How To Write A Movie Synopsis
- Date: August 27, 2021
- Topic: Filmmaking
- By: Peerspace
Many creatives feel a sense of purpose after completing a screenplay but writing a script is just the first step. At some point, screenwriters will need a movie synopsis to bring their vision to the big screen, but many writers do not know how to write a movie synopsis or its purpose. Condensing scripts may seem like an easy task of just pulling details from the screenplay, but movie synopses are well thought out, tailored documents required by most studios. So, what is a movie synopsis?
What is a movie synopsis?
A movie synopsis is an important one-page summary of a story that covers the plot, main characters, goals, hurdles, theme, turning points, and conclusion. Some people confuse movie synopses with outlines or treatments. The main difference between the three is the length. Most movie synopses are one page long but can extend up to three pages. Outlines and treatments are more in-depth and longer than movie synopses. Treatments and outlines can be 10 pages or more.
What is the purpose of a movie synopsis?
Movie synopses are important during all stages of screenwriting. In the initial stages, a synopsis can help establish the story or bring ideas to paper. However, synopses become essential during the later stages, especially during marketing. Unless you are an established screenwriter, selling your screenplay is difficult. Many new screenwriters send email after email to different studios, often without hearing replies.
Before you eagerly attach that 100+ page screenplay to your next email, consider the agents’ and executives’ points of view. They read dozens of emails with double-digit paged attachments describing the plot. It is sometimes burdensome and boring.
This is where the movie synopsis comes in. Synopses explain the most important parts of a movie in a condensed readable format. This is also why sticking to one page is extremely important. Like a cover letter, a movie synopsis sells a movie in as little time as possible. If an agent sees more than one page, they are less likely to read it.
How to write a movie synopsis
Now that you know what a movie synopsis is, let’s review how to write a movie synopsis. Every movie synopsis starts with a header. Your header should include the movie title, your name, and contact information. You must include your contact information at the top of your movie synopsis and not just your email. This is so, if your synopsis gets passed around to the appropriate people, they can contact you without the hassle of digging through old emails.
Masterclass recommends including a logline. Screenwriters use loglines specifically to market their idea. Loglines are an essential part of selling your screenplay. They are one or two sentences that describe the movie but don’t let the brevity trick you. Writing good loglines takes time and revisions.
A good logline would describe, not name, the main character and describe the goals of that character. Look at the Legally Blonde logline: “An airhead blonde goes to Harvard Law School.” As AJ Unitas from Studio Binder identifies, instead of relying on superfluous details, the screenwriter uses irony to sell the 8-word logline. Good loglines may take some time. As a practice, summarize your screenplay in one sentence over and over and evaluate which logline will best sell your screenplay.
After you write your logline, now summarize your screenplay. It’s best to split each act into a paragraph. For example, if your screenplay is three acts, your movie synopsis should be three paragraphs. It’s best to write in the third person present. In your summary, you can now include the main characters’ names and add more details, but it should not be too long.
Synopsis vs outlines and treatments
Remember that your movie synopsis is not an outline or treatment. Outline and treatments will break down the screenplay scene by scene instead of act by act. Your movie synopsis should only include the most important details to sell your screenplay.
Even though movie synopses are a marketing tool, try to stray from gimmicky phrases. Just stick to the details of the movie. Instead of overusing cliche phrases like “all the glitters are not gold,” just stick to the facts of the movie. The details will sell themselves. Try not to include too many plot twists. You want to convey the plot clearly. Although you may captivate the reader with twists, you run the risk of confusing them.
When writing your movie synopsis, think about the movie’s theme. According to https://www.masterclass.com, you should convey certain tones depending on the theme. For example, if it is a horror movie emphasize how scary the movie is. If the movie is a comedy, explain the humor in the script.
Lastly, as mentioned before, the details will sell themself. Do not include cliffhangers. Studios want to know the plot. This includes the details of the ending.
How to submit a movie synopsis?
Now that you know how to write a movie synopsis, how do you submit a movie synopsis? For many reasons, producers don’t accept unsolicited synopsis and screenplays. Screenwriters need an invitation to submit a screenplay.
To new writers, this policy feels like it is impossible to get into the business, but it is merely a small obstacle. In the age of social media, social networking is easier than ever. Use websites like Linkedin and IMDbPro to learn about and connect with industry professionals.
Your social media pages, like Instagram and Twitter, are a great way to brand yourself. As Joel Eisberg wrote on Medium, “it’s not about who you know, but who knows you.” Additionally, look out for conventions and festivals in your area. Attending film events is another great way to meet professionals and market yourself as a screenwriter.
How to write a movie synopsis: what to take away
Now that you completed the script, it’s time to get started on the movie synopsis. Your script won’t sell itself. A well-thought-out movie synopsis will indicate to studio professionals if your script is interesting.
Writing a movie synopsis is difficult. Finding agents, producers or studio executives soliciting a script is even harder but not impossible. Whether it be in person or through social media, networking with professionals is easier than ever. With some hard work, you will be on your way to submitting your next movie synopsis.
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