Screenwriting Tips: The Logline (Part One)

Have you been told that your book would make a great movie? Do you imagine your story being told on the screen, as well as on the page?

 

Ultimately, a good story and a good script (or screenplay) share many of the same elements: interesting characters striving to achieve a goal, obstacles that stand in their way, and (often, but not always) a three-act structure with a climax that resolves the story.

 

slateA script is unique though, as is the process by which it gets approved for production. You can’t simply rewrite your novel into screenplay format and call it a day. So before you start installing Final Draft or Celtx (two popular screenwriting programs), don’t forget a crucial step that many first-time screenwriters skip: the logline.

 

What is a logline (or “one-line”) and why do you need one? That second name sums it up pretty well. The logline is a brief (one to three sentence) description of your movie. It’s also referred to as an “elevator pitch,” because it’s how you’d describe your movie to a studio head if (by some good fortune) you shared an elevator with him/her and had only a few moments to sell your idea.

 

But why bother making the logline first? Shouldn’t you just write your script and come up with a logline afterwards?

 

No, and here’s why: by making a logline, you boil your story down to its essence, similar to how you’d summarize a movie you’ve just watched when a friend asks, “What was it about?” This is critical; not everyone involved in approving a film is going to read your script, or wait for you to describe the story.

 

And if you’re having trouble making that logline–if you can’t answer that “What’s it about?” question to yourself–maybe you need to rethink your entire story!

 

Next time, we’ll discuss the four elements that make up a good logline. Until then, just ask yourself: how would you describe your story in a sentence or two? Try it out on your family and friends. Does it interest them? Do they “get it?”

 

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