by Angela Bourassa
The logline is one of the most powerful tools that a screenwriter has in his or her arsenal. It’s vital to master the craft of writing loglines, because loglines have the power to open doors.
Here are the top seven ways that you can put your logline to work.
7. Script Databases
The two biggest and most respected online databases of spec screenplays are InkTip and The Black List. On either of these sites, you can pay to upload your screenplay and create a searchable listing for it in the hopes that an agent, manager, or producer will read your script and love it. And what convinces these industry pros to read your script? Your logline.
Now, InkTip and The Black List are #7 on my list for a reason. These services absolutely favor people who have won major contests or sold scripts before. If you don’t have any accolades, very few industry pros are going to seek out your script on one of these sites. The Black List has the advantage of letting you buy script reads and getting your script rated, but their readers (I believe) make $20 per script, so you can imagine how experienced and attentive they are.
That said, if you do have the accolades to stand apart or if you manage to get a few positive ratings, a strong logline will show potential readers what to expect from your screenplay and entice them to read.
In-person pitchfests provide opportunities for writers to pitch their scripts to people who they would never be able to meet with otherwise. We’re big fans of the Great American Pitchfest. At these events, you’ll get to meet with independent producers, managers, and agents from small firms, and the assistants of agents and managers at big firms.
The downside of these events is that the industry pros who attend them expect to hear a lot of crap. As a result, they’re not always super receptive. The big, big upside of these events is that you’ll have five minutes to give your best pitch to people in power, and that could absolutely lead to an option, new representation, or a script sale.
The key to pitching is getting your idea across quickly and compellingly. That’s why pitching pros always recommend starting your pitch with a… (you guessed it!) logline.
Rope them in with your logline, then go into some of the bigger story details. But know that if they’re not impressed by your logline, they’re going to tune out everything that comes after it.
5. Scriptshadow’s Amateur Fridays
If you’ve never heard of it, Scriptshadow is an amazing screenplay review website run by the brilliant Carson Reeves. On it you can find Carson’s reviews of all the biggest screenplays on the market well before they make it to the big screen.
But Carson doesn’t just review professional scripts. Every week he does something called Amateur Friday – he reviews one screenplay by an aspiring screenwriter absolutely free of charge (his usual fee for script coverage is $499). Writers that he has reviewed favorably have gone on to be signed by top reps and sold their scripts.
So how do you get your screenplay reviewed by Carson? You send him your logline!
This is an amazing opportunity that you should all go for. Check out the details here.
4. Virtual Pitch Fest
The old method of sending unsolicited paper and email queries to agents and managers in the hope that they’ll read your script just doesn’t work anymore. Virtually no industry pros even open query letters.
Enter Virtual Pitchfest!
Virtual Pitchfest is the best way that I know to effectively query agents, managers, and producers. Here’s how it works: you buy a pitch package (they’re reasonably priced), you write a query letter featuring your all-important logline, and you send it to the industry pros of your choice. Do your research (there’s tons of helpful info on the site) to find the best possible matches for your script. Then you’re guaranteed a response from every person you query in five days or less. Read our full review of the service here.
If you’re not networking, you should be. And if you are networking, you need to have loglines for all of your scripts ready to go.
You never know who you’ll meet at a networking event. When you have a great conversation with someone who turns out to be an independent producer looking for something to shoot, and they ask what you’re working on, you need to be able to share your script idea quickly and compellingly.
We’re not saying you necessarily need to memorize perfect loglines for all of your scripts, but you do need to be able to summarize your scripts in a great sentence or two, and if you’ve perfected your loglines, that will be a lot easier to do.
(By the way, Network ISA throws amazing networking events in LA and London – check them out!)
2. Industry Meetings
If and when you have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with someone who has the power to represent you or, even better, make your movie, you need to be ready to pitch. Whether it’s a meeting about a specific project or a general meeting, you need to have the loglines for all of your scripts ready to go, because you never know where a meeting could lead.
Maybe they’ll know someone who knows someone who’s looking for exactly the kind of script you’ve written. You need to be ready to sell yourself and your work, and that means having strong, concise, creative loglines.
I truly believe that the time to write a logline for a script is early in the outlining process. When you’re outlining, it’s easy to get lost in your own idea and feel like it’s completely brilliant. But then when you start writing the actual script, you might realize you only had half of an idea. Or that your initial premise was flawed. Or that it’s not original. Or that it’s boring.
By forcing yourself to write a logline during the outlining process, you get to test your idea. If you can’t make the idea fit into a sentence, it’s probably not high concept. If you can’t figure out any good adjectives to describe your main characters, they’re probably flat. If your story structure sounds a lot like every other movie you’ve ever seen in the genre, it’s probably not original.
If you think you’ve put together a pretty good logline, share it with your friends. Share it with other writers. Share it with a consultant. Share it with strangers on the street. Find out what they think. Does it grip them? Does it make them laugh? Do they find it terrifying? Or do they just respond with an unenthusiastic but vaguely supportive, “Cool”?
The logline is an incredibly powerful and easy way to test your story idea, which is so important, because the biggest mistake that writers at every level make is writing an idea that wasn’t very strong in the first place.
Don’t rush into writing a weak script. Take the time to find the idea that is truly unique, truly entertaining, or truly fascinating.
You’ll know you have it when you can turn it into an amazing logline.
If you need help with your logline, or think you’ve written something truly great, enter the LA Screenwriter Logline Competition. You’ll receive detailed feedback on your logline in five days or less. Enter today!
Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.