questionmarkSo now I have 120 pages of the funniest damn stuff you’ve never seen and I have to describe it in three or four sentences. How do you convey the witty dialogue, the clever visual gags, the essence of the humor in a logline?

Whenever I write one it ends up sounding like it’s describing an action movie or drama. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

— Jeff in Maplewood

You aren’t going to be able to summarize the visual gags, puns and one-liners in a logline, so don’t try. Rather, you want to distill what’s funny about the idea of your movie. The best practice is to take existing movies and figure out how you’d boil them down if you had to write a logline.

None of these would classify as John’s Best Effort, but they get the point across:

  • Groundhog Day — Bill Murray gets stuck repeating the same day, again and again. Every day, he tries to do something different, but the next morning everything resets to the way it was.

  • Shrek — A grumpy ogre and his hyperactive donkey have to save a princess. The world is made up of all the different fairy tale characters, like the Three Little Pigs and the Gingerbread Man.

  • Clueless — An airheaded but ultimately well-meaning Beverly Hills teenager tries to “makeover her soul” in a riff on Jane Austen’s Emma.

Accept the fact that some movies aren’t so easily summarized. For instance, we never did come up with a logline for Go which sounded actually funny.

Note: Looking up the IMDb summaries for these examples proves that anonymous posters can do better than the pros. For Shrek:

A reclusive ogre and a chatterbox donkey go on a quest to rescue a princess for a tyrannical midget lord.

Damn. It’s the “tyrannical midget lord” that makes it funny.