Firstly, let’s look at some great loglines. These are amongst not only some of the best movies of their respective genres, they are also a bunch of ass kicking loglines.
“The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.”
“The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.”
“A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.”
“During the U.S.-Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.”
It can be a difficult task condensing and summarise your 100 plus page script into just one sentence. The ability as the writer to detach yourself from the project that you have invested so much into and simply describe it in a few words can be sometimes just demoralizing. The key is to remember that a good logline is the most crucial part of selling your script; you have the smallest window of opportunity to catch the eye of an executive and every word counts.
So, what’s the difference between and tagline a logline? A Tagline is that little snippet of marketing that stays with you from the poster of a teaser. Here are a few cherries for you to enjoy.
“Eight legs, two fangs, and an attitude.”
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
“For Harry and Lloyd, every day is a no-brainer.”
I Am Legend (2007)
“The last man on Earth is not alone.”
And a logline as mentioned before is a short summary of your story, it has a set structure, contains all the elements of your story and is written for the industry professional, not the fan. A point to note is that if you can’t make your logline work it is probably because your script itself has some major flaws.
It has often been suggested that a writer should write his logline before the actual story.
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty…
1. A workable logline needs to have:
– the protagonist
– their goal
– the antagonist/antagonistic force
2. Not by name:
Never name the character but instead, tell us a description or traits.
– A mouse
– A detective
– A priest
3. Give some depth with the use of adjectives:
– An immortal mouse
– A clumsy detective
– An alcoholic priest
4. The goals the goal:
The goal is what drives your story and your logline. You must get this one out early or you will lose your reader
– An immortal mouse driven by revenge must destroy the colonies water system to end his thirst for revenge.
– An alcoholic priest must kill a past parishioner to save his faith and his sanity.
5. Describe the Antagonist:
Always shorter but no less important is the negative driving force behind your story, the Antagonist or the force against our hero must also be told.
6. Have a pro-active protagonist:
This could have been number one. If you do not promote the action and/or drama of you protagonist you might as well burn your work. Conflict sells, and the reader wants to see their money.
7. If possible set the timer:
– he must destroy all traces of contact before the night’s end
– hurtling through space as the clock ticks
8.Setup can be the key:
Often a script or genre need a little extra to allow the reader to understand the environment or special conditions around your story.
– in a land plagued by violent storms
– torn between two realities after the death of his son
9.Don’t give it away:
You defiantly want to entice the reader but there is no need to give that big ending away, that twist or big bang moment. That should be left for the actual script reading.
10. Sell it don’t tell it:
This is your one chance to get the whole script into their hands. Tweak, test and tinker, you must get it right and leave them wanting more.
Food for thought:
If you sit down and find it hard to write the perfect logline before you embark on your journey of words, it might be time to reconsider the project in the first place. A simple confused sentence is even harder to expand into a dream.