|"Short and concise please. I haven't got much time."|
Writing the perfect logline is not easy. The hardest thing for a writer to do is express his/her 90 to 125 page film script into 1 sentence. ONE SENTENCE. This is the new standard for loglines. Following is what I think is the best definition of a logline.
By Christopher Lockhart ---
"A logline conveys the dramatic story of a screenplay in the most abbreviated manner possible. It presents the major throughline of the dramatic narrative without character intricacies and sub-plots. It is the story boiled down to its base. It’s a window into the story. A good logline is one sentence. More complicated screenplays may need a two sentence logline. There are available templates to assist writers, but theses aids often leave the logline sounding pedagogical rather than dramatic and slick. A writer must learn the elements of how to construct a logline.
As simple as this seems, it can be difficult for a writer to extract the center of his story to create a logline. A writer bonds to all aspects of her narrative, and bias can prevent the scribe from isolating which story elements are crucial for logline presentation and which elements can be temporarily brushed aside. Crafting a logline takes a great deal of practice and an understanding of basic dramatic structure. Often, the writer must exhaust all possibilities in order to devise the perfect logline.
A logline must present:
who the story is about (protagonist)
what he strives for (goal)
what stands in his way (antagonistic force).
Sometimes a logline must include a brief set-up. A logline does not tell the entire story. It merely uses these three (sometimes four) major story elements to depict the dramatic narrative in an orderly and lucid manner. For instance, a logline for THE WIZARD OF OZ may read:
After a twister transports 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.
When referring to the protagonist in a logline, do not use a character name. Character names are meaningless to the reader and can crowd and confuse the logline.
The character‟s major goal is the engine of a screenplay, and it must be present in the logline. In THE WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy has many goals. She must protect the ruby slippers; she must meet the wizard; she must retrieve the broomstick of the wicked witch. But her major goal is to return to Kansas. It is this goal that the entire dramatic story hinges upon. This is the heart of the dramatic narrative.
The logline must present the antagonistic force – the story element that prevents the protagonist from reaching his goal. The writer needs to be careful here and not weigh down the logline with too many details. In the logline example for THE WIZARD OF OZ, the phrase “dangerous journey” intimates the antagonism. Some purists may take offense in omitting the wicked witch.
However, mentioning another character in the logline can crowd it. The trick is to create a logline that is succinct but not sparse. It must be clear that the antagonistic force is an obstacle to the major goal. It must imply that something is at stake; it must suggest that something can be lost.
A logline is not a screenplay. It is merely a representation of the screenplay‟s dramatic story. The information needed to understand the screenplay - as a whole - is not necessary to understand the logline. A logline does not require the same information and details in order for it to be cogent. A logline is its own little story, and it only needs certain information in order for it to make sense.
Below is an assortment of actual loglines for film scripts produced in the last ten years.
Use these loglines as templates for one you’re writing.
ANTWONE FISHER STORY
A violent sailor struggles to make amends with his past.
A successful businessman tries to shepherd a merge of his company while simultaneously concealing fraud and a homicide.
A security guard locks himself in an armored car, warding off a band of desperate men who want to get at the five million dollars he protects.
A British widow struggles to make a new life for herself on an Australian cattle station.
AUTUMN IN NEW YORK
A womanizing restaurateur finally finds love in a young woman, only to discover she is terminally ill.
A single businesswoman uses a surrogate to have a baby, but her plans go awry when the mother tries to con her.
A burglar and his midget sidekick pose as a shopping mall Santa and helper, with the plan to rob the complex after hours on Christmas Eve.
THE BANGER SISTERS
Two best friends reunite after many years to learn their lives have taken very different paths.
BASIC INSTINCT II
A psychiatrist finds himself dangerously manipulated by a sex-starved, sociopathic patient.
Struggling to win back the city streets from criminals, a millionaire becomes a vigilante fighting crime in the guise of a bat man.
After discovering the magical power of the bedtime tales that he spins for his nieces and nephew, a self-absorbed architect tries to manipulate this enchanted energy to his own advantage.
A son who has come to resent his father’s tall tales journeys to discern the truth in them as the old man lies dying.
THE BIG YEAR
Three men struggle to count the most species of birds during a year-long contest
THE BLACK DAHLIA
A pair of detectives struggles to solve a brutal murder – the Black Dahlia case.
BLACK HAWK DOWN
The U.S. Military attempts a vicious strike against a Somali warlord with disastrous results.
BLESS THE CHILD
A woman fights the powers of evil to protect her autistic niece from a cult of devil worshippers who believe the girl is the “Child of God”.
When sudden blindness overwhelms the population, the afflicted are sent away to concentration camps where a blind eye doctor and his wife struggle to stay alive.
In the midst of civil war and a dangerous diamond cartel, a diamond smuggler sets out with an African native to find a precious gem buried in the jungle.
THE BOOK OF ELI
In a post apocalyptic USA, a lone warrior – on a mission from God – struggles to deliver a book to San Francisco – a book that a despot will stop at nothing to take from him.
THE BOURNE IDENTITY
A man with amnesia discovers he is a governmental assassin who has been targeted for death by the organization that employs him.
Two young cowboys must deny their homosexual love in the rural west.
THE BROTHERS GRIMM
A pair of storytelling brothers investigates a series of kidnappings that leads to a fearsome
Three New York City police officers struggle with the rigors of their duties in one of the most dangerous precincts in the country.
CAPTAIN CORELLI‟S MANDOLIN
A young Greek woman finds forbidden love with an Italian soldier during World War II.
A general is incarcerated in a military prison and leads a revolt to win his freedom and rid the penitentiary of its cruel warden.
A college student struggles to save the life of a kidnapped stranger after she inadvertently calls him on his cellular phone.
When a cut-throat lawyer and a sober father have a car accident, a simple request of insurance information escalates into a full-scale revenge-fest.
CHARLIE WILSON‟S WAR
A Congressman struggles to fund the Afghanis in their war against Communist Russia.
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
A married couple struggles to balance a relationship, a new home, careers, and twelve children.
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2
As the kids grow, Tom Baker plans one last vacation at the lake, where he squares off with his old rival – putting his family in the middle of the feud.
After a six-year relationship with an older woman, a young man struggles to adapt to married life and his younger wife.
The story of Depression era boxer Jim Braddock - who resurrects his career through a series of miraculous fights.
Four lifelong friends use their psychic talents to destroy an alien race determined to infect the human population.
A trio of female singers suffers the trials and tribulations of the music industry, as they rise to the top of the charts.
Two corporate spies-turned-lovers execute a plot to steal a top secret formula from their employers.
EDGE OF DARKNESS
After the murder of his daughter, a Boston cop struggles to find the culprit but uncovers secrets about the girl and a governmental conspiracy.
When a thirty-year-old elf learns he is human, he leaves the North Pole to live with his birth father.
Working at a law firm, a single mom (from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks) stumbles upon an environmental cover-up by a public utility and sets out to hold them accountable.
On her deathbed, an older woman reflects on a weekend in 1953 where she had a brief fling with the love of her life.
THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE
A lawyer struggles to win an acquittal for a priest who is accused of negligent homicide after a girl dies during an exorcism ritual.
MR. POPPER‟S PENGUIN
A successful NYC realtor inherits a penguin, turning his life upside down.
MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND
A man struggles to escape the wrath of his vengeful ex girlfriend – who happens to be a superhero with extraordinary powers.
A magical nanny struggles to keep a widower and his nine children happy.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM II
Larry, a former night watchman, struggles to save his friends (museum exhibits come–to-life) when an evil pharaoh threatens to destroy them all and take over the universe.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT
A sheriff and his deputy-wife struggle against a band of marauding vampires that have converged on their isolated Alaskan town – where the winter season has brought thirty days of darkness.
In a future where vampires are imprisoned to keep the world safe, a warrior priest sets out to find his niece after the undead escape captivity and kidnap her.
Survivors of a science-experiment-gone-bad find themselves trapped in a subterranean laboratory fighting off the living dead.
The famous detective struggles to stop an occultist from killing the Queen and destroying London.
A vengeful barber murders unsuspecting men when they come in for a shave, using their ground-up bodies as the prime ingredient in popular meat pies.
THE YOUNG VICTORIA
A young and willful Queen Victoria constantly struggles to stave off her controlling relatives while battling for the allegiance of her people and the love of her German cousin.
Two bickering brothers play a board game that sends the on a death-defying mission through outer space and in the process, they learn the importance of being friends."
---From : I WROTE A 120 PAGE SCRIPT BUT CAN‟T WRITE A LOGLINE: THE CONSTRUCTION OF A LOGLINE by Christopher Lockhart. Thank you for your contribution!
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