What is a logline?
A logline is a brief, but captivating one-liner used to advertise a movie or screenplay.
Generally, the more high concept your logline sounds should increase the odds of the right people paying attention to it.
For example, the Matrix advertised “The fight for the future begins” on its movie posters. But if I were to write a complete logline for the movie it would say,
“The fight for the future begins when a computer hacker learns the world exists in the sophisticated alternate reality of a computer program called ‘The Matrix‘”.
A little more than one line, but concise enough to read quickly and draw interest in the plot.
In the the real world, the first thing we learn about Neo is that he is a hacker. As “the One”, we later learn that he will eventually “hack” the Matrix. His age, is not important enough to reveal in the logline, his appearance is not important, but what he does for a living and how his alternate lifestyle as a hacker affects the story. It’s important to point this out without giving too much away.
In the example logline we learn about the protagonist and what he discovers. What we don’t know is how the story turns out. The point of your logline is to give the reader information while at the same time, creating enough suspense to draw the reader into the story, or better, draw an audience into a movie theater.
If I were writing a logline for the Karate Kid, I would write “A teenager from New Jersey moves to California where he meets a martial artist who teaches him how to defend himself from local bullies.”
We learn that the main character is a teenager, from New Jersey and has moved to California (Fish out of water), where he meets a martial artist (gains a mentor) and defends himself from local bullies.
This logline has a lot more information than the Matrix example, but is generic enough to maintain a semblance of mystery and suspense.
The most important part to writing a logline is having a story or a plot you can whittle down into a short description. As one of my peers aptly explained, “a screenplay would need viable structure and concept to yield a workable logline.”
Therefore, if you are having problems narrowing your plot down, you may want to rework your script or storyline.