The Difference Between a Logline and a Premise

November 10, 2020 - 3 min read

A logline and a premise have a lot in common which makes it easy to get confused.

Both of them represent your story stated in one sentence.

  1. They must be concise and brief. If they don't meet these requirements, you don't understand your story clear enough.
  2. They must be catchy and hook the audience and motivate them to see the film.
  3. They must describe the central conflict of your story and answer the question of what is your script about.

You might even think they are synonyms, but they are not. The key difference between a logline and a premise is that a logline is for the audience and a premise is for the writer.

The main function of a logline is to intrigue and sell.

Think of it as a book cover. A good one makes you want to open it and find out what's inside. It also a good answer to the question "what is your story about?". It's the beginning of your story, and should only give the information the audience needs to be interested and excited about the film. No spoilers or plot details.

What about a premise? John Truby in The Anatomy Of Story wrote that a premise is a grand strategy, big picture and shape of a story. Everything in your story comes from the premise. That is why you shouldn't fail with it, which nine out of ten writers do. A premise is an essence of your story - it's what you are writing about. It still should be catchy and high-concept but it also must inspire you to write the story. Unlike logline, It can (or should) contain important plot details.

Let's take a look at a few examples. I took some premises from The Anatomy Of Story together with their loglines:

  1. Godfather.

  2. Logline: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

  3. Premise: The youngest son of a Mafia family takes revenge on the men who shot his father and becomes the new Godfather.

  4. Star Wars

  5. Logline: Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire’s Death Star.

  6. Premise: When a princess falls into mortal danger, a young man uses his skills as a fighter to save her and defeat the evil forces of a galactic empire.

  7. Casablanca

  8. Logline: Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

  9. Premise: A tough American expatriate rediscovers an old flame only to give her up so that he can fight the Nazis.

Remember, what you choose to write about is far more important than any decision you make about how to write it. That's why it's important to understand what is a premise and what is a logline, how to write them and what is the difference.

If you want more information on the topic, here are a few good resources:

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