A Logline is the shop window of a screenplay.

November 8th, 2010 by Ron

The Script Blogger

Creating a great screenplay is possibly the ‘Holy Grail’ for the majority of writers, but no matter how good the concept and delivery is without the right person reading the screenplay, the only person who will even know about it is the writer.

To create interest a screenplay needs a Logline, an enticing statement that sums up the premise in a few well-chosen words and in doing so informs the reader who the story is about, what their goal is and what or who could prevent their success.

For many writers the problem is how to compress a document with 15 to 20,000 words, spread over ninety plus pages into a short statement of less than 60 words, twenty-five if possible, summarizing the premise of the story as a captivating, evocative promotional proclamation?

Personally, I think the biggest mistake is trying to write the logline after writing the screenplay.

If a writer follows the creative path from their initial idea to writing the outline of the script, in their mind they already have the logline.

They will have the brief concept, with a hint of a premise that may contain a theme and whom their story is about, what problems they will create for the main character or characters to face and how their character or characters will resolve the issues.

The skeleton of an idea with no flesh on its bones is when the writer has the start of a logline, in their head. When they first think of the idea. When they first sell the idea of an idea to themselves.

In retrospect it is probably the most important element of the whole exercise when writing a screenplay.

The more positive the writer is regarding the initial concept the more likely that the writer already knows the logline. Sure, they may not have written it out as a logline or even considered what the logline is but if someone asks the writer what is their new work about almost certainly the writer will answer with a logline.

It’s about, “A man in trouble because of this or that, and has to face a major problem to find a resolution while others plan to prevent his success.”

A succinct logline is what helps get a script noticed and read that will hopefully lead to a producer who will use a logline to help get the script financed.

But it also was the starting place for the writer when first starting work on a screenplay.

So what is a logline?

It is a shop window display of merchandise the writer has ready to sell, but it can also be a reminder to a writer of what the story is about and can help to keep the writer on track.

In a great logline, it should state who the protagonist is, what his predicament is and, most importantly, what his target is.

Basically it is a one or two sentence statement, almost a summary, which can help create interest in a screenplay.

It is not a carrot to tangle in front of a donkey, it is an indication to a stranger that the writer has something that may be interesting to read and the writing skills to make it interesting.

A poor logline indicates that the writer doesn’t know enough about their premise, which in turn points to a poorly structured script with under developed characters and a certain insecurity of the writer.

A great logline can get a poor script read, a poor logline will ensure even great scripts go unread.

So why leave one of the most important elements of marketing a screenplay to a last minute decision?

Most writers have to get their work in front of someone of influence before it stands a chance of being made into a movie. People of influence are busy and have a stack of things already on their mind.

Imagine bumping into Spielberg in an elevator and he asks me, “What’s that you in your hands”?

“A script I am working on, Steven”, I reply. The elevator stops, he hovers and asks, “What’s it about?”, as he holds the door for a moment.

“A somebody who becomes a nobody, then kills a King, seduces a Queen, and rules an Empire, but nobody remembers his name”, I reply.

That’s twenty-two words and I’ve worked on it for ages. Two years of research, hard work and long nights depend on those twenty-two words.

Hopefully Steven’s eyebrows have raised a little and he asks, “What’s it called?”.

“The Forgotten King”, I nervously respond.

Now those of you who are paying attention may have noticed I said, “It was a script I am working on”.

But I already have the logline.

That is because I think of the logline before I write to script, then as the script takes shape I constantly return to the logline and hopefully improve it, reshape it and use it to keep me on track, as I write the screenplay.

What have I achieved with this logline.

The first thing is I’ve painted a picture of the protagonist. We know that the character starts as somebody important and in the process of his actions he falls from grace.

It sounds as if it is a historical drama and possible a true story but hopefully it raises an interest in wanting to know more, who is this person who could have such power and end up being ignored and forgotten.

The logline is so important that it should be part of a writer’s initial thought processes.

Which it was when the writer first had the idea, but had forgotten that in their rush to write the screenplay.

Loglines are what will get a screenplay noticed.

Don’t let them be a stumbling block to success.

Give Loglines the attention they deserve and they will bring attention to your material.

3 responses to “A Logline is the shop window of a screenplay.”

  1. Bruce McLaren says:

    Hi Ron, how about the philosophy student who finds a treasure map that leads to the loch ness monster, stone henge and solomons temple. Do you know of anyone who would be interested ?

    What is there to be interested in? Most people know where Stonehenge is, where Nessy is supposed to live and any tourist’s map of Jerusalem will show you the location of what was once Solomon’s Temple. It suggests the student needs to study something other than philosophy.
    Ron

  2. Nerissa Bee says:

    Giving a blog talk to beginner bloggers in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be pointing people in the direction of your efforts. Nicely put together dude.

  3. Stephanie Jones says:

    Hey Ron,
    Very good stuff here. With my first SP if I had taken the time to nail my logline before I started it probably would have saved me all the current rewrites.
    My new SP is in it’s infancy but you can bet I’ll have a logline before I get much further.
    Thanks again for the link to French Inheritance laws. Think I was trying too hard there.
    all the best,
    Steph.

    Thanks Stephanie, glad to be of help.