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Loglines terrorize new screenwriters, and I understand why. Summing up a 100-page screenplay in 25 words or less?! In a maximum of two sentences? Daaaamn! Somebody, tell me how I get my arms around this thing?!

The internet is already crawling with logline advice from the 10,001 screenwriting websites, so without adding to the Same Old Same Old, here’s a brief formula that works every time. Folks, don’t overthink this. You only need to remember three things when it comes to loglines:

  • WHO
  • GOAL
  • OBSTACLE

That’s it. Cut out all filler. Simply give me WHO-GOAL-OBSTACLE in two sentences or less, and you got it.

Don’t believe me? Check out how we came to write the logline for my micro-budget film Chat. This is Spring 2012, just before we shot it…a discussion between myself and the director, Boris Wexler.

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“OK Boris…here are three options I started with:

1. A father with a degenerative eye disease searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat.
2. A father with a degenerative eye disease searches for his daughter disappeared into the world of cybersex chat.
3. A father searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat.

Here’s what you’ve written since…

A father with acute light intolerance searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat with the help of a webcam girl who can guide him in a quest led through a world filled with LCD screens he can’t bear to look at.

WHO- GOAL- OBSTACLE. Two lines or less, tease the audience and sell the project. Logline as SELL TOOL.

You’ve kept: “Father searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat”.

So what we’re disagreeing on is how to describe the father’s eye illness, and the adding Annie to the logline—which you did. From my POV the entire back end of your logline is too much….

“…who can guide him in a quest led through a world filled with LCD screens he can’t bear to look at.”

I would not keep a word of that. You’ve jammed in not just the eye illness, but its symptoms…no way.

What might be incorporated is: “with the help of a webcam girl”.

So the logline would then read:

“A father, with the help of a webcam girl, searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat.

A bit clumsy, but less so than having webcam girl at the end of the sentence: “A father searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat with the help of a webcam girl.”

We could add “mentally ill” to this but it might give the punch line away: “A mentally ill father tries to reclaim his daughter lost in the world of cybersex chat.”

Every time we add more information, the logline gets clumsier. You’ve added an impossibly dense description of his eye disease in the front: “Acute light intolerance.”

This stops my eye in its tracks. Nothing sexy about it, nothing even tied to STORY. How will it sell the movie?  I SAY WE GO WITH choice 3:

“A father searches for his daughter gone missing in the world of cybersex chat.”

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