Skip Navigation Links

Current News & Links to Resources on & about
Independent filmmaking
Independent filmmakers
Subscriptions & Services


by Rob Tobin

A log line is a one-or-two sentence description of your story.  Writers, producers, execs, directors, and agents use log lines when pitching a story in Hollywood because nobody of any importance in Hollywood has time to hear a lengthy pitch, much less actually read a script.  That’s why the log line has to be compelling enough that the listener will ask for a longer description of your story (a “synopsis” or “treatment”), or for the actual script itself.

There are actually two types of log lines: pitching log lines and diagnostic log lines (which are used to figure out whether your script is structurally sound). We’re dealing only with pitching log lines here.

Here are some examples of pitching log lines:

“A jaded, old boxing manager gets a second chance when a female fighter convinces him to train her.”

“A young couple meet and fall in love at sea… on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.”

“A little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial in his closet."

“A grown-up Peter Pan living in the ‘real’ world, discovers that Captain Hook has kidnapped his kids and taken them back to Neverland.”

“A down-and-out club fighter gets a one-in-a-million chance to fight for the championship.”

“A pair of sex-crazed, serial wedding crashers meet their match.”

"A white trash English woman desperately trying to keep her volatile family together through the use of secrets and lies, is approached by a young black woman claiming to be her daughter."

"The Aboriginal version of the Supremes is sent to perform in Vietnam in the 60s."

"An assassin is forced to attend his high school reunion while being hunted by the head of the assassin's union."

"An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl naively hacks through dangerous social terrain to discover her drug dealing father has been murdered and she must convince his killers to help prove he is dead so she can keep her family intact."

These log lines are all, of course instantly recognizable, which indicates their effectiveness: they so effectively convey the essence of the story that you recognize that story instantly: "Rocky," "E.T.," "Hook," "Wedding Crashers," "Secrets and Lies" "Grosse Point Blank" "The Sapphires" and "Winter's Bone". Of course there are other great films that may not have been as commercially successful, nor as high concept, but you can still capture their essence in a good log line:

If you can’t sum up the essence of your story in a sentence or two, it may be because your story has structural problems. Even “low concept” stories can be summed up in a logline if the story is structurally sound.  “Steel Magnolias” is a great example.  “An overprotective mother has to choose between keeping her ailing daughter safe or letting her risk her life to have a child of her own.” 

A logline consists of some (but not all) of the seven essential elements of your screenplay. The seven elements are:

-       The hero
-       The hero's character flaw
-       Enabling circumstances
-       An opponent
-       The hero's ally
-       The lifechanging event
-       Jeopardy

One of my readers came up with a clever little acronym to help him remember what the elements are: HALF JOE. 

L(ifechanging event)
E(nabling circumstances).

It is seldom the case that a well written log line contains all the elements. In most cases having all the elements would make the log line overly long and too awkward to be effective.

How short can a log line be? “Sherlock Holmie.” Two words that convey the gist of a high concept screenplay: a young, Hispanic, streetwise, Sherlock Holmes. “Snakes on a Plane.” Now both “Sherlock Holmie” and “Snakes on a Plane” are the actual titles of those scripts but they also serve quite nicely as loglines. That’s how short a logline can be.

The importance isn’t how many elements there are in your log line, but rather how strong the hook is. You’re looking to surprise the reader, make them laugh or cringe or react in some other strong way. Irony, unexpected juxtaposition of elements, going against type -- all are ways to grab the reader’s attention. More than anything, though, you want the reader to be so strongly affected by the log line that he or she wants to read the script.

One last thing about a log line: it can convince a producer to read your script, but you’d better have a worthwhile script sitting in your back pocket, because it only takes one bad script to ensure that no producer will bother to listen to your next log line.


All Rights Reserved © 2018 -

Site Developed by