Stop Ditching Your Lifeline And Make A Killer Logline

I pitched my story, wrote my script, casted my actors, and made my short film. I poured my time and energy into this project. Yet during each step the passion just wasn’t there. I could feel something was off. Then it hit me. I had no logline. Correction, I had a logline, but it was no good.

A logline is the summary of your story. It’s the answer to the question: “What is your story about?”

The heartbeat of my story wasn’t powerful or exciting or even new. Which resulted in a dull and uninteresting short film. It’s so key to be able to explain your story, not only because it helps you pitch it to important people but also because it serves as the lifeline for the rest of the process.

It’s the deep root of the story. And if it’s not right, then the rest of the process won’t go as well either. So before you go to make a killer story idea that’s bursting from the seams, spend as much time as you need making a great logline.

According to Blake Snyder in his book Save The Cat! a killer logline should:

  • Be ironic, have a twist or something unexpected
    (This is the hook of your logline)
  • Be something you can imagine
    (Great story ideas are easy to picture)
  • Establish your target audience and the production cost
    (Who is this movie for? Is it easy to tell how much it will cost?)
  • Have a killer title
    (A title that says what the movie is, but is also unexpected)

And according to YouTuber D4Darious it should also include:

  1. The main hero of the story
    (don’t use specific names, but go with their profession, it allows for irony)
  2. The hero’s goal
    (what does the hero want?)
  3. The obstacles blocking the hero
    (what could possibly get in the way of what the hero wants?)
  4. How the hero overcomes the obstacles
    (your sources of conflict and the promise for entertaining story)

Here’s an example of a good logline:

“A thief able to infiltrate dreams embarks on an impossible mission — the “inception” of a false memory in the mind of a billionaire industrialist — while trying to avoid losing himself and his whole team in Limbo”

It’s the central idea behind Nolan’s Inception. A complicated concept boiled down into one long sentence. You can do this with any movie, including your own.

When I write a logline, I like to break down all of the elements listed above. Then I take a sheet of paper and draw out a stick figure on the left side and label it ‘hero’. On the right side I write ‘goal’. Then I draw a wall between the two and label the wall ‘obstacles’. The last thing I do is draw an arrow from the hero to the goal, going over the wall. Afterward I write down all the details I can about each one and brainstorm. The visuals help me see the story.

When I didn’t go through the process of crafting a killer logline, it hurt the rest of the process and left me with a story I wasn’t passionate about. Do yourself a huge favour by writing the best logline you can. Share it with people too. See how they react. If they are bored to tears by the time you’re done, rework your logline.

Once you make one which captivates you and everyone else who hears it, you have yourself a lifeline you can hold onto for the rest of the process. And trust me, if you know how to make movies, you know you’ll need the lifeline.

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  • Keaton is an actor and writer who works with the Initiative Production Company in Brisbane, Australia. Native to Alaska, he enjoys staring at the stars while contemplating the meaning of life.

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