How to Write a Film Synopsis
Whether or not your synopsis is compelling and succinct influences whether a producer, filmmaker or agent agrees to read your full, completed script. A synopsis typically is no longer than one page and contains the film’s title, genre, a logline --which is a one-sentence summary -- and a five-paragraph rundown of the characters and plot of the film.
At the Top
Begin the synopsis with the title of the script, your name and contact information, and the genre of the project listed at the top left corner. Type the title of the script in all capital letters. Include all your major contact information, including email, phone number and mailing address. For copyright protection, consider registering your finished script with the Writers Guide of America, or WGA. If you do register your screenplay, include the WGA registration number below your contact information. For the genre, use only ones widely recognized in filmmaking, such as comedy, drama, science-fiction, action, Western or romantic comedy.
The logline can be challenging to write but when done well, it alone may incite filmmaking professionals to request to read your full script. The logline should be only one sentence long and offer a brief description of the main character, his or her goal, and the antagonist or antagonistic force the character must overcome; for example, “A strict high-school basketball coach uses radical tactics to reform struggling inner-city high-school athletes.”
A Concise Summary
After the logline, include a summary of your film in five paragraphs. Stick to just the main plot of the film as you won’t have room to include subplots. The first paragraph covers Act I of your story by detailing the film’s opening image, offering an introduction of the protagonist and describing the story’s inciting incident, or event that changes the main character’s world. In paragraphs two through four, share the first main turning point for the character; the conflicts and positives that come about for the character in her new world; the story’s midpoint; and the moment of bleakness that occurs in Act II. The last paragraph is responsible for covering the climax, resolution and final image that happens in Act III. Include the ending because you need to show the filmmaker, producer or agent you can tell a complete and fascinating story.
Tips for a Great Synopsis
Write the logline and synopsis in the present tense. For example, your main character walks or sleeps, rather than is walking or is sleeping. Stick to offering names only for up to three main characters: the protagonist, antagonist and the sidekick or love interest. For the other characters, refer to them in general terms, such as "POLICE OFFICER." The first time a character shows up in the synopsis, capitalize his name. Expect to have to rewrite the synopsis numerous times. Check meticulously for typos. After you finish, get feedback from two to three writing friends, as they’ll often point out areas of confusion or any areas that fall flat. Be sure the synopsis is as strong as it can be before sending it out to filmmaking professionals.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.