Logline Examples and Guides
Unless you're brand new to screenwriting, you already know that writing a logline is hard.
Trying to sum up the juiciest, most dramatic, attention-grabbing elements of a 100-page (or so) script in 25 (or so) words drives most screenwriters up the wall. What's even more aggravating, as the pro screenwriters on the ScriptNotes podcast recently remarked - you don't really need the damn things once you're a paid writer for hire.
But until then, loglines are a necessary evil to attract the attention of the managers and producers who can help screenwriters get to that glorious nirvana known as...
Paid Screenwriting Land!
That's why I've brought together a collection of logline resources I've found useful during my development as a screenwriter. I hope you find them helpful, too.
One logline to rule them all?
There is no one way to write a logline. Your story might suit a typical character-flaw-based logline, or maybe a high-concept logline. The length of the logline varies, too, depending on who is reading it. Figuring out what's best for you at any given time takes research and lots of practice.
However, there are some essential elements needed in all loglines:
- an interesting character
- a compelling goal
- a daunting obstacle/antagonist
Here's an example of a high-concept logline from the people at The Script Lab, using those three elements:
While the video above only highlights three elements, it actually has more embedded within it - but can you spot them?
Here's the same list I gave you before, but with those extras added in:
- an interesting character
- an incident that changes their world
- a compelling goal born out of that incident
- a daunting obstacle/antagonist
- what's at stake if the hero fails
- a sense of urgency (why is it happening now? What is the ticking clock)
Notice how the ARGO logline in that video combines those elements and rearranges them? It's a cracker logline - short, succinct, and compelling - and it's hard to master.
But that's why we're here. :)
In a character-flaw-based logline, the structure is much the same, but the 'interesting character' will have, well, a flaw. It's expressed as an adjective before the common noun you choose as their profession, e.g., cynical clown, faithless nun, heartless soldier, etc.
The logline then focuses a bit more on the hero's inner journey. It does this by suggesting that the action they must take to reach their goal is the thing that will 'cure' their flaw.
A heartless soldier sent to stop the Taliban must rescue a small town of locals caught in the crossfire before his command post is overrun.
It also highlights the irony in the story, which I say more about later.
In today's marketplace, I would recommend writing a high-concept logline (if your story is high-concept). Producers and managers are looking for that 'hook', that cool, unique take on a familiar idea. They are also looking to make it on the cheap, but that's a discussion for another time.
Learn to write a better logline
Now that I've given you a quick glimpse of logline mechanics, it's time to dive into the resources below and learn more by studying the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Masterclass.com - A breakdown of the elements in a great logline
Studiobinder.com - Their formula for a logline puts the inciting incident first.
Scriptmag.com - Knowing how not to write a logline is also a good way to learn.
Once you've used those tips to have a go at your own loglines, check these out...
Screencraft.org - This collection of 101 loglines is... informative. Most of them are pretty weak and cliche. They're someone's interpretation of loglines for famous films. They aren't the 'official' loglines from the filmmakers themselves.
Logline.it - Once you have a logline and want to get feedback on it, post it here. The site also has a logline generator that might help you. Read through the thousands of amateur loglines posted here and read the comments. Give feedback on some yourself. It's a great way to learn.
Stager32.com - At this platform, you can get feedback on your loglines via the community forums or their paid services.
Roadmap Writers - This platform is one of the most highly-regarded in the screenwriting world. It will help make all your shiz better and, when you're ready, it can help you meet the right kind of people for your screenwriting career.
Don't forget the irony in your logline!
The most effective logline, i.e., the kind that clearly and precisely lays out the hero's dilemma, is the kind that highlights the irony in your script.
You do have irony in your script, right?
I wrote an article about it for ScriptMag.com that includes some examples you may want to check out BEFORE you start writing you screenplay:
And to show you that I practice what I preach, here are some loglines, sprinkled with irony, that I've used for my projects:
CATSAWAY (animated feature)**
Logline: When a city declares stray animals illegal, a newly-homeless house cat must help a motley crew of street cats outsmart the feline mafioso who stands between them and the safety of a purr-fect new home.
**This paid writing assignment was sold to an animation production company. The voice casting is underway. Film release due in 2022.
KINDRED (live-action feature)**
Logline: A man who refuses to face his past is visited by his time-traveling daughter from the future who warns he must confront his childhood tormentors before they kill him and enslave the world.
**This paid writing assignment won a competition, achieved multiple contest placements, and was signed to shopping agreements by two different production companies.
THE THIRD BOMB (live-action feature)**
Logline: In the final days of WWII, when a top US pilot crash-lands on a Japanese-occupied island, he must stop a disgraced enemy commander from capturing his secret cargo – the third atomic bomb.
**This spec script won nine awards, a dozen finalist placements, and was optioned twice by a BAFTA-winning producer.
About the author
Screenwriter Phil Parker writes feature-length scripts filled with diverse characters for producers and directors around the world. His screenwriting has helped his clients sell projects, raise six-figure sums, attract a BAFTA-winning producer, sign multiple shopping agreements, and win screenwriting contests. Phil earned his M.A from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is a former BBC Creative Producer. He lives in Sydney, Australia.