Honing the logline

I facilitated a pitching session for Women in Film and Television here in London and was reminded once again of the importance of log lines. I’m also experiencing this same logline urgency for the projects I’m looking at for the co-pro session I’m producing for the Children’s Media Conference.

Loglines are just a short hand way of saying what your project is about. They are an absolute necessity in the entertainment business, especially at festivals. If you are at any conference, you are going to answer these two questions all the time – what are you working on – what is it about?

A logline is comparable to a TV guideline – concise, compelling and engaging enough for the reader or listener to want to hear more, ideally much more. The logline sets up the hero, what they want, and the primary obstacles such opponents in their path to their goal.

It has 5 basic elements: the genre, the hero, the opponent, conflict and the goal.

The great thing about log lines is that they elegantly answer those questions. However it takes a bit of rolling up your sleeves to really make sure you are as clear as possible about your project. Sometimes, if you are having challenges crafting a logline, it may point out the gaps in your script – there may not be a complex enough protagonist or sufficient conflict to propel the story forward. If you need help, I can assist you to focus your concepts and logline.

Here’s one I put together for the great BBC drama series, The Fall. The Fall is a one-hour crime drama (genre) paralleling the stories of family man and grief counselor, Paul (antagonis) the serial killer and Stella Gibson (protagonist), a super competent and sexy female detective from London (conflict) who has been called into Belfast to stop the killing and solve the case (goal).

So here are a couple of tips to craft the logline for your project.

(1) You need to say the genre and length of the programme right off the top so that people can categorize the show and place it in their schedules or catalogue.

(2) Both the antagonist and the protagonist need to have some interesting characteristics that will compel us to want to learn more about them. In this case, it’s ironic that he’s a grief counselor and a serial killer. It creates dissonance, which is a very good thing.

(3) The logline has to be clear what the goal of the series, film or project is. There needs to be some over reaching goal so that the reader/listener is clear on what the protagonist has to achieve.

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