A logline for your film is crucial for pitching your story quickly to producers, agents, and distributors. It captures the essence of your movie, making it easier to sell or get funded. A strong logline grabs attention and opens doors.
What is a Logline?
A logline is a brief, one-to-two-sentence summary that encapsulates the essence of a story, such as a screenplay, documentary, or TV show. It aims to convey the main conflict, protagonist, and stakes to engage the interest of producers, distributors, or viewers.
How Long Should a Logline Be?
Loglines are typically 25 to 30 words long. The objective is to be as concise as possible while still offering a clear snapshot of the core elements of the film or story.
When to Use a Logline
- Pitching to Producers: Imagine you’re in an elevator with a potential producer and you have 30 seconds to make an impression. Your logline is your best asset, it can quickly grab their attention and make them want to know more about your project.
- Screenwriting Competitions: Entering a screenwriting contest? Most of them ask for a logline. A strong logline could make your script stand out in a sea of submissions.
- Networking: Whether it’s a film festival or a casual coffee meeting, you’ll often find yourself talking to people in the industry. Having a polished logline ready helps you succinctly summarize your work in an engaging way.
- Marketing: Think of loglines as bite-sized trailers. They can be used in posters, social media, or any promotional materials to give potential audiences a taste of what your film is about.
A typical logline formula: When [inciting event] occurs, a [character trait] protagonist must [dynamic action] to overcome [obstacle].
- When [inciting event] occurs: This part sets the stage. It introduces an event that turns your protagonist’s world upside down.
- A [character trait] protagonist: Here, give a snapshot of your main character. This could be anything from “a cynical detective” to “a naive young artist.”
- Must [dynamic action]: What does your protagonist have to do? This should be an active, urgent action that sets the plot in motion.
- To overcome [obstacle]: This is the barrier your protagonist faces. It adds tension and stakes to the story.
Here’s a classic example for you: “When a killer shark threatens a beach community, a fearful police chief must face his fears to protect the town.”
Logline Formula Types
Each formula has its own merits and is suited for different kinds of stories. Choosing the right one can help you encapsulate the essence of your project in the most compelling way.
Basic Logline Formula: This is the simplest formula that is very straightforward. It includes the main character, what they want, and what stands in their way.
- Structure: [Protagonist] must [Objective] or else [Stakes].
- Example: “In a future society, a young man must pass a series of grueling tests or else be relegated to a life of menial labor.”
Character Logline Formula: In this type of logline, the emphasis is on the character traits of the protagonist. It’s particularly useful when the character’s emotional or psychological journey is as significant as the external events.
- Structure: A [Character Trait] [Protagonist] has to [Objective] in the face of [Obstacle] to achieve [Emotional Goal].
- Example: “A timid librarian must confront her deepest fears when she becomes the target of a mysterious stalker, forcing her to take charge and fight back to reclaim her life.”
Save the Cat Logline Formula: Inspired by Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” screenwriting book, this formula adds another layer by hinting at how the story may resolve or what the protagonist learns.
- Structure: [Situation] forces a [Specific Character Trait] [Protagonist] to [Objective], only to discover [Resolution or Twist].
- Example: “A high-profile court case forces a morally ambiguous lawyer to fight for an innocent defendant, only to discover the true meaning of justice.”
Conflict Logline Formula: This formula aims to highlight the tension and urgency in the story. The stakes are prominently featured to add a sense of what’s truly at risk.
- Structure: When [Inciting Event], a [Character Trait] [Protagonist] must [Dynamic Action] to [Resolution] before [Time Limit or Dire Consequence].
- Example: “When an ancient artifact is stolen, a relentless archaeologist must decode a series of riddles to retrieve it before it falls into the hands of a dangerous cult.”
Logline Formula Examples
- Titanic: When a luxury ship hits an iceberg, a penniless artist must find a way to survive to overcome the sinking vessel and freezing waters.
- Not Without My Daughter: When her husband is taken hostage, a determined wife must navigate a web of political intrigue and danger to overcome a vengeful dictator’s demands.
- Taken: When his daughter is kidnapped during a vacation in France, a former CIA operative must rely on his old skills to overcome a human trafficking ring.
- Sleeping Beauty: When an evil fairy curses a newborn princess, a young and unsure fairy godmother must embark on a quest to find the cure to overcome the dark spell and save the kingdom.
- The Fugitive: When he’s falsely accused of treason, a skilled military officer must uncover the conspiracy against him to overcome a corrupt system and clear his name.
Character traits and dynamic actions, collectively known as logline attributes, can greatly enhance your logline. Understanding how to employ these elements can mean the difference between a logline that falls flat and one that resonates.
Character traits describe the unique characteristics that make your story’s main character who they are.
These traits should be specific enough to make the character interesting and memorable, but general enough to allow room for interpretation and imagination.
- Common traits include being fearless, insecure, ambitious, compassionate, or ruthless.
Dynamic actions refer to the activities or steps that your main character undertakes in order to achieve their goal or resolve the conflict.
- These actions can be physical, like running, fighting, or building, or emotional, like reconciling, forgiving, or overcoming a fear.
These elements help breathe life into your logline, giving a sense of what makes the protagonist unique and hinting at the kind of journey they will undertake.
Here are some quick tips to help you craft the perfect logline:
- Keep it Short: Try to convey your entire story in as few words as possible.
- Focus on the Protagonist: Highlight what makes the main character interesting or relatable.
- Include the Conflict: The conflict is the heart of the story. Make sure it’s clear and compelling.
- Be Specific: Use specific words that evoke images or emotions. Avoid vague or generic terms.
- Convey the Tone: Your logline should reflect the mood or atmosphere of your film.
- Stay Honest: Don’t exaggerate or mislead. Your logline should accurately represent the story you have written.
- Test It Out: Share your logline with friends or colleagues to get feedback. This can help you refine it further.
- Revise: Don’t be afraid to tweak or rework your logline as you develop your story or receive feedback. A logline is a living document that evolves with your screenplay.
- Stay Passionate: Your enthusiasm for your story should shine through your logline. If you’re not excited about it, chances are, others won’t be either.
Logline vs Tagline
Loglines and taglines serve different roles in film. A logline provides a concise summary of the plot and characters in no more than 30 words. In contrast, a tagline is a catchy phrase no more than 8 words used in marketing and on the poster to capture the film’s essence without revealing the plot.
Logline vs Plotline
A logline is a one or two-sentence summary of your story’s essence, while a plotline is a more detailed account of the story’s events. Think of the logline as the elevator pitch and the plotline as the full presentation.
Logline vs Synopsis
A logline is a one-sentence summary of a story’s core idea, designed to quickly grab attention. A synopsis is a detailed overview of the plot, characters, and sometimes the ending. While loglines entice, synopses inform. They serve different purposes in the storytelling process.
What is a Good Logline?
A good logline is concise, clear, and compelling. It should capture the main conflict of the story, introduce the protagonist, and hint at the stakes. Think of it as a mini-version of your story that delivers its heart and soul in a bite-sized package.
How Do You Write a Good Logline?
Writing a good logline involves focusing on four key elements: the protagonist, their goal, the antagonist, and the stakes. Your logline should succinctly combine these factors to create a compelling snapshot of your story.
What Are the Four Elements of a Logline?
The four elements of a logline are the protagonist, their goal, the antagonist, and the stakes. These components work together to give a rounded, miniature portrait of your story’s core conflict and characters.
What is a 27-Word Logline?
A 27-word logline is an exercise in brevity. It aims to capture all necessary elements within a 27-word limit, forcing you to be economical with words while not sacrificing the story’s essence.
Is a Logline a Hook?
Yes, a logline serves as a hook. It’s designed to capture attention quickly and compel the audience to want to see or read more, making it an essential marketing tool.
Is Logline a Summary?
While a logline does summarize the story, it differs from a full summary. A summary may offer a detailed breakdown of plot points, whereas a logline aims to encapsulate the essence of the story in a sentence or two.
Does a Logline Go on a Script?
Yes, a logline often appears on the cover or title page of a script. It serves as an initial point of engagement for anyone reading the screenplay and helps set the tone for what follows.
Mastering the art of logline creation is not just about summarizing your story; it’s about selling it. By following these steps and examples, you’ll be well on your way to crafting loglines that not only summarize but also sell your story to producers, agents, distributors, and ultimately, audiences.