InkTip.com has a new article about writing loglines that get attention. It’s a fascinating read, and I recommend taking a look at the full article here. But if you’re in a rush, here is what a few successful agents told Inktip they’re looking for in a logline:
Nouns + Verbs + Irony = Logline
No proper nouns needed ergo…
Clause 13 – A security guard father-to-be (noun) pisses off (verb) real super heroes (noun) by accidentally killing one (verb), and has to run for his life(verb)-when he learns you don’t have to be super to be a hero (irony.)
When writers do this, they nail it.
I learned from the best: Blake Snyder, RIP.
— Barbara Bitela, The Silver/Bitela Agency
It should be in the active voice. No more than 2 lines or so. Mention what it’s in the tone of or vein of, but never say in the vein of ________meets_________. A lot of people find this annoying. Convey the genre and the central conflict of the script. Avoid run on sentences. If you can’t fit in one sentence, make it two.
For example, “Hang Up and Drive” by Bob Gale:
To impress a girl, a teenager figures out how to call bad drivers in their cars and harass them for their poor driving…only to inadvertently become the target of an infamous ‘freeway killer’.
— An Anonymous Coordinator at APA
A logline should not only summarize your screenplay but more importantly, it needs to reflect the genre of what you’re writing. If it’s a comedy, make it punchy. If it’s a cat and mouse thriller then set up the chase. Going for horror? Paint me a life or death scenario and roll out those words that conjure up feelings of dread. You only have thirty seconds or so to grab a reader’s attention with your logline so spend it well. Better to use that time to get in a joke then tell me how “perfect” it is for Zach Galifianakis or Jonah Hill or insert name of funny guy of the week here __________________.
— Amy Wagner, Abrams Artists Agency
Think of a logline like journalism 101. I want the who, what, where and when in one sentence. Here’s the logline for Pirates: “A 17th Century tale (the when) of adventure on the Caribbean Sea (the where) where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow (the who) joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England’s daughter and reclaim his ship (the what).” I know everything about that movie in one sentence and I know if I’m going to be interested in it.
— Manny Fonseca, Kopelson Entertainment
An effective logline should reveal the protagonist(s); the primary conflict/antagonism he/she/they will face, the high concept (if it has one); the tone (action, thriller, comedy – and ideally the tone comes out in the description of the world in the logline and doesn’t need to be referenced directly); when people read it, the logline opens up clear possibilities of a second act that will sustain the conflict/story in a theatrical and fresh way. Originality is key – generic loglines that bear little distinctiveness from other movies typically breed an equally generic script. And having a touch of irony in the logline will lend to the potentiality and sustainability of the conflict.
— Scott Carr, UTA
I’ve never used a formula. I’ve always just written them myself. But I’d say 1 sentence, 2 sentences tops. It’s some character, some plot and the challenge facing our hero. And it has to tell you what, at its core, is cool about the story. What’s the thing that makes an exec want to read it or a moviegoer want to buy that ticket?
— Bruce Bartlett, Above the Line Agency
We’ve got to see the movie in one line!
— Sue Giordano, Hudson Agency
Put your marketing hat on. Summarize your story in no more than a couple of sentences explaining the backdrop of your story and hurdle(s) your main character must overcome. Sounds easy, right Jared?
— Paul Weitzman, Preferred Artists Agency