Many writers often overlook the importance of a logline; they get an idea and become so jazzed up about it that they skip the first step of screenwriting and start typing Fade In. Others simply SCREECH in fear of having to sum up their big set pieces, epic battles, and romantic love story into two simple sentences, but the truth is all successful movies have a logline and before you start writing you need to be able to tell people what your movie is ABOUT in a short, concise sentence.
This post is designed to give you the basic structure of a logline so that you can make sure your story is solid and can be told in two simple sentences allowing the audience to immediately identify what your movie is about. Who knows this might even help you pitch your movie to the pros when you’re coincidently standing in the elevator with them or at that first big pitch meeting!
WHAT IS A LOGLINE?
A logline, or one-line, is one or no more than two sentences that briefly describe the story of your movie; it tells the audience, and potential ticket buyers, what your movie is about.
Example: Smokey and The Bandit – When a show-off bootlegger, The Bandit, unwittingly picks up a hitchhiking bride-to-be during a high stakes bootleg chase across county lines, he soon finds himself in hot pursuit by the groom-to-be and his father, Sheriff Buford T. Justice!
Now as everything in film, there are no set rules but through my experience I have found that there are typically 5 components you need to include in a logline to ensure that you have a strong story both to tell and to sale. So what are they?
1. Who or What Is Your Movie About?
Before you can start writing you must first identify your ANTAGONIST, PROTAGONIST, and A GOAL. With just these three elements alone you will have the base for your story and logline.
Let’s look at the Sci-Fi Classic STAR WARS for example: Luke Skywalker leaves his home planet, teams up with other rebels, and tries to save Princess Leia from the evil clutches of Darth Vader.
This is a perfect example of a solid logline it states the Hero: Luke Skaywalker, Goal: Save Princess Leia, and Villain: Darth Vader. Also, the logline is only ONE sentence and simply and accurately tells us what the movie is ABOUT!
HINT: To beef up the logline try adding descriptive words to both your character and villain, remember the harder you make the goal to achieve for your hero, the better the story and character arc. You can also add descriptive words to your character to make him more likable so the audience will really want to get behind the hero.
2. What Is Your HOOK?
Every great logline has a HOOK, a “why didn’t I think of that..” idea. This is what takes your movie from being plain and simple to a Box Office Winner, because when people read that Hook they know they’ve got to see what happens!
Predators – An elite group of warriors and killers must fight to save their lives as they are hunted by a merciless group of aliens known as Predators.
Tommy Boy – An Incompetent, immature, and dimwitted heir to an auto parts factory must save the business to keep it out of the hands of his new, con-artist relatives, and big business rivals.
Both examples above have a HOOK or TWIST that give the logline that extra-pizazz! Predators the hook is – The hunters become the hunted, and in Tommy Boy it’s – The lovable moron must save the day by being grown-up. This is what you are going for and as an Additional Tip – to achieve a good hook, try using adjectives to describe your antagonist and protagonist; this typically helps but is not always necessary.
3. Who Is Your Niche Audience?
Not every logline has to identify a niche audience but because we are low-budget filmmakers it’s best to stick with a story that you know you can sale. What’s the point of writing something that nobody is going to see, right?
Every movie big or small attempts to identify an audience this not only makes writing the script easier in terms of who you are writing for and what the tone of the script should be, but it will also help you market your movie once it is finished!
Sharktopus – When a half-shark, half-octopus created by the military breaks free and terrorizes Mexico, a nerdy, unqualified girl must find the courage within her and stop the mutated beast from destroying the entire country!
The logline above definitely identifies its Niche Audience, B-Movie and Cheesy Syfy Movie Fans. You can go even more in-depth with identifying your niche audience by tailoring the Hero to fit a certain Niche Audience. For Example: Maybe you make the main character a Cheerleader; well know you have opened yourself up to an even more specific target audience – people who like cheerleaders!
4. What Is The Cost?
Whether you are writing a script for a studio or yourself you need to keep the cost in mind. You shouldn’t write a period piece or an international spy movie if you’re making a low-budget film for under $250,000.
Cabin Fever – A group of 5 college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrible flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.
This is a perfect example of a logline that identifies the cost and lets the producers know it won’t cost them that much! From the logline you can identify that the cast will be minimal as it states only 5 college graduates, next with the exception of an opening scene and probably a road trip montage the script all takes place in one location – a cabin, and finally the bad guy is a flesh-eating virus which means you don’t even have to see the villain!
5. Can You See The Whole Story?
A good logline is a lot like a good title (5 Tips To Making A Better Title) it tells you what the movie is about! Now while you still may not be able to predict every twist and turn or how the movie ends, you want people to be able to imagine the fun and excitement they are going to have when they go see your movie; it should give a Great Mental Image!
Machete – After being set-up and betrayed by the man who hired him to assassinate a Texas Senator, an ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss.
The example above gives you a great mental image for what is to come. It starts off by stating the set-up of the story – An ex-Federale is set-up and double crossed by the man who hired him to do a job. Next it tells you what is going to follow the catalyst – A brutal rampage of revenge! Now while it doesn’t say exactly what is going to happen during the brutal rampage of revenge you get a good idea for what you are going to see if you choose to watch this movie – a badass Mexican probably chopping his way through bad guys (more than likely with a Machete due to the title) and will more than likely end in a showdown between the hero and his former boss.
Hope this Logline post is helpful and allows you to be able to write a better and more concise logline for your film. As an additional exercise to help you write better loglines, I suggest you go through your local paper and read the descriptions under each movie at your theater. Take notice at which loglines make you want to go see the movie and which ones do not.
Remember, Loglines tell the viewing public what your movie is about in one or two sentences. So be sure to include Who The Movie Is About, A Great HOOK, Identify Your Niche Audience, What Is The Cost, and A Great Mental Image that allows the audience to be able to Visualize The Whole Story.
If there are any other tips you think we’ve missed regarding Loglines or would like to get some feedback on your own logline be sure to drop us an e-mail or leave a comment and we’ll be sure to get back to you!