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How to Write a Screenplay Logline

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 8/25/2010

While a synopsis provides an agent with a total feel of your screenplay, the logline gives him a first impression of what your screenplay is about. Create that impression with these tips on how to write a screenplay logline.

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    A superbly-written logline will give the agent an indication of what your screenplay is about and help him decide whether he should take any interest in your synopsis.

    To give you an idea of what a screenplay logline is, it’s the one-sentence summary of a movie that’s usually published in a TV or movie guide.

    While you may use a logline to interest a screenwriting agent when writing your query letter, you can also use it to give your screenplay a direction when you’re in the process of writing it. However, writing an effective logline in a query letter is crucial and you don’t want to go wrong here.

    Movie industry insiders say a screenwriting agent barely reads past a logline in a query letter. This is understandable as screenwriting agents are swamped with query letters from screenwriting wannabes.

    Also, if you’re lucky enough to meet a producer or an agent face to face, he or she isn’t going to be impressed if you can’t sum up your screenplay in a single sentence.

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    Trial and Error

    If you don’t have a firm grasp of what your screenplay will be about, it pays to write down a logline before getting started. However, a logline could also hinder your attempts at exploring the possibilities of your screenplay. In the writing stage, you should maybe use a logline as a last resort, if you’re not making good progress with writing your screenplay.

    Ideally, you should start writing your screenplay logline after completing the screenplay, when you’ve ironed out the uncertainties that confront you when you start writing the screenplay.

    Be psychologically prepared to spend hours just to come up with this key sentence that would determine whether you would become a selling screenwriter.

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    Research

    You may think you already know how to write a screenplay logline. However, it pays to go through loglines of other movies for inspiration. For starters you could pick up a TV or film guide (never mind how dated it is) from a used bookstore and spend some time reading through the loglines. Ideally, you should pick up guides with one-liner or two-liners.

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    Writing a Logline

    Imagine a producer or an agent asking you, “Can you tell me what your screenplay is about in a sentence?”

    This may the toughest question you would have to answer. Your screenplay may have many conflicts, twists or subtle shades of characterization to warrant boiling it down to a single sentence. But you would have to work to come up with the single sentence no matter how complex your screenplay is.

    Don’t expect to get your screenplay logline correct the first time. You can start with a logline that has five sentences. Rework it to reduce it to three lines or two. From there, you could reduce it to a single sentence.

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    Questions to Consider

    Who is my character and what’s does he or she want? What conflict does she have to face to get what she wants? Where would her pursuit lead her to? These are the questions you would want to consider before sitting down to write a screenplay logline.

    So, if someone asks you what your screenplay is about, you would not want to say, “It’s about a woman who wants to become rich.”

    You would want to say, “It’s about a nun-turned-prostitute who sets up a high-class prostitution ring and manages to blackmail top politicians and judges into paying her millions to safeguard their secrets and ends up falling in love with a client who specializes in killing and entombing prostitutes in his private cemetery.“

    Practice writing loglines just for the fun of it and you will see possibilities opening up.