Loglines. What are they for? What's the point? What the hell is a logline? These are questions I hear all the time. I'm going to make a series of posts on loglines here. Try to break it down and demystify for the reader.
A logline, at its best, is a pithy, memorable sentence that tells the reader what the main character is like, what the main action is, the genre of the film, and the hook (what makes your script unique). It's very different from a tagline, which is the intriguing sentence at the bottom of the one-sheet (which is a movie poster). A logline might read:
A wizened old fisherman, an arrogant scientist and an earthy sheriff must protect a beachfront town after a giant shark starts feasting on its residents.
A tagline might read:
Just when you though it was safe to go back in the water..
The goal of both is to get the reader interested in the story. But the audiences are quite different. Looking at how a studio reader will typically approach a logline is a clue to how you might construct yours. A good way to learn about this is to find calls for queries. If you've ever read these, you know the frustration.
We're looking for a script involving motorcycles with a strong African-American female lead for a name actress. Budget $1-2M.
Studio looking for psychological style horror scripts (no zombies, please) similar to "Fracture" but without the law element.
Independent studio looking for character drama centering on women's relationships that can be shot in a Victorian. Do not send script unless it is one-location set in a Victorian. We aren't interested in scripts that can be "easily adapted" to a Victorian.
The calls seem way too specific for anyone's good. Don't they just want the best script they can find? No, I'm afraid they don't. They want to make the movie they can make. The reason that the first studio wants motorcycles and a black female lead is probably due to where the money comes from. They have a connection to Halle Berry, perhaps -- and getting her will secure X amount of money. They have a whiff of interest in a motorcycle movie from Halle, or the studio boss, or an investor.
Does your logline answer these questions? At this beginning stage, all a reader really wants is a ballpark sense of your script -- whether it fits his needs or not. Your main characters are a selling point. Your hook is a selling point. Your genre is a selling point. This is where you start to sell them.
Most of that selling means getting the logline worked into a single, well-thought-out idea. But more on that next time.