Logline Tests: How to Vet Your Script’s Concept
When sitting down to write a new script, not every screenwriter stops and first writes out the logline, the one or two sentence pitch for their movie, to test their logline. The problem with NOT doing this is you can miss sign-posted problems with your concept. Let’s breakdown why:
A great logline has a couple of key factors. We have a hero, they have a goal, that goal is high-stakes and urgent, and there is a central irony to that particular person having that specific goal.
It may seem self-evident, but many of the scripts we receive here at ScriptArsenal do not pass these logline tests. Let’s compare and contrast some loglines. Half of the examples below are from real movies, half are not. Can you pick which?
LOGLINE 1: A hopeless man stranded on a desert island befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.
LOGLINE 2: A CIA agents travels to Europe to stop an international arms dealer from selling a nuclear weapon.
LOGLINE 3: In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.
LOGLINE 4: A disaffected young man returns to his hometown and revisits his relationships with the most important people in his life.
LOGLINE 5: In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.
LOGLINE 6: A group of teenagers go camping and a demon terrorizes them on the site of an ancient massacre.
Which ones are the real ones? 1, 3, and 5 are SWISS ARMY MAN, CHILDREN OF MEN, and HER, respectively. Notice how they all fit the logline tests above? They each have irony. They each have an urgent, high-stakes goal (even if the stakes are purely emotional, like in HER). And there is an irony to the hero particularly having the central goal (for example in CHILDREN OF MEN Clive Owen’s protagonist is a “former” activist).
Loglines 2, 4, and 6 are almost movie premises. Logline 2 has an urgent, high-stakes goal, but it’s dull because there is no irony to the connection between the hero and the goal. The CIA agent is just doing his job. Logline 4 has no goal, no urgency and no stakes. Logline 6 also has no goal, except for survival, which is a reactive (vs. active) goal in the context of that premise.
Does the logline of your script pass these logline tests?