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Marketing The Script: The Logline

Trailers, advertisements, and synopses are all methods to market a movie to the public (MasterClass, 2021). Their purpose is to showcase the film in order to attract an audience (Masterclass, 2021). For example, a film can reveal its genre in the trailer to entice a target audience (Nashville Film Institute, n.d.). Trailers give an idea of what a movie is about. If a horror film did not present anything scary, then viewers may not think that it belongs to the horror genre. Before watching something, people want to know what it is about. People recommend movies to each other by briefly explaining what it is. If someone wants to see a romantic comedy, for instance, then these types of movies should be advertised as such to attract the target audience (Nashville Filme Institute, n.d.). This phenomenon occurs even before marketing and before the production of the film. William Akers (2008), a screenwriting teacher at Belmont University, suggests that writers must entice potential producers to read their scripts: “Find a company who makes movies like your screenplay and write the Director of Development and try to convince her, sweetly, to read your work” (p. 193). The logline is a method to efficiently and accurately sell a story to a reader (Snyder, 2009, p. 7).

Figure 1: "Kanopy PLUS Packs: Affordable Pricing on Films Patrons Love to Watch" (Lambert & Madden, 2022)

The logline describes exactly what the story is about: “The logline is a one-sentence summary of the story or story concept” (Trottier, 2014, p. 34). Being only one or two sentences in length, the short nature of the logline allows for efficient marketing. If there is no logline to introduce a screenplay, it is extremely unlikely that a producer will spend two hours of their busy lives reading it (Snyder, 2005, p. 5). The first 20 pages of Blake Snyder's, the most successful spec screenwriter, book Save the Cat! (2005), are dedicated to the logline (pp.1-20). In comparison the 15-beat sheet, the story structure which Snyder (2005) is known for, spans 29 pages in his book (pp. 67-96). The logline promotes one simple concept: “The idea is king” (Katzenberg, 1991, p. 9). Jeffrey Katzenberg (1991), former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, stressed the notion that a poorly executed good idea is better than a bad idea exceptionally well executed (p. 9). With this in mind, it is unsurprising that good ideas can sell a script (Trottier, 2014, p. 33). That is why having a strong logline is essential for getting a script sold: “When I hear a good concept, I immediately see a movie that I can sell” (Trottier, 2014, p. 34).

Figure 2: "Good Morning Vietnam" one of Disney's hits under Katzenberg (Levinson, 1987).

Authors have their own checklist for what a logline should accomplish (Snyder, 2005, pp. 6-9; Trottier, 2014, p. 34). In general, the logline should contain the protagonist, the catalyst, the goal, and the central conflict (Point Park University, 2021, n.p.). These can appear in any order, but they are the main components of a good logline (Point Park University, 2021, n.p.). With these ingredients, people can picture the film in their heads (Snyder, 2005, p. 7). The following is an example from the Black List 2022, an annual list of the most liked screenplays that have yet to sell: “When her sister’s gender reveal party triggers the apocalypse, a woman and her husband have to prove to themselves, and the world, that they’re responsible enough to save it” (Waz, Baby Boom, 2022). The protagonists are “a woman and her husband” (Waz, Baby Boom, 2022). The catalyst is the apocalypse, the goal is to save the world, and the central conflict is the parents’ responsibility. From this logline, one can imagine most of the movie in their heads even though it is not yet known exactly how the story develops.

It is not enough to include the main components: a logline should also excite and it should be “provocative and big” (Trottier, 2014, p. 33). In the previous example, a gender reveal party triggers the apocalypse (Waz, Baby Boom, 2022). That is the big event. This example also hints that the film's genre is a comedy because of the absurdity of the premise: the end of the world brought about by a gender reveal party. It is important to note that just as film taste varies from person to person, so does logline tastes (Trottier, 2014, p. 34). Subjectivity affects how readers view any logline. For instance, a fan of love stories may not like the logline for an action film even if it is perfect. Snyder (2005) identifies irony as a critical factor in an engaging logline (p.6). The irony creates a hook that captures the reader’s attention (Snyder, 2005, p. 6). Snyder (2005) uses Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988) as an example: “A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists” (p. 6). The protagonist, a cop, visits his wife, only for it to become a dangerous fight against terrorists (McTiernan, 1988). That is the irony which hooks. In Jack Waz’s (2022) example, the irony is that a gender reveal party turns to the apocalypse.

Fogure 3: Bruce Willis as John McClane in "Die Hard" (McTiernan, 1988).

Few writers think of their loglines before they start creating their stories (Trottier, 2014, p. 33). The logline provides direction to writers, helping them stay true to their story’s original path in addition to showing them if an idea is wrong (Snyder, 2005, p. 7). In fact, if a writer is incapable of writing one for their script, they need to change their movie: “If you don't have the logline, maybe you should rethink your whole movie” (Snyder, 2005, p. 8). In an industry where the idea is more important than the execution, the logline should be stronger than the screenplay (Katzenberg, 1991). Therefore, writers should make sure a bulletproof concept to transform into a logline. If it accurately describes what happens in the movie, but does not entice, then it must be changed. If the logline changes, so does the movie.

In conclusion, loglines mainly serve a marketing purpose. For viewers, it is a marketing tool to pull them into the theatres, just like trailers and other types of film advertisements (MasterClass, 2021). To producers, it is a way to identify a good script that is worth reading and may make a lot of money (Trottier, 2014, p. 35). The four main components: protagonist, catalyst, goal, and central conflict are reflective of the film’s general story (Point Park University, 2021). In addition to the story, the logline should hook the reader in. There are many ways to attract a reader, but including irony is one of the best methods to ensure capturing their attention (Snyder, 2005, p. 6). Loglines are usually not the first element of a screenplay that people write since it is a marketing tool (Trottier, 2014, p. 33). Yet, this tool ensures that they stay on track and deliver exactly what the logline promises.

Bibliographical References

Akers, W. M. (2008). Your Screenplay Suck! 100 Ways to Make it Great. Michael Wiese Productions.

Jack Waz. Baby Boom. Anonymous Content.

Katzenberg, J. (1991). The World is Changing: Some Thoughts on Our Business. The Walt Disney Company.

MasterClass. (2021, June 28). How to Make a Movie Trailer: 6 Tips for Cutting Your Own Trailer.

McTiernan, J. (Director). (1988). Die Hard. Gordon Company.

Nashville Filme Institute. (n.d.). Film Marketing: Everything You Need To Know.

Point Park University. (2021, May 28). Logline Formula: How to Write a Logline That Works.

Snyder, B. (2005). Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. Michael Wiese Productions.

Snyder, B.(2009). Save the Cat! Strikes Back. Greenleaf Books.

Trottier, D. (2014). The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script. (6th ed.). Silman-James Press.

Visual Sources

Cover image: Kouguell, S. (201, April 30). Ten Top Tips On Marketing Your Screenplay. The Script Lab.

Figure 1: Lambert, I. & C. Madden (2022, November 1). Kanopy PLUS Packs: Affordable Pricing on Films Patrons Love to Watch. Kanopy.

Figure 2: MoMA. (2018). Good Morning, Vietnam. 1987. Directed by Barry Levinson.

Figure 3: Hibbard, J. (2015, December 24). Why 'Die Hard' is the perfect Christmas movie.


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Yoran Praet

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