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Screenwriting : TV Series Logline Length by David Levy

David Levy

TV Series Logline Length

A major topic of discussion for many writers focuses around loglines. Many TV writers have a hard time trying to sum up their series concept in one sentence or 35 words according to some. New writers are told to keep it short and concise while some experienced writers get away with 2-4 sentences to sum up their TV series. http://deadline.com/category/primetime-pilot-panic/ Deadline.com has a great list of TV pilot information, especially loglines, to help use as a guide. They list every pilot, drama and comedy, from the last three years regardless if it's been picked up or passed on. They list the lstudio, team, logline, and cast. Oh, every network is listed. From ABC and CBS to HBO, E, Comedy Central, and everyone in between (27 total). The loglines ALL vary in length. A few are even 75-90 words. I will be beefing up a few of my loglines! I'm sure some will challenge it and say inexperienced writers should stick to as few words as possible.

Primetime Pilot Panic
Primetime Pilot Panic
Almost two months since Hollywood's TV studios put their broadcast pilots on hold just as most of them were about to start filming, some studios are starting to pay actors on the impacted pilots. The…
Danny Manus

David, those are not the loglines used to sell the pitch! Those are the loglines used after the pilot has been sold and more details are needed for the press. Keep the loglines concise and easy to understand and yes, to about 40 words or less. will 43 kill you? No. its just a guideline, not a rule.

Devon McBride-Wilson

Good article and good link, David. After reading some of the loglines, it looks like it's alright to include character names in TV series loglines. I would guess that it's partially because the characters are so much more important to a series than to a feature.

David Levy

I would not include character names unless the names are ones already known. Don;t use characters no one has heard of.

Devon McBride-Wilson

So those are 'Press' Loglines, and not 'Pitch' Loglines? Some of the logline in the Deadline article did indeed use character names.

David Levy

There is a mix. Some are genuine loglines while others give a basic series premise.

Regina Lee

It's 1:50 AM, and I just got finished giving written feedback to all my S32 Next Level Class members on their homework assignments. Forgive me for a short, non-comprehensive response, a response which cannot account for every single possible scenario. While it's true that press loglines can be different from the loglines used by studios, networks, writers, or agents/managers, David is 100% right. The last 4-5 TV pitches I've pitched to studios/networks have been presented as 2-5 sentence logs/blurbs/short synopses/whatever you want to call them. In the pros, TV pilots are typically sold as pitches (with no script written). The producer/agent/manager emails/calls the studio/network to ask if they want to hear the pitch. The emailer/caller uses a logline or a short blurb to test the waters. I just pitched ABC Studios yesterday with a writer and 2 other producers. The blurb we sent over to get the studio to say "yes we want to hear the pitch" or "no thank you" was 4 sentences long. I may have miscounted, but I think it was 102 words (including a's and the's). This was maybe the 2nd time I've ever counted words in a logline in my life. A logline is important in the pros, so before we sent out the blurb, we producers had the writer/creator, his 3 TV agents (at one of the top 5 agencies), and his manager (a very legit manager who SPECIALIZES in TV) look over the blurb, and everyone signed off on it. The agents in particular understand what makes for an effective log/blurb, as their agency goes out with hundreds of pitches a year! The agents had no issues with our 4-sentence log, and they felt it would be effective/attractive and serve their writer client's best interests. Clearly, the 4 sentences were fine because ABC Studios was enticed to hear the pitch. I'm sure there are situations like screenplay contests that require shorter logs, but in the real world, series logs typically need more explanation than feature film logs. The show I helped sell to Starz? Log/blurb/whatever you want to call it = 5 sentences. No lie. UTA, which is one of the top 3 talent agencies, had no concerns when they emailed it out to networks to get pitch meetings set up. And we sold the pitch, so...

Regina Lee

Would I always recommend a 4-5 sentence series log? Heck no. We have to use our best judgment, and that means reading - like David is reading - learning the professional context, and doing our best within the professional context. P.S. My longer loglines usually have 1-2 sentences devoted to trumpeting source material, e.g. "Inspired by NY Times bestseller XYZ..." If you aren't "selling" yourself on a cool piece of IP (hoping it's a value-add and increases your credibility/marketability), then you probably don't need 4-5 sentences. But for a series, you may well need 2-3 sentences. I know I usually do!

Regina Lee

In the pros, we sometimes use character names in our logs. The log/blurb we sent to ABC Studios used a character name. No one freaked out. Life went on. It was a-ok. When do I typically use a character name? When it's easier to digest and less confusing to use a name, reducing the number of times you have to use "he" or "she." Or when it's a real person like George Washington.

Regina Lee

I just looked at my friend's logline for a show in the vein of THE GOOD WIFE. She has staffed on 3 TV shows. Her log - 51 words, 2 sentences. Her show is pretty easy to understand and doesn't require a lot of explanation. It isn't based on source material.

Regina Lee

Again, I'm sure there are situations when a short logline is the better strategic move, and I'm 100% certain (see proof above) that particularly in SERIES, there are situations when a more explanatory, longer logline is the better strategic move.

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