<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=252463768261371&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

What's the skinny on loglines?

September 29, 2021
5 min read time

I’m never sure if logline is two words or one, but for the purpose of this article, let’s talk about loglines as one compound word. We don’t write “screen plays” and honestly, the spelling is the least of our worries when we’re struggling to write about our super-cool concept and protagonist and their struggle and stakes—all in as few characters as possible. The logline has to pack a punch with the most carefully crafted collection of words you can imagine for your story. One of the hardest parts of logline writing is that you have so much great stuff in your script and sure, including everything seems necessary and could make the project stand out as superior. And remember, you are in the business of imagination, so this should be easy...right?

Wrong.

Save something for later, folks.

If you can imagine an industry pro as having an attention deficit disorder, unable to land and focus as they’re skimming along because they have a million projects on the brain, all the while chugging espresso, you can better understand why loglines must be short and compelling.

One thing we all do know is there is no one way to write a logline. There are thousands of ways. Nor is there a moment in logline writing when it’s perfect. Each person reading your logline comes to the table with their own life experiences and opinions, so it’s almost impossible to say what will work for any given project on any given person. Knowing this makes the writing of a logline even harder. Having just attended Battle of the Loglines with Final Draft and Pipeline Artists on Zoom (during which three pros rewrote a logline and the audience got to vote for the one they preferred), I can vouch for the fact that a writer can offer one version and three knowledgeable industry pros can tweak that concept in three different ways to appeal to what they’re looking for.

The only thing we could all agree on was the logline is best served as one amazing sentence with carefully chosen words. For example, one logline during the event used the label "Millennials". Ali Schouten, the showrunner of iCarly, replaced that with "avocado toast-eaters" for the win in that round. It was a comedy project and Ali injected the comedic tone. We all knew the type of person she was talking about. As writers, choosing the best word to say something is our jam and she took the logline to a new level with that description by proving just how important tone is.

The logline is the DNA of your project, the code, the essence of what’s in store should we choose to read the screenplay, take the journey, watch the movie. If you write a logline to include your protagonist, the goal, the conflict, and find yourself dozing off with boredom, try switching up some words to make that thing pop off the page. Approach your concept from a different angle rather than using the standard template that begins with the word “When.” Make the reader imagine what this project is themselves, given your brief description. In the old days, looking in the entertainment section of a newspaper helped you choose a movie for Friday night’s entertainment at the theater. That one line had us choose where we’d spend our money. Same thing for producers and industry execs.

A simple template for loglines is this: When an interesting/relatable protagonist has this happen, they must do something to prevent something terrible/weird/not good from happening. You never want to leave your logline at this, though; e.g., When a rogue spaceship captain discovers an asteroid heading for Earth, she must intercept the threat or suffer her family’s demise on Earth. This is a good start for a logline but now we really need to write the thing.

Let’s try it again: A spaceship captain, wrongly kicked out of the Federation Alliance, gathers a band of misfits to intercept an asteroid speeding towards her hometown on Earth. This logline shows the captain’s stakes and the ticking clock.

Succinct is important. Make it brief. In the world of loglines, less is more, especially if you imagine every letter costs money. Of course, that’s not true, but every word must be important enough to include in that space. It’s like buying a plot of land in downtown Los Angeles vs Podunk, Iowa. Some real estate is just more precious. Logline real estate is downtown L.A.

In that vein, when attempting to make each word count, I like to imagine my logline as a sauce that gets boiled down to the tastiest version of itself, all extraneous water boiled off to the most aromatic, succulent version.

Regardless of whether real estate or cooking speaks to you, the logline is your first opportunity to sell your project and as such, is the most important door to be invited to step through. Without a great logline, the door remains closed on your project. If you impress someone with the fact you know who your MC is and have outlined their struggle, the stakes, and the tone of the project, they may open the door to the next opportunity to impress them. And that might be a one-pager or the script. I have spent as much time writing a logline as the script in some instances. And the indecision of what word goes where and how to best convey a tone can drive a screenwriter to madness. The placement of words, the word choices, the ability to be brief but complete, is the tricky part. Like writing this article, I’m essentially driving myself nuts every time I go back in to fix something. It’s never going to be perfect.

Getting a logline read or considered is difficult unless you have a manager sending out your work. For that reason, a few of us screenwriters on Twitter got together and founded an event we named ScreenPit, a one-day opportunity to tweet loglines with the hopes that industry professionals will drop in and read our postings. We have a long list of producers, managers and execs to invite. It may work, it may not. At the very least it will be a Twitter-wide industry event and will make us feel hopeful and productive. October 13th is the day and if you’re on Twitter, have loglines, and feel comfortable posting them, check us out on Twitter at @ScreenPit. Rules and guidelines are on the site, and check back in this space for more detailed ScreenPit rules and guidelines.

Just remember, there is no moment when your logline reaches a state of perfection. You can continually tinker with it, change a word, rearrange groups of words, and continue to drive yourself around the bend and back, but if you keep it to one strong sentence to convey tone and clearly state your unique protagonist’s problem along with the stakes and conflict, you may get the chance to step through that door to the next opportunity to sell your project with a pitch. Or a script read. And then the next door, and the next, until that last door that leads to the first day of principal photography.

Go on, write that logline well enough to open the first door.

Share
Untitled Document

Final Draft 13

Use what the pros use!

BUY NOW
Final Draft 13 - More Tools. More productivity. More progress.

What’s new in Final Draft 13?

feature writing goals and productivity stats

WRITING GOALS &
PRODUCTIVITY STATS

Set goals and get valuable insights to take your work to the next level

feature typewriter

TYPEWRITER

A new typewriter-like view option improves your focus

feature emoji

EMOJI

Craft more realistic onscreen text exchanges and make your notes more emotive

And so much more, thoughtfully designed to help unleash your creativity.

LEARN MORE
computer using Final Draf

Final Draft is used by 95% of film and television productions

SEE WHY