Are Loglines Worth Your Time?

Typewriter
Loglines are tools you use to get people excited, but should you stress over them? 

I just want my scripts to be read. Like any writer, I feel sad for the PDFs that just sit on my laptop. Right now, like... as I am writing this article, I am working on a logline for my manager to send out in the world. 

I stress about loglines because I want execs to be so excited to read my script, but in truth, it's my manager's job to make them excited. And if they crack the first page, there should be an opening scene that hooks them and carries them the rest of the way. 

The logline is there to give them the gist before they dive in. 

And since we know it's more likely that it's their assistant doing that legwork first, it's really there to let them know what it's about. 

So what is a logline? A logline is a one-sentence (or two-sentence) summary of the story put forward in your movie screenplay or television pilot.

Yup. That's it. 

As John August puts it, "These feel like the summaries you’d see in TV Guide or on Netflix. They’re short, just enough to give a sense of the project." He goes on to say, "Once I stopped working as a reader, I never wrote another logline. It’s just not a thing I’ve ever needed to do as a professional screenwriter."

While I have not achieved the level of not writing them yet, I do think that most people use them to get reps, get their reps excited, and for contests. 

John August recently got this email and wrote an entire blog post on why we really should not stress about loglines. Here's the email and the discussion that followed. 

Credit: John August
Credit: John August

First, let's link to the 101 Best Movie Loglines Screenwriters Can Learn From by Ken Miyamoto of Screencraft. I think this is an awesome article that really dictates how Hollywood write loglines. Given all this information, August used this graph to sum it up how many elements appeared in those 101 loglines: 

Credit: John August

I don't want to ape all of August's blog, though it's tempting because he's such a fantastic writer, but suffice it to say that the most successful loglines of all time frequently do not have all the elements within them. Most of the time they just work to summarize what the audience can expect from the story and what the writer sets up in the first act. 

So let's get back to what you want to know...

Do loglines matter? 

The answer is "not really." 

I can tell you that from my years as a Story Editor and as an Assistant, I wrote my own loglines on the sheets of coverage. When Shovel Buddies was made, the marketing department wrote the logline that appears on IMDb. And with all my other writing ventures, the loglines I write are just for my execs to put in the body of the email as we submit scripts. 

When I was breaking in, I have no idea if anyone wrote the logline for Shovel Buddies, but I knew they wanted to rep me because of the script. 

At the end of the day, we can stress about the little things, but what matters most is what you put on the page.

People won't rep you because you can write two sentences. They'll rep you because you can tell a story. 

So much of what we're talking about on No Film School when it comes to screenwriting is summarized in our new eBook. It also helps guide you through a 10-week writing plan that will get your script actually finished.     

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3 Comments

i love Loglines, always using it in my work. thnx

September 28, 2020 at 8:36AM

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KateBright
developer
67

I would heartily agree that the ability to write a logline is not a reflection of your capabilities as a writer nor does a good logline reflect whether the story is any good. I've seen many loglines that dumb down films so much so that the heart of the story is lost. I will say, however, that I've had to write them for pitch documents and show bibles (typically at the request of the producer). They're useful from a marketing standpoint but not much else.

September 28, 2020 at 10:34AM

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Dale Raphael Goldberg
Writer / Director
362

Interesting article and comments .... loglines don't really matter ... only used for marketing .... doesn't mean you can or can't write a story ..... listen, depending on your situation, a good logline can be the difference in success and failure ... think if it as an elevator pitch ...you have 30 seconds to pitch yourself, your idea, product, process..your script! ... might make the difference in getting ... a second look, a deal, a movie, financing, etc...

September 29, 2020 at 6:19AM

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