I thought I’d write a little bit about something that is so tiny, but can make or break your script pitch. And something that I actually struggle with.
The logline of a film is a really short version of what you’re story is about. It must not be longer than two lines, and it has to sell your film to anyone who might want to read the script or watch the completed film. The thing is there’s kind of an art to loglines. For example this famous joke logline that they tend to offer you in film school:
Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers to do it again.
This is a possible logline for The Wizard of Oz, which I kind of get a kick out of. It’s funny, because it tells you the events and yet it also makes the film seem a lot darker than a musical that’s safe for kids to watch. And that’s the problem with a lot of loglines and why they’re kind of tricky: it’s easy to get them wrong and sell yourself and your script short.
In fact, I try to write loglines as much as possible (you’ll see them at the start of all my reviews), to get some practice in, because it’s not easy to put everything in one sentence, convey the correct mood and intrigue the listener without also being ambiguous. And there’s some important things that I seem to always forget to include.
Here’s a better example of a logline:
MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger, 1969) – Naïve Joe Buck arrives in
New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely
friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.
Why is this better? Because it uses each word more cleverly to impart information, give a sense of time, place, character and genre.
Basically, you want to include
- the main character
- their flaw
- their opponent
- their ally
- their goal
You can and will end up including other things, like the location, if it’s relevant or anything that adds drama and gives that sense of the piece.
BUT you don’t want to phrase it as a question, you don’t want to use the characters names and you don’t want it to be more than two sentences. Actually one is better. It sounds really easy and your logline should read as effortless, but try it, it’s a lot harder than it looks!
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