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)