A logline is a one or two sentence that summarizes the story. You need a logline to create a compelling story, so take a look at some loglines of the latest movies.
Before anyone will even consider your screenplay, they’ll want to know a brief summary of what it’s about. This brief summary is called a logline. By reading a logline, someone can determine if your story is even appropriate for a particular agent or production company.
For example, a studio looking to produce a horror film won’t accept a romantic comedy story no matter how funny it may be. A logline simply acts like a shortcut to tell your story without forcing anyone to read the entire screenplay.
Ideally, a logline should define the hero, the hero’s problems, and the hero’s goal. Once you know this, you can better decide if the story is worth studying some more.
Here’s a logline from “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”:
“When a house painter inadvertently receives some penguins from a friend in Antarctica, he decides to train them as a circus act.”
This logline is kind of dull since it doesn’t define the hero’s flaw or main characteristic and doesn’t imply any kind of conflict. Since “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is based on a children’s story, its logline doesn’t need to be detailed.
Here’s another logline from “Bad Teacher”:
“After being dumped by her current boyfriend, a foul-mouthed, gold-digging seventh-grade teacher sets her sights on a colleague who is dating the school’s model teacher.”
This logline is better since it describes the hero’s flaws (foul-mouthed, gold-digging), the hero’s goal, and implies conflict. Now we want to see how this story could turn out. In comparison, a painter getting a penguin and turning them into a circus act doesn’t imply much conflict although there must be some conflict.
Here’s a logline for “Ironclad”:
“In 13th Century England, a Templar Knight defends Rochester Castle against the tyrant King John and his army.”
Once again we learn about the hero, but we’re missing any identifying flaw or characteristic of that hero. However, we do learn of a conflict, so we have a rough idea what this story is about.
Just be examining these three loglines, you can better see what makes a good logline. A logline must pique our interest and make us want to know how it all turns out. A movie like “Ironclad” promises lots of sword battles and armies storming a castle while a movie like “Bad Teacher” promises scheming and lying as characters jockey for what they want.
Will these movies be any good? Maybe, but the logline simply tells you what the story is, not how it’s told. All three movies could turn out to be classics, but more likely most, if not all, of them will turn into okay movies without being anything special. The fault doesn’t lie with the logline but with the execution of the story. The logline at least helps summarize these stories so everyone has a rough idea what they’re about.
In your own screenplay, make your logline enticing and revealing with the conflict implied or clearly defined. We want to know what the main problem will be. Create an interesting logline and you can at least get your screenplay into the door. After that, the screenplay has to sell itself on its own merits.