How to Write an Effective Logline in Ten Easy Steps

loglineclap

It seems like half of every day is spent reading other people’s loglines. I suppose it is, though. I’m a logline judge at Karel Segers’ website “Logline It” and have assisted in judging several different logline contests. As a producer at Shark-Eating Man Productions, I receive close to a hundred unsolicited loglines per month; all different structures, techniques, and with varying degrees of effectiveness.

One thing most ALL have in common, though: they’re bad. Really suckey suck-suck awful. Total dogs.
I swear, I feel more like a judge at the Westminster Kennel Club rather than a judge of screenwriter’s loglines.

So, I feel the time has come to share with you, not only my TEN STEPS TO AN EFFECTIVE LOGLINE, but also share with you a copyrighted, trademarked logline formula that I created exclusively for The Script Mentor organization (http://www.thescriptmentor.com). Prior to now, this formula has not been shared with anyone OUTSIDE the organization.

First, I think it helps to understand the PURPOSE of the logline, and there are actually TWO purposes:

A) A logline is a tool with which one can MARKET a concept and/or screenplay.
It is one method by which TPTB (the powers that be) decided is the way a screenwriter (you) can easily communicate a concept to a producer/reader (TPTB) in the shortest amount of time possible, so that person (TPTB) can decide whether or not to invest the time (theirs) or the resources (their employees) to READ the screenplay. A well-written logline tells them two things: the writer can write, and the writer understands the premise of marketable concepts. That’s it. I can judge these two writer’s skills in just one logline. It doesn’t necessarily stop the process at this point, but in 95% of the time, it really does.

B) A logline serves as a compass for writing the screenplay.
Once you have your logline developed, which should ALWAYS be step one in your writing process, you should refer to it constantly as you write. The logline will keep you on course. It doesn’t mean the logline can’t change: it usually does, as your screenplay evolves and improves with better, stronger ideas, plotlines, and even changes in characters and genres. This happens all of the time.

It also helps to know what a logline is NOT:

A) A logline is NOT a tagline.
A tagline is used during the advertising campaign of the movie. In general, the tagline contains very few elements of the story, if any, and it is designed to be catchy and memorable. A logline provides important information about the screenplay.

B) A logline is NOT a short synopsis.
A short synopsis generally includes the first, second and third acts of the story. It is a pared down version of your story, without the details.

Now that we know what a logline IS and ISN’T, how does one go about writing it?

A logline is normally comprised of seven (7) elements, and the more elements included in your logline, the more effective it can be. Why? Because we are sharing more information about your story to TPTB on which they can base their decision.

Quick Review Question: What are TPTB trying to decide again? That’s right- whether or not to request the script to read. Not to BUY it. Not to OPTION it. Not to MAKE it.

To READ it.

Got it? Good. Moving on…

(Continued next week: The Logline Formula: The Seven Elements of an Effective Logline)

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “How to Write an Effective Logline in Ten Easy Steps

  1. Stacey Grewal

    I loved this article, and the formula, so much that I’m going to print it and hang it over my computer! Could you please provide us with a few examples of really great loglines? That would help even more. Thank you for your wonderful advice!

    Reply
    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      Hi Stacey! Thank you for the kind words regarding the articles. I hope they ARE helpful, to some anyway.

      Regarding examples, I came up with a few- examples of original loglines that I received from clients/friends from this month alone. This is not meant to embarrass or intimidate anybody, as writing is a continual learning process. If others on this thread want to share their “before” and “after” loglines, too, it would just reinforce the message that much more. Btw- all of these stories are already copyrighted and registered by the writer:

      Before: A divorced ex-baseball star, wary of commitment, wrestles with raising the 10-year-old daughter of his former Irish girlfriend who is terminally ill, only to discover that he and the young girl have a surprising connection.

      Post-formula:

      “When a commitment-phobic baseball star discovers that his ex-girlfriend is dying, he must decide between his promising career or fulfilling his promise of raising her young daughter.” (29 words)

      Before: When a psychiatrist dies of a heart attack during a session, his patient assumes his identity, sets up a practice only to discover the doc’s disturbing past is more haunting than his own psychosis. AND that past can be a number of things from mild to very dark indeed.

      Second attempt before formula: After a psychotherapist dies of a heart attack, his patient steals his identity to bolster his poor-self estem, sets up a successful, Hollywood practice until a TMZ reporter breaks the story that he’s an imposter.

      Post-formula:

      “When a timid introvert accidently assumes the identity of his dead psychiatrist, he becomes a talk show star and the envy of Hollywood – until an investigative reporter comes in for therapy.” (30 words)

      Before formula: A humorous, sometimes dark tale of an adopted Irish cook who try as she may, is unable to stick to a standard menu, instead drawn to infuse Jewish taste resulting in corned beef kreplach, being fired and cooking for a Jewish deli but then pulled to inject African American culture resulting in deep fried chicken on a bagel, confusing everyone yet resulting in the discovery of her real parents, true heritage and the creation of her own successful African Jewish restaurant.

      Post-formula:

      “While searching for her real parents, an adopted Irish chef infuses her family’s Israeli influences with her African-American upbringing and attempts to create the first successful “JewSoul” restaurant.” (29 words)

      Hope that helps! (I had posted this on the LinkedIn thread that you originally asked it, and have since cut it from there and placed it here. I was a little uncomfortable in putting those logs out there without expressed consent from the writers themselves, although I doubt there would have been any objections it. This is more fitting place anyway).

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s