Summarizing an entire screenplay is not an easy thing to do. Let alone in 1-2 sentences. But it is what’s required if you want to pitch your script to a producer or studio. When you send out your script too, the logline sometimes determines if someone even reads it. So, what is a logline?
We’re not going to stop at the definition, we’ve got a tried-and-true formula for crafting the perfect hook.
Crafting the perfect logline is a subtle art
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What is a Logline For A film
Defining the logline
Between treatments, synopses, and taglines, industry jargon can sometimes get criss-crossed. So, what is a logline anyway? Once we define it, we'll go over some tips of how to approach writing one, with some examples from iconic films.
What is a logline?
A logline is a one or two sentence summary of your screenplay that conveys the premise but also adds an emotional aspect that hooks the reader.
It includes the main character, set-up, and central conflict in a concise, enticing way.
The Godfather: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
Titanic: Two star-crossed lovers fall in love aboard the R.M.S. Titanic and struggle to keep their relationship afloat as the doomed ship sinks into the Atlantic Ocean.
Part of our free TV Writing and Development masterclass includes the logline formula. Get familiar with the formula watching the video above.
Crafting the perfect logline is a subtle art.
The goal is to write a teaser that hooks the reader enough to make them want to read the entire script.
So, how do you do that? What should you consider?
What are the components?
Now that you have the definition down, let’s identify its parts so we can get to crafting one.
writing A logline
1. Always identify the protagonist
2. What’s their goal?
3. Inciting Incident (action)
4. Conflict (can also be an antagonist)
Let’s use our Titanic example from before to see how the writer considered all four of these components. We’ll write it out in the freeform feature of StudioBinder’s screenwriting software.
We also threw in more examples from a ton of other movies, so you can get more than the gist.
Let's look at Titanic:
Our protagonist(s)? Two star-crossed lovers.
Inciting Incident? They meet and fall in love on the ship.
Goal? Keep their relationship afloat.
Conflict? The ship is sinking.
Yep, they nailed it. But do you notice anything else they did well? They didn’t get too into specifics, right? Let’s briefly explore some extra tips.
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How to Write a Logline
Tips to consider
Here are a few tips to consider before crafting begins.
- Don’t give away the ending
- No need to use the character’s name. It provides no real value.
- Give a little depth to the character. Brevity is key.
- Describe the conflict by revealing STAKES (i.e. the ship sinking)
- Irony is engaging (i.e., they’re trying to keep their relationship afloat while a ship is sinking)
- Use active language (i.e., the word, “struggles” is stronger than a less active phrase like, “has a hard time”)
Remember, you’re selling your story, not telling the whole thing.
How to format a screenplay
If you're the type of person that comes up with a logline before the script is complete, you're not alone. Now that you've got the secret recipe for cooking up a show-stopping logline, it's time to get writing.
Our next post explores the process of formatting a screenplay to industry standards. You may already know how to format, but the article gives insight into some not-so-obvious formatting tricks.