Dave,, your comment was so very helpful! The film is set in the 70's but the conditions that existed 45 years ago are still prevalent in the dysfunctional school system.
aaronand Beth, Racial tensions lurk silently in the background and enters in the plot on two or three occasions, in a couple of scenes. I am ambivalent about mentioning her race in the logline.
Danny, Principal Under Siege can also be compared with Won't Back Down. What do you mean by "lower stakes"?
Beulah, I understand what you are saying, but the principal fighting for her job and creating change for the students is the main focus. And, if your script is produced, obviously the actress portraying the principal would be featured on posters, web sites, et cetera. Her being African American would be front and center. There would be no need to mention it in the logline. For example, here's a logline for "Lean on Me" starring Morgan Freeman. "The dedicated but tyrannical Joe Clark is appointed the principal of a decaying inner-city school that he is determined to improve."
J, C, Why avoid "lazy and "incompetent in logline?
Beth, Thanks for the suggestion. What is this concept of raising stakes?
I mean lower stakes because there is less on the line in your story than in Lean on Me, where they were going to shut down the school and all these kids were basically going to turn to gangs and die. and Joe was going to be arrested for launching a revolution. in your story, the worst that's going to happen is the Principal loses her job. She has tenure, she'll find another one. So what makes this story rise to the level of Cinematic and new? what makes it different than Lean on Me, Dangerous Minds and The Prinicpal? I would also suggest staying away from lazy and incompetent. you don't need negative adjectives you nerd thoughtful action.
Yeah Beulah, "stakes" is a key word that is used when people are pitching their movie, as described by Danny. The thing is though, and maybe Danny would argue this, but stakes for me are all contextual. For example, in King's Speech the stakes for that character are very high because it's important to him, to someone else they might be low as they might not care so much about getting over their stuttering or appearing like a proper monarch. In Field of Dreams what was at stake - maybe Kevin Costner's optimism? So if this principal is particularly invested in this school and this position, then what's at stake is her happiness, which is often good enough for most dramas. If we get a sense that if they DON"T succeed with what they want, that they'll be extremely disillusioned, depressed, alienated, etc., that's enough stakes I think.. However, it doesn't hurt to take the original story and ask in what way can you make her struggle even more critical (i.e. raise the stakes).
But yeah, it would be a stronger story if there were some key students that would suffer greatly as a result of the principal's philosophies and teaching ethics not being adhered to. In Coach Carter, if Samuel L. can't get these kids to be disciplined, they'll end up in gangs. If you have the same situation regarding disadvantaged youth, that is going to seem a little 'been there, done that'.
Also who is the main villain? It's always good to have one person in particular that is the figurehead of the "opposition". And what is their issue with the principal, why do they clash? If it's not a racial thing as you mentioned, what else could it be? In Notes On A Scandal Judi Dench had a combination of jealousy of the prettier/younger teacher mixed with some repressed lesbian tendencies and loneliness, pretty interesting character and real "actor-bait".
Beulah despite what the situation was, the original logline may have come across a negative blanket statement regarding teachers as a whole. And I get that there are bad teachers and that school could have been filled with them but it's best not to sound negative about an entire career.
Dave, Will you read my script and give me your feedback?
Beulah, the "stakes" are what is at risk both emotionally and physically for your character if she does not achieve her goal. To "raise the stakes" means to add more conflict to the story to increase the drama and thus interest.
Thanks Beth for the clarification.
I liked Robbie's log line a lot!!
What an opportunity for me to learn in this discussion. Thanks!!
Yes, me too Leticia! It's been very informative.
Beulah I'll take a look at it sure, but I'm not a producer and I think you should definitely do a 1-page synopsis as producers are going to want to see that!
Rose, thanks for the suggestion of raising the stakes, but unfortunately the with her demotion it is the school system that loses.
This logline reminds me of the movie 'Lean on Me'. It is a true stroy that took place in New Jersey. Use a strong adjective to describe the principal. Now the challenge is not her goal because the teachers use this action against her as an antagonistic force. Perhaps if she tries to inspire the teachers to help their students, and the students and their parents fight for her to regain her position.
Okay Gang, here is the rewrite. I have incorporated some of your suggestions in the Synopsis. I welcome feedback. Also, who do you see as the target audience for this film. LOGLINE: This is a true story of an inner-city public school principal who is passionate about her belief that children will learn if they are properly taught, challenges the ineffective and detrimental performance of some dissident teachers, is ousted and must battle a dysfunctional school system to regain her position. SYNOPSIS: This is the story of Beulah Whyte, a conscientious, brilliant inner-city public school who vows to make her newly built school, academically the best in the nation. She battles three opposing forces -- the teachers union which protects the incompetent teacher, a school system stifled buy tenure and complacency, and misinformed parents and community members. Racial tensions lurk silently in the background and she is ousted, not because she is black, but because she expects teachers to teach. Is she crazy? When some of the dissident teachers jeopardize the educational progress and safety of the students, she “rocks the boat” and issues “unsatisfactory notices”, but soon finds herself in trouble. The threatened teachers “gang up” on the principal and foster rumors, criticisms and complaints to parents, community residents and school officials about her. They resort to all means -- even death threats -- so that their positions are not endangered and they can remain in their comfort zone. School officials, the teachers Union, and misinformed parents/community residents conspire to get rid of the principal. She is denied a fair and just hearing, the right to confront her accusers, and the opportunity to answer the charges leveled against her. However the persistent principal proves that perseverance pays off and the truth eventually wins over fabrications. She is reinstated as a principal, albeit of a school that has not been built!
The logline is a little too long but you're making your points. Who, what, and challenge to overcome. "The true story of Beulah Jones, a passionate Chicago principal who believes children can learn with proper instruction, but when she challenges ineffective teachers and a dysfunctional school system, she is ousted and must battle to regain her position. "
Very good! I can see the obstacles and what's at stake for the principal. A story like this one need to be told. Good luck, Beulah.
Thanks JC. Excellent ! I shall use it in my pitch session.
I'm honored. :) I do hope the best for you.
What I find missing is the End of Act Two 'horns of dilemma' situation Beulah faces? I mean, to me, it is obvious that her course of action would be to fight to get her job back but I think to create the drama that will involve an audience there should be an equally important opposing goal or stake that she risks losing. For instance, in fighting to regain her position, does she risk losing her family? Or, she is offered her job back, but only if she recants her accusations against the ineffective teachers. Perhaps because it is a true story such a dilemma doesn't exist, however, again I think, it would add greatly to the drama of the situation.
I agree with Jim. Some implied drama seems to be missing, to keep me wanting to knowing more. What is is that she's really fighting for - at risk kids? The school's former glory? If she is merely demoted, that does not seem so bad unless status is more important to her. As it is, it seems as though she will get her job back and I'm sure you would prefer to keep us guessing.
Pretty solid, but i have a few comments:This film would be targeted to female audiences, and for that reason, I think there is a glaring omission of any personal relationships the principal has - either a romantic one or a child or something that is bigger than just her job. Maybe she was with a man and her issues with the job led to the demise of the relationship? Maybe she is unable to be vulnerable and has built a principal's tough skin? Maybe she is unable to have kids and was turned down for adoption? Maybe she dates or was spurned - or spurns one of the men either at work, or one of the parents?? One of the parents is a guy she had a crush on but never told him and now he's married? When I think of a principal, i think of someone who is intimidating, has to be shut off from her emotions. Does she have a best friend, who tries to set her up with men or encourages her to take an offer doing something else but she is steadfast? The more juicy scandal you can add the better - without losing the true account stuff, the details about school system in Chicago, the 70s details, the better. And this can go to the MOTIVATION of her enemies - their issue with her right now seems like simply they are lazy and don't like being called out on it, okay that's enough motivation for them to make her life hell, but they could have more interesting secret motivations - e.g. they are embezzling money, they are involved in illicit relationships, they have some ulterior motive.I know this is a true account, but to sell the script you need to pile on the juicy, that means adding layers of conflict and secrets on top of the existing situation. With a well-known black actress in the lead, and if it was a good script they would fight over it, I could see it being produced for a few million and be marketed to women in the 30-65 age range, both white and black female audiences in the U.S. With exceptional dialogue/performance it could be even submitted for Oscar consideration.
Here's an example of a scene from the movie - her best friend has set her up on a double date with a great guy who's recently divorced. They're at a restaurant but the protagonist starts going on and on about the school system and how screwed up it is. Her friend is thinking "stop going on about it...!" then one of the teachers shows up at the same restaurant and there is a confrontation, a big scene. The date is outta there, her best friend is embarrassed, it's a disaster.
Very good suggestions, Dave. The story really needs the subplots.
Dave, I like this scene, I'll consider writing it in. Right now script is 120 pgs. I'll have to delete something. Thanks. Vaugh, How does it seem like she's getting her job back?
Jim , Dave and Vaugh, Regarding stakes, antagonist, personal relationships. etc. THANKS!THANKS! & THANKS! Should I edit the synopsis are speak to these issues in the treatment/story? Dave, Send me your email so I can upload you the script.
Danny, I think it has been done. There were a few episodes on tv last year. The location was Chicago. I believe it's the same story. She wasn't forced out because she was black.... most of the students were black. It was the principal trying very hard to work with gangs and not lose any students to gun violence during the summer months as well. Politicians had a big part.
What??? When did you see it on TV. The screenplay is based on my Autobiography CONDUCT UNBECOMING;A PRINCIPAL UNDER SIEGE, copywrite 2004 All rights reserved!
I wish I could remember the title. It was set in Chicago for sure. All the trials and tribulations of running a school in the neighborhood. I don't think I saw all the episodes and I'm not sure if she was fired or not... but they sure struggled with funding, school closing, students dying, etc. If you live in Chicago ask around. I live in Toronto and it played here. If I remember the title I'll let you know.
Thanks, I'd appreciate it.
if that was you Beulah, HUGE respect.
Thanks, Bee. It was traumatic.
I think it's too long Beulah and should condense into one sentence, bringing together protagonist, antagonist and goal. I'd keep refining. Good luck, you don't have to listen, but I've sweated over loglines for years and until they're right, the beats aren't there.
Beulah, sorry for the delayed response. The end, though not written, seems to follow the usual three-act structure. There was nothing in the logline to suggest otherwise. Another thing I learned from following this thread was that it was a true story. Even though I appreciate that, would you consider changing some things for dramatic purposes? That way, it can be a movie inspired by real events.
Good point Vaughn. True life stories are the hardest because they often defy the conflict requirements of manipulated drama. We feel we have to tell the truth!
Pamela, perhaps you have noticed as I have, that frequently many 'true life' stories that make it to the screen that don't have innate drama in the story have some manufactured elements added to create the drama in order to heighten viewer interest.
Yes Jim, like a happy ending instead of mass murder? Or characters much more interesting than the real ones? I once wrote a script based on a true story told to me by a fascinating man and it was universally loathed because the protagonist was so unlikeable! I loved him and laughed myself senseless but what do you in this jungle? No more reality for me, pure fiction all the way.
Pamela and Jim, The innate drama is unbelievable. If interested, send me your email address and I'll upload the script
Vaugh, She really is fighting to have a school where black children will learn to read, write and compute. H would I include this element in the one sentence logline. I am open to ALL SUGGESTIONS.
Alle, I have just reviewed you post made several days ago. Most of your questions are answered in the Synopsis and or the script (to much to include in the Logline). What would make you feel like looking at the script?
Yes, the script is copywrited. Thanks for the tip on research copyright laws overseas.
Pamela, Thanks, I'll keep editing.
Beulah - just an adjective to describe the teachers - complacent.
Thanks Louella, just the word I was looking for.
Which logline is best? LOGLINE: The true story of when a conscientious inner-city school principal who is passionate about her belief that children will learn if they are properly taught, challenges some complacent dissident teachers who are detrimental to the education and safety of the students is ousted and must battle a dysfunctional school system to regain her position. or When a conscientious no-nonsense inner-city school principal challenges some complacent dissident teachers is ousted and must battle a dysfunctional school system to regain her position. Please, everyone following this thread give me your opinion or your edit! Thanks
Based on a true story, when the principled head of an inner city school challenges complacent teachers, she must fight the dysfunctional educational system to save her career and to ensure that the potential of her pupils is fulfilled.
And maybe another adjective like 'forward-thinking' or 'innovative' to describe the teacher, to give her character a more driven feel? I think 'conscientious' isn't strong enough.
Hey Beulah - both sound a bit wordy. How about: When an inner-city principal is ousted for challenging complacent teachers, she must battle a dysfunctional school system to regain her position and get education back on track. Just my 2 cents!
Thanks Louella, Your 2cents is work at least $@ :}
Thanks Benson, I'll find another word
Benson, Your logline "raises the stakes" thanks.
Thanks Beulah. This is a really interesting exercise in thinking and I'm learning a lot!
Hi Beulah, maybe: An ousted no-nonsense school principal battles complacent teachers and a dysfunctional system to regain her position and save the future of inner city children. Good luck!
Rose, I like it. Thanks
@BJ - I think you have it backwards. Most principals are the lazy ones. I don't know that many teachers who aren't doing their jobs. If they don't, they get fired. Principals, on the other hand, get promoted for their laziness and incompetence.
@BJ - Of course, if you're writing sci-fi....
It's a true story, James! Beulah's own story in fact, and it's an extraordinary one.
It may be, but I have been a teacher for almost two decades, and the reverse is more often the case in most public schools. In fact, I personally believe the lack of administrative support is the number one reason that our public school systems are in such sorry shape today.
James, it may be true in the school system in which you work, teachers who aren't doing there jobs, get fired, but that was not the case with me. I was doing my job and I got fired.
@BJ - I would be very interested in hearing the other side of this. Whenever a principal calls his or her teachers "lazy" and "incompetent", it sounds to me like there are some other issues involved. As a leader, it is your job to inspire and motivate the team you are given so that they reach their maximum potential. I have worked in a position that allowed me to see both the teaching side and the administrative side of the equation. Almost all of the problems were either created or aggravated by poor administrators. When the administrators supported their teachers, the problems at school vanished. I think it is very unfair of you to state your side of the situation without providing the other side an opportunity to voice theirs.
Are you saying there have never been any lazy or incompetent teachers, James? Surely by the law of averages it must happen, just like in any other profession. Nor (presumably) is Beulah claiming that all principals are perfect. In my opinion it's a good story and I would go and see the film :)
Good logline, I know what the story is about and you did not reveal too much.
Thanks Anton & Ray. I have, however, rewritten it so as not to be so offensive. You will find it on this thread. What do you think? James, I have often found, those who are the most offensive are the most GUILTY
Actually I like this version----because of the Possibly offensive nature. They will have to read MORE to find out if you REALLY hold that position.---That's why I said you didn't reveal too much. Both sides of the issue are going to be curious-- even if only for emotional reasons
James, I have rewritten logline:LOGLINE: A conscientious no-nonsense inner-city school principal is ousted after she challanges some complacent dissident teachers, and she must battle a dysfunctional school system to regain her position. Is this better?
First of all, the logline should indicate a character flaw that the protagonist has to overcome during the story. What character flaw does the protagonist have that hinders (presumably) her in the quest for the goal (presumably, a better school system)?
After being ousted for challenging their below average educational system, a conscientious African American inner city school Principle, must battle against the complacent faculty, and their powerful union to save the students, and regain her self worth. Based on a true story. ?? (The reason I added her self worth, is because it raises the stakes a bit. When people are fired or layed off, especially when all they wanted to do was do a good job, it phugs with their identity, and their self worth. People place their identifies in whatever their job/roles are. I feel like this woman not only wants to help the kids, but also to "save" herself.) I feel there is something deeper in her story.
@BJ - I think I am GUILTY. And let me provide you with some evidence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8qy4f7GKzc You should note that this math training video on YouTube has 116,000+ hits. On the topic of "ratio proportion", only one other video on has more hits - the one from the Khan Academy. I wrote the script for the video, produced all the graphics, and performed the voice over. The only think I didn't do was to record and edit the sound, which I paid for out of my own pocket. All of this was done on my own time for the purpose of making it easier for students to learn this topic. On TeacherTube, I have over 20 instructional videos, all of which have well over 1,000 hits/downloads: http://www.teachertube.com/user/profile/jamsullivan (click on the videos tab) Also on TeacherTube, I have over 4 dozen interactive practice sheets and handouts: http://www.teachertube.com/user/profile/jamsullivan (click on the docs tab; there are three pages of listings) And each of these has been downloaded hundreds of times. All this was done on my own time in order to help students learn math in an easier manner. So, I am GUILTY of working hard to help students. And by the way, I supervised one of the top learning labs in a very large urban public school district. I had people come from another state to find out how I had set up and accomplished the results I achieved. When I was teaching at the college level, I received numerous "Top Gun" awards for best teacher. You're right. I am GUILTY.
Based upon a true story? Well, those who will come out looking poorly make have a different view. I wouldn't be surprised if there were defamation of character lawsuits filed, and I wonder if a producer is going to take a chance on this. I'm not an attorney, so maybe one can chime in on this. And I wonder how teacher's unions will react. It's easy to think one viewpoint is the truth, but there's always another side.
Hmm I think the core conflict could definitely be stronger. Is there a reason why African American is relevant to the plot? What's the genre - drama? No one likes lazy teachers so I'm wondering who it is who can demote her? And a teacher who just needs to get her job back isn't overly exciting.
JC Young, I agree with Dave, but was told to change the names to protect the guilty : ).
James, All events are true and documentation in book to prove it. A lawyer agrees. with Alle, truth is the best defense for slander.
David, Racial tensions lurk in the background. i have revised Logline:A conscientious no-nonsense inner-city school principal is ousted after she challanges some complacent dissident teachers, and she must battle a dysfunctional school system to regain her position. What do you think?
Her character flaws are many. but the main one is she expects teachers to teach. Is she crazy.
James, Her quest is not to have a better school system but to have a school where teachers will teach and black children will learn.