Why is the log line important in a treatment?
The log line is the first sentence an executive will ever read from your hand. It’s also the shorthand that executives will use to discuss your project with each other. If a junior executive reads your treatment and likes it, they’ll need to tell their boss about the project in order to move it to the next step (probably a meeting between you and the boss). The boss will ask the junior executive “What’s it about?” The junior executive will respond with your log line, if you’ve written it well and accurately. You are helping to provide the junior executive with the tools they need to help move your project forward. If you don’t provide a log line at the beginning of your treatment, you rely on the junior executive’s ability to digest your treatment and come up with a good log line of their own. Even in a collaborative art form like filmmaking, it’s never a good idea to leave a job undone for someone else to do if you are more capable of doing it yourself. And who knows your story better than you do? Write a great log line for your treatment, and you’ll know that your treatment is being discussed in your own words.
Who is the log line for?
The log line is for the buyer – the executive, the producer, the agent. By writing a log line for your treatment, you are helping them to process your material more efficiently. Getting a movie made is a sales process, a constant, revolving door sales process. You sell your work to an agent, who then sells your work to a producer, who then sells it to a director, who then sells it to actors and key crew members. Once the movie is made, the sales process starts all over again, as the producer has to sell the movie to distributors and marketing executives, who have to sell the film to theater owners who have to sell the film to audiences. A good log line can ride the film all the way from start to finish, helping to sell it at each step.
Should the log line refer to other movies?
No. It used to be popular to write log lines that were entirely film references. This practice became so prevalent that it became a cliché, and should be avoided if at all possible. Nothing says “schlock” as quickly as a “Die Hard” reference – the classic action movie reference that every movie strived for in the early 1990s. “Speed” was called “Die Hard” on a bus. “Passenger 57” was called “Die Hard” on a plane. Descriptive as these log lines may be, they read as lazy writing, and if your writing isn’t even original in the log line, who will be interested in reading your treatment or your script? Avoid hucksterism, overselling and hype. It’s a turnoff.
How long should the log line be?
Your log line should be one sentence long. Pare it down to its essence, and don’t let your sentence become a run-on. Try it out loud, see if it works. You don’t have to follow every twist and turn of the plot in your log line, you only have to convey the flavor of the script. One sentence will do it.
What is the difference between the log line and the theme?
Your log line is a sales tool that is a teaser and an invitation to read your script. The theme may be contained in the log line, but not necessarily. Theme is the real answer to “What is your script about?” and Theme need not be confined to a one sentence answer. Theme is often related to the discovery that your main character makes during the course of the film. For instance, in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, Indiana Jones discovers that people are actually more important to him than historical artifacts. In “Animal House”, the Deltas discover that the camaraderie that they’ve discovered in their fraternity is the real lasting value of their college experience, not their class work or their social status on campus.
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