InkTIPS: How to Write the Perfect Logline to Sell Your Script
At InkTip, we understand the importance of a good logline. Loglines are a producer’s first impression of your screenplay and the first step in how to sell a script. Think of your logline as a dating profile. You want to make people swipe right, so you create a brief introduction of yourself in hopes of attracting someone. Your logline should also be a very brief, yet enticing, introduction to your script to make people want to read it.
Trying to encapsulate your whole script in 1-2 sentences may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Below we’ve provided some tips to take into account when constructing the best logline for your script.
Your logline should include:
- Protagonist: Be clear about who your protagonist is. It’s important for the reader to understand whose story they will be following.
- Want: What is the protagonist’s goal? What is it they are trying to accomplish? Including the “want” provides the necessary motivation behind your protagonist and leads you to…
- Conflict: Always include the antagonist of your script. The force that stands in opposition to your protagonist ultimately achieving their goal. Don’t just say they “struggle” to achieve their goal. WHY do they struggle? Do they have to overcome a ghost? An earthquake? A jealous ex? Every logline needs conflict.
- Stakes: This is the answer to the question “What happens if the protagonist doesn’t get their want?” It’s important to tell the reader why we should be rooting for (or against) the protagonist. Is their job on the line? Their life? Their reputation?
- Keep it short: Loglines should be between 1-2 sentences. You should strive to make it as succinct as possible. Producers browse hundreds of loglines a day. If they come across a logline between 3-5 sentences, there’s a very good chance they'll just move on to the next one.
- Be specific: It’s important to avoid being vague when writing your logline. Don’t use statements like “and hilarity ensues” or “she must come of age.” Those don’t give a reader anything to latch on to. Instead, say “the battle for class president goes awry” or “she's forced to grow up fast when she's put in charge of operating her family's farm.” You didn’t add any extra sentence but were able to depict a more specific picture of the story the reader can expect. Specific details will help your logline stand out from others of the same subject.
- Avoid using proper nouns: Unless the script is based on a well-known public figure, you should avoid using names of people or places in your logline. Revealing your protagonist is named Danielle Preston from Creek Falls gives the reader no pertinent information. It just takes up valuable real estate in the logline. Instead, use descriptive, specific adjectives to characterize your story like “A renowned concert pianist living in a suburban town” to describe the protagonist and location.
- Don’t use taglines: Taglines are a marketing tool used on movie posters, not in loglines. They don’t provide any clear protagonist, want, conflict, or stakes. “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” That tagline provides no context for what a reader is to expect in the script. It’s wasted space.
- A premise is not a logline: The logline should encompass the main plot of your script. It shouldn’t be the set-up. “An elf from the North Pole spends the holidays in a family’s chimney.” That is a premise, but it doesn’t dive into what the script is truly about – what happens because he’s in the chimney.
- Never include questions: “Would you help a bloody stranger at your doorstep?” While that is an interesting question to pose, it focuses the attention on the reader instead of your story itself. It immediately takes the reader out of it, and they have to reset themselves when they read the rest of the logline. Instead, phrase it as “When a bloody stranger arrives at her doorstep, a single mother lets them in, unaware of the violent cult on their way to retrieve their runaway sacrifice.”
- Let the logline speak for itself: You might be tempted to mention the genre of the script at the beginning of the logline, or include a film comp to describe the tone. However, these are never supposed to be mentioned in the logline. Don’t feel the need to say “A thought-provoking sci-fi story about an AI robot…” The mention of an AI robot will automatically read that the story is sci-fi. Don’t include “It’s The Terminator meets Goodfellas.” You run the risk of the reader not liking any of your comps and rejecting something they might’ve been interested in otherwise.
Bad: A young woman must overcome her fears and find the true meaning of love. This logline is way too vague and fails to provide a clear, unique story.
Good: A widowed nurse struggles to overcome her grief as she finds herself falling for a handsome patient. The protagonist is a widowed nurse who wants to pursue a handsome patient but the internal conflict of grief prevents her from allowing herself to love again.
Bad: A retired ex-Navy SEAL finds a mysterious package on his porch with a ticking inside. While this is an interesting setup, that’s all it is. We don’t know what the conflict is, the stakes, or the ex-Navy SEAL’s motivation.
Good: A retired ex-Navy SEAL fears a mysterious package on his doorstep might be dangerous. However, when his in-laws arrive, and the package gets mixed in with the rest of the Christmas gifts under the tree, he hurries to try and find the package without ruining Christmas for his family. Just two sentences, but is able to convey all the necessary information that the reader can expect in the script.
Bad: What is the cost of love? For Bobby, it’s $60 in Las Vegas. His fiancé isn’t too happy when he comes home already married. Questions and character names should be avoided, and there isn’t context about what happens in the script.
Good: An engaged gay man celebrating his bachelor party in Vegas wakes up the next morning to discover he’s married to an unknown guy he met the night before. Now he must scour Vegas with just a picture to find and divorce his new “husband” before his actual wedding. No use of questions or character names and the reader has a clear understanding of the location, stakes, and plot.
We hope these InkTIPS help you write strong loglines for your scripts.
Hailing from Cleveland, Torey Sinclair spent 6 years studying film and screenwriting at Ohio University and Chapman University, earning his BA and MFA respectively. After spending time in the IP Department and as Social Media Coordinator, Torey currently works as InkTip’s Marketing Manager. His free time is usually spent either writing, watching indie films, or hoping for a Cleveland Guardians World Series.