Screenwriting : Loglines. by Les Zig

Les Zig

Loglines.

Any suggestions on writing a compelling logline?

I'm okay with loglines in contemporary settings, but struggle with scripts based in imaginary settings (e.g. sci fi, or the future), especially when that setting comes with lots of internal rules, etc., that affect the story.

Anthony Moore

The best way is to put one out and let people critique it, tweak it, and put it out again and again until you have one that's useable. I write mostly sci-fi and I've had to do this to have others help me boil away the ideas and sub-plots to the simples essence of the main story.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Perhaps Christopher Lockhart's paper on how to construct a logline may be helpful to you: http://www.twoadverbs.com/logline.pdf. ;)

Danny Manus

i will say that i think my logline webinar is still available on S32 somewhere...but as someone who teaches loglines around the country, my advice is ...if youve got a "different" world, let that be the first thing in your logline. Define the hook of your world that we need to know succinctly. start your logline with "In a world where X..." for example... In a world where human reproduction is controlled and monitored by government agents, one determined young woman is forced to do X in order to save her unborn child and change society forever.... just a random example, but you get the idea...

Rutger Oosterhoff

When in the near future/past [inciting incident] [protag verus antag] leads to [hook]

Erik Grossman

Inciting incident/catalyst "When Bob discovers his wife has been cursed by a garden gnome..." act 2 stuff "he must answer a series of riddles" what happens if they fail "or risk losing her forever".

You can also do inciting incident/catalyst -> act 2 -> to accomplish what in act 3? so "When Bob discovers his wife has been cursed by a garden gnome, he must answer a series of riddles to keep her from turning into an elephant at midnight."

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Les:

I post this when folks ask for logline assistance:

For many writers, loglines are a serious challenge. I suggest several things. First, keep them around thirty words or less, +/- five words. Think of your logline as if you were trying to craft a hit song. You have limited time to grab someone's attention. It’s the first step in a process. The second step is getting someone to read your synopsis. The third step is getting someone to read your screenplay. Without performing the first two steps correctly, the third step will not happen. Think about it this way. If your logline is bland, why would anybody want to read your synopsis, let alone your screenplay?

When you write your logline, try to include protagonist, antagonist, obstacles and challenges. Then summarize your story in a sentence or two.

Look at this logline from the classic film “The Sweet Smell of Success”

“A press agent, hungry to get ahead, is pushed by a ruthless columnist to do cruel and evil things, and is eventually caught in the web of lies that he has created.”

The above logline is 32 words. It identifies the press agent who is the damaged protagonist controlled by the antagonist, the ruthless columnist. The logline tells you the consequences of the protagonist’s actions. This is exactly what you may want to consider when writing your logline.

Hope that helps.

Scott C. Brown

Having sold more than 36 scripts in the last 6 years (and a ton of others prior to that), you need to focus on the story in no more than 2 sentences. Don't worry about the location, unless it directly relates to the true point of the project. The tighter the better.

Example: An alcoholic probation officer takes a group of delinquent teens on a rafting trip that goes horribly wrong when they anger poaching red necks... and a monster. Deliverance meets Lake Placid.

A bit of run-on is fine, as long as it flows when you say it, or they read it.

The entire point of the Logline is to get them to discuss projects with you. Not just the one you are pitching. Often it leads to them talking about a script they are looking for. That's where you are able to bring your true writing talents into play.

Logline to elevator pitch. Elevator pitch to meeting. Meeting to getting paid.

Hope this helps.

You can catch my Stage 32 guest blog at: https://www.stage32.com/blog/The-Flipside-Of-Film-2https://www.stage32.c...

Danny Manus

well, the comps are not part of the logline. thats a separate thing.

Scott C. Brown

Yes, Danny, I'm aware it's not normally so. Yet on occasion, it works to sell scripts. I've several to prove it. We actually had a conversation along that lines the last time we talked. Variations of pitching practices to standout.

Anne Devina Reeve

Loglines condense main facts into two sentences....needs focus thinking but worth the effort

A. S. Templeton

IMDb is a good repository of logline-like movie summaries.

Can you guess which movie this excerpt points to?: "In <omitted>, Morocco in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications."

17 words convey time, place, principal players and tension-filled foreshadowing. Neat! Mind, this was written long after the movie was released. Who knows how it was pitched to Warner?

Les Zig

Thanks, everybody!

Chester Davis

You might have to state one key fact or find ways to hint at a few key facts about the world. The year and city are probably irrelevant. The fact that arable land is the new basis of wealth or that AI software is banned might be the most important element of the world you present in a story. Definitely add that. Maybe think about the one scientific, social, or technological change most important to the character in the story. Brain implants the control deviant impulses or mind uploading technology might be crucial.

Chad Stroman

Well A.S Templeton, Here's looking at you, kid.

William Martell

Have a compelling story.

Roxanne Paukner

Check this out (How to Write a Logline). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Fj_H9Q73k

Zach Rosenau

This is a really important conundrum. I have always heard that a logline should be CHARACTER, CHARACTER, CHARACTER - that the internal struggle should be embedded in there somewhere, and then also twist/hook/irony of the story (ie. Why is your story special, not like everyone else). However, when you are writing a character in a world that is itself new/needs to be explained/has a whole ranges of ideas and exciting hooks that you want to clarify, this can compete with the traditional mold of the logline. But, the prevailing rule of thumb is that you need to make strangers (execs, actors, busy people with money on the line) care about your story without them knowing anything about you, so - they need to see a compelling character and then want to know more. This maybe bad news, but its what makes log lines challenging. Ideally, when you explain the world, they should illuminate the characters inside them and not (in a more literary way that runs counter to commercial storytelling) compete for our attention.

Travis Sharp

My deeply naive opinion would be to have someone else write your logline. Sometimes the script is too personal to you to be able to summarize it well. For example, my neighbors 2 sentence description of his child is much different than mine and mine is probably 10 times more accurate.

Anne Devina Reeve

Two to three sentences that create an impact !!

Wayne Mathias

"Sell Your Story In A Single Sentence" by Lane Shefter Bishop is an excellent book on the subject.

Bill Costantini

The FORM of a logline is pretty well-established and is easily accessible. The CONTENT of a logline though....you need to make a producer say "that's interesting and unlike any of the thousands of loglines that I've read before in that genre.....I want to read that script now."

That should be the definition of a logline - at least for writers who are trying to break into the business and who aren't doing remakes or extremely formulaic stories best suited as MOW films for predictable cable viewing. (No dissing MOW's....but that's pretty much their purpose.)

There are many films being released over the next few months that are unlike any films that you've previously seen. Some are low-budget (YAY!); some are mid-budget (YAY!) and some are even big-budget (YAY!)

So IF you can summarize a story that is unique and probably hasn't been seen before - at least not in this generation; and at least not in all-too familiar physical settings; and at least not in set-ups and climaxes that have become predictable and genre cliches - THEN you probably move ahead of all of the writers whose loglines evoke a "I've read this logline 1,500 times this year - PLEASE SOMEONE GIVE ME SOMETHING NEW!" response from producers.

Good luck!

Monique Amado

What do you have so far?

Anne Devina Reeve

aww Thanks Bill, I understand you really have to concentrate on your summary....I prefer to write my own....Is it two or three sentences?

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