Many new writers have the same reaction when asked to provide a logline for their scripts – “What is it? And why do I need it?”
I was the same way. After I finished my first feature script and wanted to enter a screenplay contest to gauge its worth, I realized that writing a good logline was a necessity as a screenwriter. And the better you get at crafting it, the better the chances you’ll sell it or get it made.
What is a logline?
A logline is a concise summary of a screenplay, typically written in just one sentence.
Screenwriters use a logline to describe the essence of their movie or short film in a short summary. Writing an intriguing logline is a way to ‘hook’ potential producers and investors into wanting to know more about your film project!
A logline is different from a script treatment or a synopsis.
A strong logline will make someone want to see the film, even if they don’t know anything else about it. So, it’s worth taking the time to get it right!
Here are some tips on how to write a logline for your movie.
What is a Logline for a Movie or Screenplay?
A logline is a one-sentence summary of an entire script. The perfect logline will not only sell your script but also help you focus on the most essential elements of your story.
To write a great logline, you must distill your entire script to its essence.
What is the one thing that your story is about? Once you have brainstormed your movie ideas and answered that question, you can write a logline that will grab attention and make people want to read your script.
Remember, a film’s logline is like a headline – it should be interesting, provocative, and “hook” the reader into wanting to find out more.
So don’t be afraid to be creative – and above all, ensure that your logline tells us your story.
Why Should You Write a Logline for Your Film or Screenplay?
If you’re writing your script hoping it will be made into a movie one day (and I hope you are!), there are many different ways to get discovered.
You could enter screenwriting contests and try to attract directors or producers by drawing their attention toward a project they might feel passionate about- all of which can lead to landing an agent or manager too!
In addition, you may be looking for private investors or grant agencies to help you get funding to make your movie.
Any screenwriting competition, film industry professional, or grant agency will want to see that you have a well-crafted, powerful logline for your script. A strong logline will help you when you need to “pitch” your script to industry professionals or private investors.
As a screenwriting teacher and story coach for beginner screenwriters and filmmakers, I’ve seen many logline mistakes made at some point or another.
Making these mistakes in your logline will make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t want that!
So, it is worth your time to learn about the elements of a compelling logline and how to create the strongest and most effective industry-standard logline you can!
How to Write a Logline for Your Screenplay: 9 Great Tips
Tip 1: Keep Your Logline for Film Short and Concise!
Typically, a logline consists of only one or two sentences, depending on the length and complexity of your screenplay or film.
Some industry professionals will even suggest that your logline is between 25-50 words (as noted in this article from screencraft.org).
Tip 2: Define the Story Elements of Your Screenplay Before You Write the Logline
So, one of the first things to do is define each for your film or screenplay.
- Protagonist(s) – The main character(s).
- Inciting Incident – The event that sets the protagonist(s) on their journey. This is the first turning point, where the main character’s ordinary world upends.
- Objective – The main goal of the protagonist(s).
- Antagonistic force – The character, force, or obstacle preventing the protagonist(s) from reaching the objective.
Tip 3: Don’t Use the Names of Your Characters in Your Logline
Don’t use the names of the characters in your screenplay.
The only exception to this is if your protagonist is a well-known or historical character, and their identity is central to the theme of your film.
Otherwise, don’t use proper names.
Instead, you will want to describe your character’s profession, personality, characteristics, or situation.
Tip 4: Don’t Give Away Your Entire Movie!
Don’t try to tell your entire movie in your screenplay logline.
Too much information can mark your logline as being written by an amateur.
Remember, a logline should be only one to two sentences. It is meant to be a concise summary of the film, not a complete synopsis (a description of each plot point in the movie).
Tip 5: Avoid Naming Similar Films in the Logline
Don’t describe your logline in terms of similar films (“It’s like Predator meets Christmas Vacation”).
Save that information for your pitch to industry professionals or investors.
Tip 6: Don’t start with “It’s About…”
Don’t start your film logline with “It’s about…”
That’s fine when you’re speaking with someone, but in writing, it makes you look like a rank amateur.
Tip 7: Your Logline is Different from Your Tagline
Don’t include your tagline (“In space, no one can hear you scream” or “This time, it’s personal”).
This belongs on your movie’s poster or advertising, not within the logline.
Tip 8: Don’t Give Away the Ending!
And whatever you do, don’t give away your ending.
If you tell us up front how your screenplay or film ends, why on earth should we bother to read it?
Tip 9: Study Logline Examples for Popular Films
Now, let’s look at some examples of strong, well-written loglines for popular films.
If you haven’t seen these films, to give context, you could watch the trailer for each as you read each logline.
For more logline examples, check out my full post about 15 original loglines for popular movies!
Famous Logline Examples
The Wizard of Oz
Logline: After a twister takes a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.
Logline: Falsely accused of killing his wife, a doctor desperately searches for the real killer, with a relentless federal agent hot on his trail.
Back to the Future
Logline: After a teenager is accidentally transported 30 years into the past, he must find a way to both return to his own time and reunite his parents before he and his future cease to exist.
Logline: With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Logline: When three groomsmen lose their about-to-be-wed buddy following a drunken bachelor party in Vegas, they must retrace their steps in order to find him.
The Silence of the Lambs
Logline: A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Logline: A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit’s only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.
Logline: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
You will notice that in all of these loglines, we have a:
- Clear protagonist(s)
- The protagonist’s goal, and
- The challenge they have to overcome
But what else do these film loglines tell us? If done well, they can also give the reader a sense of the following:
- Genre – is this a fantasy movie? Action? Horror?
- Tone – is the film inspirational? Scary? Funny? Or more of a morality tale?
- The main plot – you can reveal aspects of the film’s main plot, but please don’t reveal it all! Some subtlety here works well.
- Antagonist – the character or force working against the hero in some way.
- Time frame – what time period is the film set in?
- Location – where is the film set?
- Target audience – is the film targeted toward children? Adult males from 18-45? Fans of the horror genre? Moms of young children?
- Budget of the film – is this an indie film? A big-budget blockbuster?
You don’t have to put all these elements in explicitly, but a good logline will imply them nonetheless.
Remember, the logline for a film or screenplay is your chance to hook your readers!
Pro Tip: Go to IMDB and find logline examples for your favorite films. Reading the work of others can help inspire you and get your creative juices flowing!
Powerful Logline Formula [download the free template!]
Each of the above logline examples conforms to the same logline formula. Over the years, I’ve tried many different logline formulas. All have been helpful in some way, but I found this template to be the most effective and versatile.
This is the basic formula to use when you write a logline. You can use this to write your own logline for your story, script, or film.
It has all the critical story elements discussed above and can be tailored to most story ideas.
Scroll to the top of the page to download the free formula!
When INCITING INCIDENT,
a PROTAGONIST must OBJECTIVE
despite an ANTAGONISTIC FORCE.
Frequently Asked Questions About Loglines
What is a logline example?
An example of the logline for the movie “The Fugitive” might be something like “Falsely accused of killing his wife, a doctor desperately searches for the real killer, with a relentless federal agent hot on his trail.”
How do you write a film logline?
To write a film logline, keep it short and exciting. You want to explain the main part of your story in just one or two sentences. Talk about the big problem, what the main character wants, and why it’s important. It should make people want to know more and understand what kind of movie it is.
What are the 4 elements of a logline?
The four elements of a logline are 1) the main character, who the story is about; 2) their goal, what they want to achieve; 3) the problem or conflict they face; and 4) what’s at stake or why it’s important for them to succeed. These parts help explain the story quickly and clearly.
What is a good logline?
A good logline is a short, exciting sentence that tells you what the movie is about. It shows who the main character is, what challenges they’re facing, and why the story is important. The best loglines make you really want to see the movie.
Can I use screenwriting software to help me write a logline for my screenplay?
There are several screenwriting software programs available that can help you write a logline. Some programs will even help you to format your logline correctly. In addition, many screenwriting software programs have a built-in thesaurus, which can help find the right word or phrase. However, remember that screenwriting software is just a tool, and it cannot replace the creative process of writing itself.
Can I use AI to help me write a logline?
Yes! I have tried using Jasper AI to help me write a logline for a movie script. It’s not perfect, but it can help make the process faster and easier, especially if you feel the dreaded writer’s block! AI story writing tools are great for helping you push through that blocked feeling and get your thoughts down. For step-by-step instructions, check out my article on how to use Jasper AI to help you write a logline!
Conclusion: What is a Logline for a Film?
A film logline is a one to two-sentence summary of your screenplay or film’s entire story and is intended to “hook” your reader so that they want to see more.
A strong logline includes information about characters, plot, setting, tone, genre, time frame, and target audience…. but it does not give away the ending of your film!
Remember to download my logline worksheet (along with additional examples of great loglines) in PDF format and experiment using it to create your own loglines!
Interested in learning more about screenwriting? Check out these helpful posts: