|Long wanting to be in “the business,” Don Bledsoe started young, producing a short film for NBC while still in high school, worked in the Story Department at Paramount Studios at age 19, and later as an actor and makeup artist. A self-confessed computer geek, he took up screenwriting in the early 90′s and founded Script Nurse in 1999.
Today, he is a principal in Go With The Flo Productions with his writing partner, Sëan Moran. Together, they have written six screenplays, published two plays and are currently developing two web series.
A logline is a basic summary of what a script is about. They’re used all day long by agents, producers and development executives to quickly describe what they’ve got or what they want.
Just as a trailer sells you on going the see the movie it promotes, your logline is your trailer for a your script.
You must write your logline to make it attractive to a producer. This results in requests to read your script. Think of it as going fishing for a producer using your logline as bait. When you get a nibble, you send out your script. When he bites and you set the hook and reel him in, that’s when you get a deal, your name appears in The Hollywood Reporter and a check arrives with your name on it. It’s all about the quality of the bait you use.
It’s helpful to see loglines as a producer or development executive does. Anyone and everyone in a production company ever has enough time to do anything, so they’re all very picky about that precious time is used. It’s also true that a zillion scripts are written every year. Obviously, they can’t read all of them to find the best scripts, so they need to use some method of filtering out the stories they don’t want. Loglines not only save time, but provide an easy filtering mechanism to sift out 90%+ of the stories that are not what they want. These loglines might be poorly written, boring, lackluster, unclear, trite or perhaps the story simply stinks, it wrapped last week or isn’t a subject they care about.
Here’s how a producer sees a logline: LOGLINE = $$$
If it’s not good enough to raise millions, get stars attached, get a distribution deal, spend millions during an 18-hour, 6-day shooting schedule for 3 months, committing two years of preproduction/postproduction work and then hoping you have enough left to eat on — then they’re not interested. Never forget this.
You want a producer to see box office success and $$$ flowing to him.
In production companies, EVERYONE pitches. From the receptionist to the janitor, they all pitch, especially if they don’t know anything about screenwriting. Why? It’s an easy and fast way to communicate about stories. If you’re an intern or reader, one of two things can happen:
You pitch a great story = REWARDED
You pitch a bad story = CREDIBILITY AT STAKE
Get some rewards and you’ll likely find yourself moving up the ladder. Pitch too many bad stories and you’ll be looking for another job.
The intern that is assigned to screen queries reads your logline. If you’ve done it right, the intern sees a great pitch all in one sentence. All he has to do is walk in to the producer’s office and pitch it. Such loglines get lots of requests to read the script.
Rule #1: Write your logline to be pitched.
The logline you write that explains what your story is about and the one used to market the story are different. The first one is about the story and the second one SELLS the story. Here’s an example for GLADIATOR:
TV GUIDE: “Crowe stars as the second-century Roman general Maximus, who is sold into slavery and winds up slicing and dicing the competition in the gladiatorial arena.”
LOGLINE: “When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.”
Very often, wonderfully written loglines look great on paper but are hard to say (i.e. hard to pitch). If you have to breathe in the middle of your logline, it’s probably too long. Try this:
- Call up a friend.
- Say: “Let me tell you about a movie.”
- Pitch your logline.
- Say: “What do you think?”
- Then say: “Repeat back to me what the movie is about.”
- See if there’s any resemblance to what you pitched.
- Revise the logline.
- Repeat until what you get back sounds like what you pitched.
Rule #2: Don’t save the best part for the script. NUKE ‘EM NOW!
Out of hundreds of loglines, how are you going to stand out? Don’t hint at what lies in store when you read the script because they’ll never read it. They are looking for ANY excuse to say “no” to your logline. It’s just one less to have to deal with. Go for the throat — nuke ‘em now with your logline. Don’t allude to the treasure that awaits the lucky reader of your script — there won’t be any with a weak logline.
Rule #3: Three C’s — Clear, Concise & Conflict
Write your logline so a 13 year old teenager can easily understand what the movie is about.
Use elements that are unique to your story. Don’t use clichés: mayhem ensues, adventure ensues, sparks fly, etc.
A logline indicates:
- What the protagonist must do. (What happened to cause the protagonist to begin his quest/journey.)
- How the protagonist goes about it. (What is the protagonist actively doing?)
- What terrible thing will happen if the protagonist fails. (What does the antagonist want?)
As a starting point, try this:
(title) is a (genre) about (protagonist — one guy, no proper names) who must (goal) or else (disaster that will happen if he doesn’t succeed).
Refine it down to one sentence of around 25 words you can say in one breath. Remember, this is your trailer (ad) that SELLS the story. Here are some sample loglines, some great and some not so great:
“An archeologist must find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis get their hands on it and use it to rule the world.”
“A thirteen year old girl must learn to catch ghosts to save her family from an ancient curse.”
“Touched by magic a father chases his dream.”
“An outcast girl protects a baby dragon and saves her village.”
“Five graduate students experiment with past-life regression, but soon realize that their present lives are slowly and secretly being taken over by their past characters, including one who’s a murderer.”
More Information and Sample Loglines: