“When I read the words “struggles against all odds” in a logline, I assume the screenplay will be terrible.” —Mike Rinaldi, Producer
A logline is a very short description of your story. Loglines give us the facts of the story in a clear, straightforward fashion.
They can also be called an elevator pitch. You should not start writing a screenplay until you have written a perfect, compelling logline. No logline should represent a big “No Go” sign for you.
If you are optioning a project the writer should be able to offer you a perfect, compelling logline.
One formula I like for a logline is…
- A flawed hero description ____________________________
- must do this ___________________________
- in order to avoid this disaster ________________________________.
So, for Legally Blonde it would be,
“Elle Woods, 1. a ditzy sorority girl 2. must get into Harvard Law school 3. before she loses her boyfriend forever.
“A blonde sorority girl must get into Harvard Law school in order to win back the man of her dreams.”
Here are a few more that I think are good from recently optioned projects. They are a bit longer than the formula I offered, but every word counts.
Writer: Daniel Silk
Logline: A woman under Witness Protection awakens on a 747 to discover the pilots and passengers unconscious, the plane depressurized and masked men hunting her. With oxygen and fuel rapidly depleting, she must grapple with surrendering herself to save the 242 people on board.
Writer: Tim Mannion
Genre: Paranoid Thriller
Logline: Trapped inside the trunk of a moving car, a newly-hired secret service agent must figure out if his kidnapping is part of a training exercise or an impending terrorist attack.
Things to consider
- I accidentally had a typo that said “longline” instead of “logline” which gave it the opposite meaning. A logline is short and concise.
- When we talk about three-act structure we see that in the logline we get a taste for all three acts. (In trailers for movies you rarely see a scene for the third act)
- The logline is a sales tool and a course correction tool. If you can’t write a compelling logline you will get lost when you are writing and when you are selling. If the writer cannot give you a concise logline they probably don’t know what is happening in their own script.
- Please don’t use the terms below in a logline. They are not precise enough and are sloppy writing.
- “Fight for his life”
- “to find peace”
- “gain his momentum”
- “caught in the middle”
- “fix his life”
- “learn his own truth”
- “in order to heal himself”
- “one man overcomes his deepest fears”
- “against all odds.”
I’d never use, “one man overcomes his deepest fears” and “against all odds.” These are clichés and should be inferred within the boundaries of the story. They are givens, since phrases like “overcoming deepest fears” is part and parcel of drama, as is “a struggle against all odds”. In other words, you’re stating the obvious.
When you write a logline, or as you evaluate one, you must ask yourself… WHAT MUST THE PROTAGONIST ACHIEVE? Is this presented in the logline? It must be presented as a clear cut, concrete goal. It must be very specific. No psychology or poetry.