Thursday, March 12, 2009

Log lines, sysnopsis, and treatments.

I've been so focused on learning how to write the actual screenplay, that I've given no thought to log lines, synopsis, or treatments. Turns out they are all crucial to the process of selling a script, they must be highly crafted, and are excruciatingly more difficult than I originally thought they'd be!

Log lines aren't quite as hard. I've done a few versions now, and I think I might be getting the hang of it. Keep it short (1-2 lines), simple, to the point, and leaving them hanging on something they need to know the answer to.

Synopsis are not so easy to grasp. I found some great tips on's site. Here was what they said on one particular synopsis that worked...

1) There is always an interest in a script that can result in many more films, based upon the same premise and characters with a different situation (franchise potential - like the Bond, Mission Impossible, Die Hard, Superman movies, etc).
2) It told the basic idea of the story in a page or less. (The industry standard for a synopsis is usually one page.)
3) Even an idiot could read it and know what the story was about.
4) The development person or producer could easily pitch the story to others (such as: an American James Bond).
5) It did not contain specific details which would factually require further explanation, causing the synopsis to be longer than it should be. Nor did it leave the reader wondering what the writer meant by a particular paragraph or sentence.
6) It did not unnecessarily complicate the explanation of the story by including every important character or detail in the script.

Keep it simple stupid. The KISS principle. BUT... make it intriguing, emotional, commercial, and have that "I gotta read this" quality about it.


Treatments have whole books written on them. I've started reading up on it, but as well, I've signed up for an online course with the Writer's University, which I found through The Writer's Store on Writing the Screenplay Treatment.
It's just started, and so far, so good. There are a dozen or so of us "in" the class, and a mix from everywhere, doing everything. We got our first assignment...

Week One: Exercise 1

Write a brief (1 page) description of the project you’ll be working on for this class. Describe the genre, plot and characters, and discuss the theme – what is this movie about? Write it as if you were telling a friend about your upcoming project – answer the question: “So, what are you writing next?”

I'm late already... I will submit mine at the last minute. Thank God NZ is a day ahead.

The idea is that we'll start with something really crap, and then end up with a brilliant, script-selling treatment. wicked. Bring it on!!

Any tips/thoughts are most welcome on this elusive and tricky writing art form.


  1. Nice Blog, Lyse, those cookies look good, think the rabbit would share? I always thought those loglines and synopsis are a cruel joke. You spend all this time and effort writing the script and then you have to reduce it to one page and then a line or two without making it sound completely idiotic. Not easy to do. had an article on loglines, if you can find it, which a lot of people recommended to me. Also Blake Snyder on his site maybe had some sort of beat system for it which people were finding helpful. He wrote the book 'Save the Cat' which is worth reading, a light read compared to some of the others, He also wrote 'blank cheque' and the Stallone classic 'Stop or mom will shoot' so he must know what he is talking about if he can write a logline that would make someone want to read that movie, let alone make it, haha. Anyway, good luck with those logs.

    Julian W

  2. Here it is

  3. Hi Julian, wow, that article is packed with practical, damn good advise! I now need to go re-vist my log lines, and well... start again! But armed with more of an idea of what they should be. Very cool. I have heard of 'Save the Cat', and considered buying it, so with your recommend, I'll go pick it up for sure. Or perhaps order it on Amazon, cuz I'm a lazy cow.
    Thanks for the wicked info!

  4. I think there are better screenwriting books to read, but I don't know how long you have been writing, if you are new, it's a great place to start because it is a quick read - and best if all it's fun. And it's easier to take in than 'Story' And unlike 90 percent of these books, this guy has actually got a few movies into production. I wouldn't order from amazon because of the exchange rate and shipping costs, unless you can afford it. But the writers guild have a copy i think, and if it's in wellington I think Ben Reid could give it to you if you go to his writers club, or ask him to send it, Or maybe he doesn't look after the library, but I think he does. They also have it at the library, but was out when I tried to get it, so I bought it off trademe at a steal, if all else fails I would lend you mine, I was thinking of giving it to the guild at some stage anyway, if they didn't in fact have it.

  5. I've actually read heaps of screenwriting books and I took McKee's 3-day Story seminar many years ago when I lived in LA. It was intense and it changed the way I write forever. That said, I have trouble getting through his book. I have two completed scripts now, which both require loglines and treatments, etc. Slight oversight on my part, as I never learned squat about writing those! Funny you should mention Ben and the writing group, as I just went to my first meeting last week! I'll ask the group if anyone has it. Very kind of you to offer me your copy. Trade me. Too right!! You think after living here for... 4+ years, I'd get over my Amazon obsession by now!! yeach.