Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Woody sent me this email last week:

The idea of writing log lines is not a problem to me- I get it. But I have never found a good resource for what Hollywood wants to see. Most log lines seem too vague or read as generic, recycled sentences that could describe anything. I don't know if I am reading industry standards or amateur hour sentences. Wondering if you have any advice on what catches your eye:...Should they be one sentence or is two OK?...Do you need details on the plot or something that generally piques your interest?...etc. Here is one I am working with as an example.

EXPOSURE- The iconic artist of the previous decade, photographer David Ansell laments the erosion of his reputation to simply being famous for being famous. The entire world is nearly turned inside out as his search for a new muse reveals a violent, ancient force and one woman's insidious plot to control it.

There are slightly different schools of thought on this, so I wouldn't be surprised if people weigh in with different opinions in the comments. To cover your first questions, I'd say to shoot for one sentence, but don't sweat it if you need two sentences to cover everything. It's also not a bad idea to include some plot details - or at least the main hook of the story and how it relates to the main character. A good trick is the TV Guide technique - write the logline the way you imagine that TV Guide would summarize the story.

Take Die Hard for example: "A New York cop tries to save his estranged wife from terrorists who have taken an L.A. office building hostage on Christmas Eve." Bam! One sentence and I know the protagonist, the antagonist, the hooks and the stakes.

The other trick is to keep it simple. Your logline is a little wordy and uses words that could come off as pretentious. Some people also say that the loglines shouldn't have character names. Given that, I might rewrite your logline as follows:

"An iconic photographer seeks a new muse in his struggle to become relevant again, but the entire world is nearly turned inside out when his search reveals a violent, ancient force and one woman's insidious plot to control it."

Right there you've got the protagonist, the antagonist, the protagonist's quest and the main conflict of the story. This also suggest that the genre of the script is a supernatural thriller of sorts - is that assumption accurate? Giving your reader an idea of exactly what genre you're playing in is another good idea, some would say an essential one. If I know my boss is looking for a female-driven romantic comedy with a sports element, you don't want me mistaking your pitch for a male driven baseball drama.

I hope this was helpful.


  1. You know, I was reading Blake Snyder's chapter on loglines from "Save the Cat" just last night, and while I'm not sure I advocate being a slave to the logline to quite the extent he does, I did find what he said ENORMOUSLY helpful both in terms of thinking about the logline and in terms of thinking about the story. So I'd recommend reading that to anyone with logline questions, certainly.

  2. I like how you trimmed Woody's logline, but I think he needs to provide a little more detail on the force. Seems like that's the hook of the whole story and yet I have no idea what kind of force he's talking about.

  3. Yeah, "violent, ancient force" isn't specific enough.

  4. Thanks for the comments (I post as ATTATT), I agree is it totally vague and am struggling with how to effectively put it into words. I sent it over a bit wordy and rough on purpose to hopefully create some criticism and conversation.
    I am not surprised that someone mentioned wanting to know more about the "force" but that is exactly the type of thing that seems to be vague in all loglines. As a supernatural thriller type story, does the logline focus more on the character and conflict, or is specific info about the supernatural aspect really important?

  5. I think the supernatural aspect is a large part of the conflict, as it hints at what form the conflict will take. You need to provide enough info so we think, "That's cool. I can see where the story might go."

    You say the force is ancient. Is there a specific culture it arises from? Egyptian? Mayan? Chinese?

    And what does the force do? Can it kill people directly? And if so, how? Or does it kill people indirectly, by making them commit some horribly graphic form of suicide?

    These details are what make your story different from all the other supernatural thrillers out there.

  6. I agree with your post. I did a similar post. For another perspective:

  7. Julie Gray recently posted up the loglines of the silver screenwriting contest's top ten:

    the top two are both short and to the point with a strong hook. the "pithiest," in her words. i don't know if this means anything but after reading all ten loglines, i want to read those two the most and not just because of where they placed.

  8. thanks for the link to, those are great examples. I think the one about death sounds like a total rip off of "death with interruptions" though, surprised that placed well.
    Twallinger, thanks for your comments, I can see the point a little clearer. When I find a strong way to summarize the nature/impact of the force I will have a much stronger log line

  9. Christopher Lockhart (creative exec with WME) has written extensively on this subject. You can find his tutorials on Done Deal, Two Adverbs and on his blog Inside Pitch.

    You can also join the Done Deal & Two Adverbs message boards and get feedback on your log from other writers.

    I also think Snyder's approach is helpful. His primer might be online. Check his site.