Guides

How to write a logline

The Boords Team
The Boords Team
|
9 min read
9 min read

Before you start work on your Hollywood-busting screenplay, you'll need a logline. It's a one-sentence summary of your movie that entices someone to read the entire script.

A good logline is short, sharp, and sells your story. Loglines explain the key parts of your screenplay—like the main character, inciting incident, central conflict, and antagonist—in a tight, hooky sentence.

Because loglines are short, it's easy to crank lots of them out in a short space of time. But writing the perfect logline can be a painstaking process that brings you to tears.

Don't worry—we're here to help. And we've got some famous logline examples from screenwriting pros to inspire you to greatness. Onwards!


Why write a logline?

Screenwriters don't include loglines in the writing process for fun—they serve an important purpose. When done right, a great logline can set you up for filmmaking success.

Get noticed

You often need a logline to get into screenplay competitions or film festivals. Both can be perfect places to show off your work to a roomful of Hollywood buffs. And, if your logline's on point, it'll help you stand out from the crowd.

Perfect your pitch

Writing a simple logline forces you to work out exactly what your story is about. Being able to sum up your story in a clear, concise way is super useful for when you start taking meetings about your screenplay.

Sell your script

When you begin the process of getting producers, agents, and managers in Los Angeles and New York interested, your logline will be one of the most important things to include in your query letter. Producers often use a logline to court studios, financiers, and other people who might take a shine to your script.


A simple logline formula

Much like a good pasta sauce, you only new a few ingredients for a tasty logline. Four, to be precise:

  • Inciting incident
  • Main character
  • Central conflict
  • Antagonist

Once you've got those four ingredients, you can put them together in different ways. Like this, for example:

When inciting incident happens, the main character decides to do central conflict against antagonist.

Most screenwriters advise writing loglines that are only one sentence long. Some people say no longer than 30 words. But if your movie is on the complicated side, you might need to stretch your logline to a couple of sentences.

Eight tips for writing a great logline

1. Write a logline, not a synopsis

A logline is a snappy summary of your film. A synopsis, however, is a blow-by-blow explanation of the plot. Make sure you follow the logline formula and you'll be a-okay.

2. Don't write a tagline either

A tagline is a pithy line that gets people excited about your film. It's similar to a logline, but not the same. We'll use our favourite film, Rocky, to explain:

A small-time boxer gets a one-time chance to fight the world champion, attempting to go the distance and restore his self-respect.

Tagline: His whole life was a million-to-one shot.

3. Sell the main character

Your logline is the perfect time to sell your main character, and be super clear about who they are. A despotic ruler. A virtuosic pianist. A gifted wizard. When it comes to loglines, adjectives are your friend.

Here's an example of a logline that sells the main character, for The Pianist:

A virtuosic Polish-Jewish pianist struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

4. Don't use names

Although Jack Sparrow is a household name now, no one knew him before Pirates of the Caribbean. So there's not much point using his name in the film's logline. Instead, he's referred to as 'an eccentric pirate':

A plucky blacksmith teams up with an eccentric pirate to save his lover from the pirate's former shipmates, who are now undead.

5. Think about your character's #goals

Your story is defined by the actions your characters take. The best loglines say what the main character wants, and what they'll have to do to get it. Here's an example of goal-driven logline from Little Miss Sunshine:

A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

6. Use the active voice

It's okay for the inciting incident to happen to your character, but you should always talk about what they do in the active voice. Like this example for Django Unchained:

With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

7. Raise the stakes

If you want your reader to care about your logline, it's vital to make sure the stakes are high. A sense of peril—like the risk of death—is always a big help. Like this movie logline for Speed, which raises the stakes with the detail about the bus needing to stay above 50 mph:

A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

8. Tear up the rulebook

While we've given you a crystal clear logline definition, and tips on how to write one, there are always exceptions to the rule. Hollywood script readers see a lot of loglines, so just make sure yours stands out. You got this!


Examples of loglines

The Godfather

The ageing patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

The Hangover

Three groomsmen lose their about-to-be-wed best friend during drunken misadventures in Los Angeles, and have to retrace their steps to find him.

Jurassic Park

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

The Lion King

Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity but his eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble.

The Matrix

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

Napoleon Dynamite

A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while dealing with his bizarre family life back home.

Pulp Fiction

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

The Shawshank Redemption

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Silence of the Lambs

A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.

Star Wars: A New Hope

A spirited farm boy discovers powers he never knew he had when he teams up with a feisty princess, a mercenary space pilot and an old wizard warrior to save the galaxy.

Titanic

A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.


Turn your logline into a story with Boords

Once you've sold a hotshot producer on your story, you might need a storyboard. Boords is the online storyboarding app for creative professionals. Simplify your pre-production process with storyboards, scripts, and animatics—then gather feedback—all in one place. Creating storyboards has never been simpler.

Thanks to MasterClass, No Film School, and StudioBinder for their helpful posts on loglines.

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