How to write an exciting logline to entice someone to read your screenplay
"I could be just a writer very easily. I am not a writer. I am a screenwriter, which is half a filmmaker. … But it is not an art form, because screenplays are not works of art. They are invitations to others to collaborate on a work of art." - Paul Schrader (1*)
In my previous blog, I wrote about the importance of a treatment and the various components that goes into that document. When you tell someone that you have written a screenplay, the first question they will ask you is what is it about. This is where you will need a logline. To recap, a logline is a one-sentence summary or description of a film. The logline ( usually capped at 23 to 30 words) combines the 4 important elements of your screenplay(2*)—the protagonist, inciting incident, the protagonist’s goal, and central conflict, into a clear and concise pitch. The primary objective is to persuade the reader be it, a producer, director, financier or your friend to read your screenplay, which is not an easy ask (3*)
However, please do be mindful to not confuse a logline with a tagline. While the purpose of both the loglines and taglines are are to pique the reader’s interest in a movie, they have different structures and serve two distinct purposes. Taglines are strictly used as marketing tools and more closely resemble catchphrases than succinct narrative descriptions.(4*) Successful taglines are designed to elicit an emotional response but not necessarily to inform potential audiences of what the film is about. Whereas, loglines should similarly engage readers, their primary function is to inform and tell the film’s story.
Below are some examples:
Logline: A con man, along with his seductive partner is forced to work for a wild F.B.I. Agent, who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and the Mafia.
Tagline: Everyone Hustles To Survive
Logline: With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Tagline: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of vengence.
Logline: A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
Tagline: On every street in every city in this country, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody."
In other words, loglines are descriptive, while taglines are provocative.
There are many websites with advice on how to write good loglines. Below are 3 of my favorite tips:
1. Make sure your protagonist is pro-active
He or she should drive the story and do so vigorously. Good loglines will show the action of the story, the narrative momentum that carries you through the script. In some cases the protagonist will be reactive, but note, this is not the same as passive.
2. Keep the ending hidden
Do not reveal the script’s supercool twist ending, even if it is the next The Usual Suspects. The story, and thus the logline, should be good enough to hold up by itself; a surprise ending should be a lovely bonus found when reading the script. N.B. This all changes when you get to writing your treatment.
3. Don’t tell the story, sell the story
Create a desire to see the script as well as telling them what’s in it. Loglines are like poetry, every word counts. Tinker, test, and tinker some more.
Sagittly is a film collaboration software. At the moment its features focuses solely on story development. Sagittly understands that collaboration with anther writer can be tricky as writing is such a solo endeavor. However, 2 brains working on a project is always better than one.
Sagittly empowers collaboration by ensuring that team members have a clear vision on the project from the very start by understanding the tone, plot, structure and the characters. It is important that the team is literally on the same page so there are misunderstandings to manage down the line.