Loglines are born simply from the necessity to be economic. They are how you sell your film, to friends, viewers and producers – think of it as an elevator pitch, but you’re only going up one floor!
We normally think of just movie loglines when discussing the subject, however loglines for short films and documentaries play just as vital a role!
It should essentially be a one-to-two sentence summary of the plot of your film first, and if possible, the main characters and themes second.
Let’s take a look at some great examples from famous films and TV shows:
Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros, while a forgotten race returns after being dormant for thousands of years.
Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown.
These are two fantastic examples in two very different styles, showing the variety with which you can write a logline, the former being plot focussed, and the latter being character focussed.
We’ll share one more example which we find particularly potent and interesting, from the film In the Mood for Love;
Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.
This is dramatically different from the other two in that, whilst it essentially explains the plot, it is theme-focussed.
Also check out Five Modern Filmmaking Techniques To Use With Your Students?
Making just any logline is easy; however making a great logline is very hard. So let us dissect how to best approach it in these 10 easy tips for writing loglines:
- The protagonist, their goal, and the antagonist.
A logline doesn’t need have these things; however starting with them can make it easier for you to progress with writing,
- Consider carefully if you want to use a character’s name!
Few films can really pull off this: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Back to the Future (as mentioned earlier), Die Hard.
However if your film really just follows one character’s journey, and you believe their name helps cement the tone of your film with the reader, then why not try?
- Descriptors that add to the story!
Using a strong, specific adjective to describe the main character can help show their wants and desires, and how it fits in the plot.
- Make sure you show your character’s goals early on.
This drives your story and it will drive your logline too.
- Describe the Antagonist
Using the antagonist and (more importantly) their place in stopping the main character’s journey to their goal adds substance to your logline and script, making readers want to find out how it ends!
- Active protagonists
As the centre of your plot, a protagonist should be pro-active, as their actions are ultimately what drives the films.
Some films interestingly make the protagonist reactive, in order to explore a particular problem, place or theme (however this is really just a different means of being active).
- Include the stakes at hand and/or the “ticking time-bomb” restraints on the story.
This is a very useful narrative device that adds urgency and drive to your film, without which, why does this story exist and how is it worth telling?
Depending on your script, you may need a brief setup in order to explain how the world operates and whether it has different rules to our own, for example, in most science-fiction stories.
This can be physical laws of the world or a personal or psychological history of the driving character, depending on whether it is crucial to the story.
- The End
Obviously don’t include the ending or any surprise twists. Any surprise should be a lovely bonus to the reader.
Note: Plot twists should be explained in the treatment.
- Don’t tell. Sell.
All selling is about creating a desire. In this case it is to see the script or watch the film. Loglines are like poetry in that every word counts and that there aren’t any rules. There are many ways to do it, it’s just about taking your time and trying lots of different things until you find what works best for you and your film.