A logline is a simple short summary of your screenplay, not more than one to three short sentences, describing your film in the most compelling way. It is typically about 35 to 55 words long and its main aim is to get someone to read your screenplay.
It is not a tagline, which is the catchy phrase you see on the movie poster. A tagline on a poster complements the picture of the poster, so it doesn’t tell the story like a logline does, it is more of a comment about the story. The tagline has the picture on the movie poster to pitch the move; your logline must do it in words alone.
A common mistake in writing loglines is to tell too much detail or to not tell enough. Your logling should say just enough about your screenplay to captivate the person reading it or hearing it so much so that they feel they must read your script. Your screenplay’s logline should reveal the basics of your story without telling everything.
Here are three tips to check your logline to see if it needs a make-over.
1. State the conflict and who it’s between.
Screenplays are boring when there is not enough conflict. It’s the same with the logline. You may have a great script but your logline will bore to tears if it does not clearly bring out the conflict, the drama in your story.
There can be no drama without conflict and the conflict happens between two parties—a hero and villain. We should have a sense of who your hero is and who the villain is. What are they fighting for that is in opposition to each other?
Adding a good adjective to describe each of your main characters will add color and make your logline more compelling.
2. Highlight the biggest obstacle(s) to achieving the hero’s objective.
What obstacles does the hero have to face to triumph? The greater the obstacles the more intriguing a producer will find your screenplay to be.
This, of course, should tie into the conflict between the two main characters.
3. Make sure you have a hook in the logline.
Your logline should also have a hook in it, which is that thing that gives the plot a unique twist or makes the idea unique. The uniqueness of your screenplay needs to come through in your logline.
Here are a couple of sample loglines of famous movies using these tips. I’ve taken summaries of them from IMDB.com and modified them a bit.
Alien: When the crew of spacecraft Nostromo investigates a strange signal from a nearby planet, they discover it was intended as a warning and not an SOS. By then it’s too late—they have awakened a hive colony of horrific creatures and they are angry.
Legally Blonde: When a sorority queen Hawaiian Tropic girl is dumped by her blueblood boyfriend for being “too blonde,” she decides to follow him to law school to win him back. Once there, she learns she has more legal savvy than she ever imagined.
If you follow these three simple tips in your loglines, then you will dramatically improve your chances of getting your screenplay read by the right people.
At the same time you find that you have brought out what really matters in your story.
If you would like specific feedback or help with your logline, you may want to consider getting a session on pitching your script.
The most important thing is to get started and give it a shot!