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What Is a Log Line? It’s a Sales Tool

Working working at table, at home.
Log Lines can be a valuable sales tool, if written correctly.

What is a Log Line? 

A log line is a sales tool. It summarizes a story in one or two powerful sentences while captivating the reader’s imagination. Used for TV shows, films and novels, the log line is a producer’s or publisher’s first impression of your work. A well-crafted log line will hook them, leaving them eager to read more, and could be the key to having your script or novel greenlit. 

A log line is helpful in other ways, such as getting into a screenplay competition or film festival. 

Is a Log Line a Synopsis? 

A log line is different from a synopsis. A synopsis is lengthier than a log line and offers a much more detailed overview of the story and characters. A synopsis is usually a few paragraphs in length but no more than a page. The synopsis can include the log line.  

Here is an example of a log line for the movie The Godfather: 

Picture of Marlon Brando playing Don Corleone in The Godfather.
The Godfather movie was awarded 3 Academy Awards in 1972, including Best Picture, Actor (Brando), and Screenplay. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

When a rival family seeks to exploit a powerful Mafia Don’s refusal to enter the drug trade, his reluctant youngest sonyearning for a normal lifeis drawn into a brutal underworld war, unleashing a darkness within him he never knew existed. 

Note that when stakes are added, in this casea brutal underworld warthe log line is must more interesting to the reader.  

Here is an example of a synopsis for the same movie: 

1945. War hero Michael Corleone returns home, determined to escape the shadow of his powerful Mafia family. But when a rival family guns down his father, the Godfather, for not agreeing to enter the drug trade, Michael is thrust into a world of violence he desperately wanted to leave behind. 

Despite his father’s survival, vengeance consumes Michael. He volunteers to eliminate those behind the hit, including a corrupt police captain. This act ignites a bloody war with the authorities and New York’s Five Families. Forced to flee to Italy, Michael soon finds love with a local woman. However, news of his brother’s murder shatters Michael’s fragile peace. Then, a car bomb intended for him tragically claims the life of his new wife.  

Michael returns to New York. With his aging father by his side, he navigates a treacherous peace summit. But beneath the veneer of civility lies a cunning plan. In a single, masterful stroke, Michael orchestrates a takedown of his enemies, securing the Corleone family’s dominance and solidifying his own reign as the new Godfather. 

Is a Log Line a Tagline? 

A log line is not the same as a tagline. A tagline is developed during the marketing phase of a book, TV series or movie. Famous taglines include: 

MOVIE

TAGLINE

Ghostbusters

Who You Gonna Call?

Titanic

Nothing on Earth Could Come Between Them

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

One Man's Struggle to Take It Easy

Superman

You'll Believe a Man Can Fly

The Dark Knight

Why So Serious?

The Social Network

You Don't Get to 500 Million Friends Without Making a Few Enemies

How Do I Craft the Perfect Log Line? 

To start, review the script or novel’s main plot point(s) and characters, then craft a log line that includes the following: 

  • An inciting incident (the event that throws the hero’s world into chaos) 
  • The hero. This is the one we root for, who captures our empathy. Use strong adjectives to describe this person, such as: “determined cop,” “mastermind criminal,” “reluctant heiress,” etc. Do not use the actual name of the characters because the readers don’t know them yet. 
  • Irony. In the Godfather example, the son is yearning for a normal life, but he doesn’t get it. Had he already been accepting of his family’s legacy, the log line would not be as strong.  
  • The core conflict. This is the hero’s challenge or goal, something they have a stake in—the bigger the better. 
  • The antagonist. This is the person the hero is up against. It can also be an organization, ideological obstacle (such as racism), or something physical (for example: cracking a bank vault’s code).

In your log line, use strong verbs like “struggles” or “unleashes” and avoid weaker options like “learns” or “decides”.  

Remember to spark curiosity or intrigue in your writingwithout revealing too much. In this way you will leave the reader wanting more.  

Examples of Log Lines 

Here are some examples of movie log lines, courtesy of iMDB:  

Jurassic Park 

A pragmatic paleontologist touring an almost complete theme park on an island in Central America is tasked with protecting a couple of kids after a power failure causes the park’s cloned dinosaurs to run loose. 

 

Inception

A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster. 

 

Avatar

A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. 

 

The Game 

After a wealthy San Francisco banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down as he begins to question if it might really be a concealed conspiracy to destroy him. 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road 

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search for her homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper and a drifter named Max. 

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark 

In 1936, archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can obtain its awesome powers. 

A Final Note on Log Lines 

When writing a log line, take your time. You may go through many drafts before finalizing one that generates just the right level of information and intrigue. Try your log lines out on your colleagues and pay close attention to their feedback. And remember, no matter how tempting it is, never give away the ending of your screenplay or novel in a log line. 

Garry Murdock
Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.
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Garry Murdock

Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review | Do We Need Another Hero? 

Toronto Film School’s marketing copywriter Garry Murdock reviews Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, a story that did not need to be told.Read more