The thing I liked about the original pitch though is that it implied an element of danger or action in the set up. I mean, you could flip that to her perspective. It’s tough to really put that in one line though.
15-year-old Alex already feels like an mutant even before she gains the ability to fire lightning bolts out of the highlights in her hair. Her life gets even worse when her dad’s mad scientist buddies murder him for secretly working with the authorities, but it really starts to suck when Agent Space, the superhuman covert operative who got her dad killed, decides it’s now his responsibility to keep her safe.
As a top super-operative with covert-ops subcontractor Enhanced Assets, Inc., Leopard is comfortable performing dangerous and suspenseful missions in every corner of the globe. When Dwight Barber, his EAI contact, is killed, he’s left with a mission neither his powers nor his training have prepared him for: to care for Barber’s teenage daughter Tia, who has powers of her own. While continuing to work as a covert operative, Leopard learns to handle being a surrogate father.
Who are you pitching this too, primarily? Is your audience going to be people who identify with Leopard or with Tia? Right now, that pitch is heavily weighted toward Leopard, obviously. It’s about his “problem” and not about his relationship with Tia.
If it’s going to be about Tia, then we don’t need to know anything about Leopard other than how it relates to her. If you want to weight it equally in the story, then put both points of view in there. They have to be balanced in the pitch.
Like LETHAL WEAPON could be pitched
“Just weeks from retirement, a by-the-book detective gets saddled with an erratic, deadly and possibly suicidal partner right before they investigate the most dangerous and potentially lethal case of his career.”
Or you can pitch it the way IMDB puts it (IMDB can be counted on to give you the basic log lines of the top movies) :
A veteran policeman, Murtaugh, is partnered with a younger, suicidal officer, Riggs. They both have one thing in common: they hate working with partners. Now they must learn to work with one another to stop a gang of drug smugglers.
Even though Riggs is the “cool” character, Murtaugh is the protagonist. He has the most to lose, and everything Riggs does end up being judged on how it helps his partner, Murtaugh.
However, the IMDB log line gives you a better sense of the story. In the first pitch, it made it seem like Riggs was Murtaugh’s antagonist. In the second, Riggs is in a better position as the deuteragonist and the drug smugglers are the antagonists.
In LEON, like LITTLE MISS MARKER, even though it seems like Mathilda drives the story, she is the supporting second lead to Leon who really has to make all the major decisions of the film even when he’s not really equipped to. It’s a great movie to emulate too.
Here is the IMDB log line:
Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade.
Now, I think that is a bad log line because it doesn’t flat out state the story. Mainly because it’s passive voice.
Leon, a professional assassin, reluctantly takes in Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, after dirty cops kill her family. To get the girl out of his life, he teaches her his murderous profession so she can pursue revenge, but the more time he spends with her, the less he wants to get rid of her.
I don’t like passive voice in pitches - it focuses on what happens to characters more than what they do. I also don’t like vague statements like “forms an unusual relationship.” Of course it’s going to be unusual. It’s in a movie.
So, even if Leopard is your natural protagonist, you still have to decide if he is the entire focus, because that is different from the relationship movie you want. It’s more Despicable Me than The Incredibles. Even though the kids in the former movie are a big part of the story, they don’t really get anywhere near the focus as the kids in The Incredibles. Or as Mathilda does in Leon.
It’s more, “Leopard Johnson rarely breaks a sweat when he’s preventing an alien invasion or infiltrating secret island bases filled with weaponized Tyrannosharks, but he’s terrified to the point of paralysis of parent teacher conferences.”
If Tia was a toddler instead of a teen, it’s even more obviously his show.
However, if you want her to be more of the story then you’ll need to make her more of the pitch. If you were selling a car, you wouldn’t focus on the power steering, dashboard features, gas mileage, speed and handling and then at the very end say, “oh, by the way, it’s red.”
I’m a big believer that the way the story gets pitched should contain the DNA of the the whole story. It should let the person know right off what it’s about, who’s important and what they do in the story.
At the same time, you don’t have to go into a lot of detail about the story itself. A lot of it is in the way you word it. If you read “When dashing superhero Mr Incredible and his wife Elastigirl are sued and forced to quit being superheroes…” you can immediately get that this is a comedy. No way is that going to happen in a straight adventure story.
However, at heart, I think that is a good pitch that can be a great one. I see it more like Despicable Me or The Incredibles than, say, Suicide Squad or The Dark Knight.
Well, now that I think about it, the series can not just be about Leopard as a budding father figure (this is a comic book pitch I’m working on, in case anyone was confused). It can also be about Tia’s struggle developing as not only a teenager, but as a superhuman.
Are you thinking episodic (ongoing) or more novelistic (graphic novel)? Probably episodic, in which case, you’d be pitching it like a pilot for a television series. After you figure out the log line - maybe something like:
When a super powered covert agent takes responsibility for the daughter of his murdered best friend, he must balance saving the world on a regular basis with her desire to simply be a normal teenager even though she’s started to develop super powers of her own.
Then you have to figure out what sort of stories these two get involved with every month. Do they go on adventures together, or does she go to school and struggle to be “normal” while thinking her “Uncle” just works as an insurance adjuster (which is why he travels so much). Sorta like the TRUE LIES scenario.
That could work both ways, too. She might not know he’s really a superhuman secret agent, and he might not know she has superpowers. They both go to extreme lengths to hide their secrets from each other and end up not trusting each other because of it.
Or whatever direction you want to go, but at each level of the pitch, from the Logline to the Title to the Synopsis, they have to remain consistent with each other. They have to tell the same story.
And sometimes, you have to “kill your darlings” and eliminate elements that you like but don’t serve the interests of the best story that will grab your readers.
Is he being irresponsible if he takes her on missions? Like Big Daddy and Hit Girl or Leon/Mathilda or Bruce Wayne/Carrie Kelly levels of irresponsible. Or does she sneak in on his missions on her own and he doesn’t know about it until they’re already in the thick of it?
Basically, what is the conflict between them that dramatizes their relationship? Does she want to live a normal life, but her step-father’s (and dead father’s) enemies won’t leave her alone? - the obvious way to go there is that she was actually part of an experiment, and that’s both why her father was killed (to get ahold of her) and why Leopard becomes her adoptive father (because he knows she’s a target no one else can protect).
Obviously, not the only way. Does Leopard actually want her to lead a normal life, but she wants to follow in his and her father’s footsteps? However, he knows what it’s like to have his destiny dictated from an early age because of these powers he never asked for, and he wants to give her a chance to explore her potential outside the crazy, dangerous world of super-espionage.
And she’s like, “you tell me I can be whatever I want, but then you won’t let me do the one thing I want to do most!”
And he’s like, “I think the first rule of good parenting probably says you shouldn’t let your child get eaten by a pack of tyrannosharks. Or play with atomic cannons! Put that down!”
“I hate you!”
“Go to your quarters! I mean room. Go to your room! You’re indefinitely detained! I mean grounded!”
That would simplify a lot. Quickly explains why anyone would let him take her, and why she would develop powers.
Might be interesting to have a few antagonists - like other members of her family who would fight for custody and have their own secrets. Obviously, she would’ve had a mom, too, and your readers will probably wonder what the story is there. Don’t be too quick to explain her out of the picture.
In fact, my instinct would be to fill the story with people who aren’t just who they appear to be. Teachers who are mad scientists. The local episcopal priest who’s also an amazon princess from Venus. The owner of the local convenience store is actually several different CIA android clone cyborgs which is why he seems to be working there 24/7. In fact, his code name is 24-7 just like the name of the store.
It’s a strong metaphor for growing up. When you’re young, you think you’re the only person with an inner life and as you grow up you find out everyone has a weirdo hidden inside.
Sexy Jack Blood, super-powered secret agent with the awesome powers of a cat which means he can do backflips and junk and is awesome and also he likes milk, anyway, JB is drinking whiskey and smoothing on the wiminz when his best friend, brother and secret-agent partner-guy, who is sort of like Q, I guess maybe, anyway, that guy dies and so Blood is all like “i’ll take care of your daughter” who is totez a teenager and all like “OMG! Boys!” and Blood is like “Ergh” but anyway, the teenage daughter whos name is Aurora Belle, also has cool superpowers and Jack is all like “well I guess I’ll train you” and Aurora is all like “OMG boys!”
Change best friend to sister, secret-agent partner-girl who is sort of like Q / M but called B. And okay, she dies, but mega-heroically (much weeping and wailing; rainy funeral scene; black umbrellas - it’s all terribly sad – think Spider-Man 2 meets Big Hero 6 via Up). Anyway, B is the best character, the catalyst for the entire narrative. Aurora Belle is named after her, obviously.
Aside from that, pretty totez awesome. And I can totally pay you in snickers bars thanks to a lovely old lady who brings me chocolate every Wednesday. Last I checked there were not one but four snickers in the desk drawer plus 3 Turkish delight, 5 Lion bars, some Kitkats and a box of After Eights.
I think that’s the best pitch I’ve seen for your idea in this thread. The best real one, anyway. There were some great comical ones! But seriously, this is much improved over the original.
and I know you didn’t ask for this, but a lot of people were suggesting story changes, not pitch changes, so let me add: If you consider making the agent not a super guy–just a black ops secret agent, maybe deals with supers–but he discovers his new adopted daughter has super powers and he has to learn how to deal with that along with her, then that might add another interesting dynamic to the story.