Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Loglines are your Friends

Loglines are a one sentence summary of your script that shouldn't really consist of more than 20 words. They're often mistaken with their flashier, chattier and more charismatic cousins, taglines which are used to market a film. Whilst the logline is a straight explanation of the plot, the tagline is there to draw you in and, in some cases, make you laugh. 

Take The 40 Year Old Virgin, for example.

The logline is:

Goaded by his buddies, a nerdy guy who's never "done the deed" only finds the pressure mounting when he meets a single mother.

The tagline is:

'The longer you wait, the harder it gets'


Why are loglines useful?

Again, I find myself returning to a familiarly cynical answer - people are lazy. They want to know what your story is about. And fast.

Whoever reads your script, whether it's a friend, a producer or an agent, it stands to reason that they'd rather not struggle through the first 10-20 pages of a script without even an inkling of what it's about. Even the humble cinema-goer usually has some idea about what they're going to watch before they see it, thanks to marketing materials such as posters and trailers - where those showy bastards taglines tend to make their appearance.

How do I write a logline?

Start with the sentence 'This is a story about...' and once you've got it, delete this introduction (just to give you a bit of leeway in terms of word count) and edit until it reads well.

If you're still unsure, take a look at the loglines from existing films.

I've taken ten example loglines from IMDB, just to show that even the basic plot of some quite lengthy films (I'm looking at you 5, 7 and 9) can be reduced to one succinct sentence.

See if you can guess the film (answers at the end of the post):

1) An unemployed actor with a reputation for being difficult disguises himself as a woman to get a role in a soap opera.

2) A silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions.

3) Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

4) An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her.

5) Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.

6) In the distant future, a small waste collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

7) An in-depth examination of the way that the Vietnam war affects the lives of people in a small industrial town in the USA.

8) A psychotic socialite confronts a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder...a theory that he plans to implement.

9) Musical about two youngsters from rival NYC gangs who fall in love.

10) Tricked into thinking he killed his father, a guilt ridden lion cub flees into exile and abandons
his identity as the future King.

When will I use it?

Some companies that accept unsolicited material will request a logline with your submission, but even if they don't, it's a good idea to include it whenever you send your script out. If you're attaching a synopsis, I'd recommend adding the logline again at the top of the page, so that everything's all in one place and you're making life as simple as possible for the person on the other end.

Loglines can also provide clarity in your own mind of what your story is really all about. And they're a great pitching tool - just in case you ever find yourself in a lift with George Clooney and can't think of anything better to do. 

Answers: 1. Tootsie, 2. The Artist 3. Ghostbusters 4. 500 Days of Summer 5. Inglorious Basterds 6. Wall-E  7. The Deer Hunter 8. Strangers on a Train 9. West Side Story 10. The Lion King

1 comment:

  1. The problem is -- none of those are decent loglines.