How to Write a Blockbuster Logline

  • Writing Logline - the most common IMDB keywords of box office hits

    What are blockbuster loglines made of? Here we examine the three different types of loglines and how to write them.

    What is a logline?

    A logline is a one sentence summary of your script. The basic model of a logline introduces the protagonist, their goal and the antagonist – or whatever stands in the way of the goal. However, before squeezing your story into this shape, try to identify what’s unique about your film. Is it the character(s), the world / premise or the plot?

    The purpose of a logline is to convince someone to read your script (or watch your film). Keep in mind that what hooks them in at first is often not the same thing they are excited about AFTER reading it. This is why you – the filmmaker – are probably the person with the least objectivity about the issue. So tell your friends about your film and watch them closely: What is it about it that makes their eyes light up? When they explain your idea to others, which keywords / phrases do they use? These words are your logline keywords. This also gives you an idea of whether the focus is on the character(s), the world or the plot.

    Loglines focused on WORLD

    A commercial space vessel receives a distress call from an unexplored planet. After searching for survivors, the crew heads home only to realize that a deadly bioform has joined them.

    After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact Earth in less than a month, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet.

    During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

    Loglines of films focused on ‘world’ hardly embrace the standard ‘protagonist – goal – antagonist’ model. The focus is on the antagonist, which in many cases is not a person but a natural catastrophe, alien invasion or a herd of dinosaurs. The goal is straight forward – the defeat them. But the protagonist is often left out. Nobody cares about the complexities of a person attacked by dinosaurs or aliens. In theory, they can be complex and fascinating, but it’s not what sells the film.

    Loglines focused on CHARACTER

    A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.

    Goaded by his buddies, a nerdy guy who’s never “done the deed” only finds the pressure mounting when he meets a single mother.

    A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.

    When it comes to character-driven stories, loglines turn into short psychological profiles of intriguing individuals. The goal of the protagonist is usually mentioned – or implied – but it’s not why we’re hooked. Most of us wouldn’t read a script or watch a film to find out whether a sexually frustrated suburban dad scores with a teenager – or to experience the suburbia he lives in. It’s all about the character.

    With the character based films, the basic ‘protagonist – goal – antagonist’ model works quite well. Just make sure your protagonist is interesting. Instead of names, use descriptions such as “A cancer ridden straight-A student” or “An ex gang member turned good Samaritan”.

    Loglines focused on PLOT

    After a car wreck renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

    When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.

    A thief who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO.

    With a plot driven film, the characters are usually mentioned but not described in detail. Instead, the focus is on a complicated task / goal. Rather than explaining all the twists and turns, the logline builds suspense by describing a difficult situation that will somehow be resolved. This implies the plot will be complex and intriguing, without explaining what actually happens.

    If the film is both plot driven and has a complicated premise / world, the task of logline writing can really make you sweat. Consider this:

    In a future where people stop ageing at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy ‘time’ is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a woman that becomes his only leverage against the system.

    Scifi films tend to be combinations of world and plot driven. In the case of ‘In Time’ (above), the reader must understand the premise before they can appreciate the protagonist’s goal. Without the premise, it wouldn’t be a scifi film. Without the murder-hostage part, it wouldn’t sound like an exciting film – just a depressing future scenario where poor people die young and rich live eternally.

    Check out Rocketfilmschool’s vid

    “How to Write a Logline…”

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