WRITING LOGLINES

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It’s been great year last year and it’s going to be a great year this year, too. Because we all were writing all the way last year, and this year, of course, is not going to be any different, I reckon.

Yesterday, at my Academy Studio - ScreenWrite.In one of my students told me about his difficulty to write loglines for the model-pitch that I insist with every student who comes to me for screenwriting programs.

I find writing loglines as the hardest part of the writing process, at the same time give a lot confidence to the writer once they succeed writing them.  The reason for this dilemma is that if the writer can’t capsule the story in 3-4 lines, then it indicates that he/she doesn’t know what it’s about.

And that’s why I find loglines work two folds for a screenwriter. One and most importantly, to get a focus on the story one attempts to develop at the process of development; more often after the writer writes the story from the heart. Later, once the screenplay is all structured and written, one writes for the pitch, to ignite the interest in a prospective Producer for the screenplay to be produced.

While the former, as has always worked for me, is sort a synopsis of the story I crave to develop or that I have developed so far, so it gives me scope to dream and work further on my story. The latter on the other hand, is a ‘pitch’ or ‘logline’ with a practical function to give the prospective Producer an idea of what your screenplay is all about, but not necessarily a synopsis of the story.

Pitching your ideas successfully, whether from a screenplay, a short story or even your own mind does not come naturally for most of us. We need a little practice and effort to prepare to pitch our idea. That’s why Loglines are carefully crafted words to clearly and succinctly communicate to those who intent to buy the screenplay.

A log line or pitch is the briefest explanation of your story and usually contains one to three sentences. It contains the basic elements the protagonist, the conflict, the antagonist and the genre.  Spielberg had said it thus: "Pitch me, 25 words or less.”

To generally point at the purpose of a Logline is to spot a protagonist, genre, core conflict, and lead towards a climax, without giving away the ending. As I said earlier the pitch-logline is not intended to tell the full story. Instead, it promotes the story in as few words as possible with the goal of attracting enough interest from a Producer so he/she requests to read a treatment or screenplay, which are salable material.

In most of the cases the pitch happens during an unprecedented occasion so they need to be short, easily narrated during a conversation, and has to sound like ‘only one of its kind’. That’s why I repeat a logline is carefully crafted words and memorized to look as if it’s told impromptu, but carries an aura to woo.

Here are three examples of log lines which you can use as a guide to writing loglines:

"A cynically self-interested nightclub owner must decide whether to risk helping a former flame on the run from the Nazis." (Casablanca)

"A headstrong farm-boy must learn to become a warrior in order to join a galactic rebellion against an evil empire." (Star Wars)

"A stubborn, over-the-hill former gunfighter again straps on his pistols to try to make a living, but must contend with a sadistic small-town sheriff." (Unforgiven)

As a general rule one finds the following elements in a Logline:

PROTAGONIST – Identify a main character along with his/her profession.
GENRE – Reveal the story's setting when presenting the Conflict.
CORE CONFLICTS – A personal issue for the Protagonist to overcome and an action from the Protagonist that threatens the Antagonist.
CLIMAX – Lead towards a major conflict between the Protagonist and Antagonist.

Now have a look at these Loglines:

When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek his revenge. (Gladiator).

OR

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

Developing the ability to create powerful Loglines for your work is an invaluable skill that aspirant writers should have in their toolkit. Again I remind you, the purpose of a pitch-logline is to attract enough interest from an industry professional so they will request your treatment or screenplay.

4 comments:

dhatchu said...

sir it is really very useful and im learning a lot... thank you for sharin..

Assouma Belhaj said...

waaw super writing...
keep rocking

John E said...

Great to find your comments, Dhatchu and Assouma!

shylaja said...

lovely to hear your well gathered thoughts on loglines that make one of the biggest impacts of any story.

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