Screenwriting Script Writing

The perfect movie synopsis: How to write a synopsis that sells

If you’re looking to make it big in the filmmaking industry, you must learn how to write a movie synopsis. It’s a key factor when looking to sell your script. 

But it’s the age-old question, “how do I fit my whole script into one page?”. 

It’s a lot more simple than you think! The movie synopsis is made up of an efficient structure that will display your story’s outline and key events in only a few concise steps. This brief output of your script will help dazzle and wow production company officials. 

This article will cover what a film synopsis is, how you can write a synopsis that sells, and a couple of examples to get the thought process flowing.

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What is a movie synopsis?

A film synopsis is the overall summary of your plot, the core concept of your screenplay, and the main character arcs in your screenplay. 

The main reason for a writer to write a film synopsis is simply to sell their screenplay. It’s a way you can convince the producer of their assistant to read the full script, or at least the first few pages! 

How long should a movie synopsis be?

A film synopsis should be anywhere between one and three pages. In all honesty, the shorter, the better. As the reader will want to read a film synopsis that’s concise and interesting, and if the synopsis interests them, they’ll read the full script. 

How long should a movie synopsis be?

So, don’t try and cram everything into your movies synopsis. Only include the integral parts of your screenplay. A little lower down, we specify what to include and the format you should follow for your synopsis. 

What to include in a movie synopsis?

A film synopsis is made up of a few components. These include a header, your contact details, a logline, and a brief summary of your film.

Header (Title, Your name and the contact details).

In your header, you should include the title of your screenplay, your name, and contact details. This gives the reader instant access to your details if they want to progress with your script. 

Logline

The loglines up next. The logline comes directly after your header to give the reader a sense of your story and where it’s heading. Read our article on how to craft a logline that sells, and it will help you understand the formula of writing a great logline. 

You may also be interested in: The most iconic logline examples

Screenplay summary

Your screenplay summary should be written in the third person and if you’ve utilised the three-act structure to create your story, then put that into your synopsis. 

You can then quickly summarise each act with precision and interest. You can focus on the story arc and summarise the character arcs. This will help you write a concise synopsis that will capture the readers’ imagination, and hopefully, their chequebook!

You may also find this useful, What is a film treatment and how do I create one?

How long should a film synopsis be?

Your film synopsis should be one page for an average length film. This allows the reader to consume it in around five minutes and give them enough detail to make a decision on whether or not they will read your script, and potentially fund it.

Keep it short, to the point and ensure it tells the story but doesn’t give away the ending. You want the film synopsis to sell the story to the reader and make them want to know more.

Film synopsis vs treatment

Film synopsis and film treatment can often be confused, yes they may be similar but there is a stark difference between the two. 

  • A film synopsis is a summary of your script.  
  • A Film treatment is a much longer breakdown of the story of your film and is used to pitch the full film before they begin to write their screenplay.

Essential tips to writing a film synopsis that sells!

When writing your film synopsis, there are a few essential rules you must abide by. These tips will help you craft a concise, engaging, and hopefully, help you sell your screenplay.

Synopsis

You may also be interested in The Scorpion and The Frog fable – Don’t screw your mates over.

Emphasise the development of your character

Emphasise the development of your character throughout the story. So often, you’ll end up focused on telling the story arc, but it’s important to include the character arc as well. 

Ensure your protagonist’s key story points are included in the synopsis, as well as their motivations. Hitting the key points in your character arc, paired with hitting the key points on your story arc, is essential to writing a robust synopsis.

READ MORE:  The Fundamentals of Character Development

Keep it to the core plot.

Make sure you stick to the core plot in your synopsis. It’s easy to stray away and want to talk all about your subplots to the main plot. 

But, keep it simple. State the key story arc and the character arc in the synopsis, and that’s more than enough. 

You only need to state the key storyline in the synopsis.

Include the ending

The end

When finishing up your film synopsis, make sure you include the ending of your story. How are the characters left at the end of the story? What is the final state of their world? 

This gives you an ending, something the person reading the synopsis will want to know; you want to give them a reason to read the full script. 

Telling them the ending is a must!

Proofread it

Make sure you proofread your synopsis before you send it. You don’t want one small typo to ruin your chances of selling your script. It’s crazy how a small mistake can cost you the world. 

Granted, some producers will brush over it if your story wow’s them. Unfortunately, most won’t let a spelling mistake or grammatical error slide. 

No need to worry; proofread it, and you’ll be fine. 

Convey the tone of your story in the films synopsis

When writing the synopsis of your film, ensure you write in the same way as you do in your script. This is helpful in many ways; firstly it gives the synopsis character. 

This also gives the reader an understanding of how you write and what they can expect from the script.

Finally, if the tone doesn’t match and you are lucky enough to have your script read, it may be confusing why the tone doesn’t match the synopsis. 

Ensure your synopsis conveys the same tone; it’ll make it 100x better!

Keep it short.

We mentioned it earlier, but it’s essential. You want to include all the core elements of your script and exclude everything else. A synopsis is a bit of a challenge to write, but keep it short, concise, and engaging. 

Stick to the one to three-page mark, and you’ll be golden. 

What is a good film synopsis?

This is a great example of a film synopsis and will help you structure your synopsis in a way that stands out. The example below is provided by the guys over at Script Mag. 

A few good men synopsis

Example of a synopsis

Good Will Hunting film synopsis

Though Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has genius-level intelligence (such as a talent for memorizing facts and an intuitive ability to prove sophisticated mathematical theorems), he works as a janitor at MIT and lives alone in a sparsely furnished apartment in an impoverished South Boston neighborhood. 

Read the full film synopsis of Good Will Hunting.

Frozen 2 film synopsis

The film opens with young Anna (voice of Hadley Gannaway) and Elsa (voice of Mattea Conforti) playing a game with Elsa’s snow creations in an enchanted forest of their own creation. King Agnarr (voice of Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) enter, and Agnarr tells the girls he has seen an enchanted forest in real life.

Read the full film synopsis of Frozen 2.

The Dark Knight film synopsis

With the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman (Christian Bale) has been able to keep a tight lid on crime in Gotham City. But when a vile young criminal calling himself the Joker (Heath Ledger) suddenly throws the town into chaos, the caped Crusader begins to tread a fine line between heroism and vigilantism.
Read the full film synopsis of The Dark Knight.

iFilmThings [Free] synopsis template

Here is our synopsis template for you to use. It will help you correctly structure your synopsis and set you on your path to success. 

Remember to read our article on how to write a logline, as this will help you perfect your logline, a core part of the synopsis. The synopsis will also need a character arc implemented. Read our article here on character development to help you with crafting a memorable character. 

We hope this article on how to write a synopsis was useful! Let us know what you thought in the comments below. While you’re here, why not check out some of our favourite articles below: 

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2 comments

  1. Hey Tom, I enjoyed your article, but I’d like to humbly recommend consideration for a different order of laying out your Synopsis:

    1st – Logline
    2nd – Title (I prefer logline over title, because the logline will help to inform and support the title better — with more info at hand)
    3rd – Synopsis
    4th – *Contact info

    You want to use the logline as the HOOK, to motivate them to read the synopsis (which is your #1 GOAL) so why not put it first?

    Then, after (HOPEFULLY) they read the logline … which excites them to read the synopsis — they read it and enjoy it … THEN, they can go to the bottom and read your contact info, to see WHO you are: because if you put that FIRST (this is true … like it or not) they may not recognize your name (and/or search IMDb) and toss your script aside.

    This is a harmless method of social engineering, to improve your chances of getting your logline / synopsis read.

    * Unless you’re a recognized name screenwriter, and/or, have big-time representation: then OBVIOUSLY — put your contact info FIRST !

    1. Hey Robert, thank you very much for the feedback. Definitely we will take this in and discuss internally and have our content rewritten and updated.

      We’re always looking to hear feedback and this comment is incredibly insightful.

      Happy to add this to our in progress discussions and have this updated accordingly.

      Thanks, Tom @iFilmThings

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