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Notes From A Screenreader

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photo via Go Into the Story

You need a logline for your screenplay. It is your script’s calling card. You can’t submit to a competition, pitch or write a query without one.

A logline reduces an entire screenplay to a single sentence that expresses its premise. It should include a sketch of the protag, what he is trying to accomplish and how he’s going to do it, along with a nod to the antagonist, and indicate the tone and genre of the script.

In about twenty words.

If it is unfocused or uninteresting, readers will decide that your script is unfocused or uninteresting, and they will not ask to read it. You must nail your logline.

What’s a logline for Silence of the Lambs?

  • A cadet FBI agent uses a terrifying sociopath to help her catch the serial killer who has abducted a senator’s daughter.

The protag is there, the hook, the antagonist, even the stakes. You can tell it’s a thriller. It works.

It would inspire the curiosity of someone who is looking for a script in this genre, even though there’s so much missing that feels crucial; that Hannibal Lecter is legendary, a cannibal and a psychiatrist, that Clarice is an orphan from a small, hardscrabble town, that the two match wits and form a bond, that Clarice is being used as bait by the boss she may have feelings for, that she is driven to prove herself in a male-dominated field…

It just goes on and on, the list of things that make that story special that still don’t belong in the logline. The logline is a single, simple, intriguing premise that provokes readers to ask for more.

Work exceptionally hard to hone your idea down to its bare premise.

Of course, the simplest way to write a well-toned logline is to write it first. Ruthlessly honing your logline before you write ensures the clarity of your premise as you write. Bonus!

-ANNIE LABARBA @annelabarba

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nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

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