How to Write a Screenplay Synopsis

A script synopsis for a screenplay is often more difficult than writing the screenplay itself, yet many film prospective film producers and agents will require this document. How is a good film synopsis written?

Guidelines to Writing a Movie Synopsis


The screenwriter's synopsis makes it easier for the agent to quickly assess whether the screenplay is likely to be taken onto the next stage. For this reason, the film synopsis is the most vital component of the submission package, for a good screenplay relies upon a well-written synopsis. Getting it right is absolutely crucial if an agent is likely to take further interest in the screenwriter. 

How to Submit a Screenplay to Agents


A submission package may consist of some or all of the following

  • A covering letter
  • A tagline of the script
  • A synopsis of the film
  • A film treatment
  • A list detailing the main characters
  • Sometimes a personal statement
  • The screenplay
What is a Synopsis?
Usually, a synopsis will consist of a plot summary of the screenplay on one side of an A4 sheet of paper. Often, no more than 250 words maximum is requested. Where a tagline summarises a story in one sentence, a film treatment will outline each scene, a synopsis lies somewhere in the middle.
Checklist for Writing a Screenplay Synopsis

If the synopsis is badly written, the film agent is likely to send it back with a rejection letter and not even read the screenplay. In order to prevent this from happening, the following measures might help.

  • At the header of the page, state that it is a “synopsis.” Inform on the genre, the title of the screenplay and include the writer’s contact details.
  • Within the body of the synopsis, inform on the setting, the time and the place and give a little background.
  • Tell the story in the third person (he, she, they etc.)
  • Tell the story in the present tense.

  • Describe briefly the main protagonists as they appear in the story. As a useful reference for the reader, it might help to list the characters on a separate page with a brief description of each, such as age, sex and their part in the story.
  • impart the story in the synopsis in the same order as the screenplay. In other words, tell it as a story. The three-act structure  of the story must be reflected in that order, beginning with act 1, the story set up, and ending with act 3, the climax.
  • Include key scenes and culminating climaxes, as in act 2.
  • The ending must be revealed. This allows the agent to see whether the writer has tied all loose ends in act 3.
  • Do not include dialogue
  • Do not give reasons why this is a great screenplay. It should stand on its own merits.
Writing a Film Summary
  • It is advisable to use a standardised font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, unless specified in the submission guidelines
  • Use 12 point font size
  • Use single line spacing when beginning a new line
  • Begin a new paragraph by missing a space
  • Use standard margins as on Word default.
  • Don’t try to fit a long synopsis onto one page by widening the margins or by making the fonts smaller. This will not look good.

How to Write a Film Synopsis for Beginners


A synopsis is really the imparting of the story in fast forward. Ensure it is a compelling read. Every word counts, so avoid using two words if one will do. Ensure the exact right words are used, in order to tighten up the prose. A thesaurus is invaluable. Getting straight to the point will give a professional feel to the synopsis and the agent is more likely to take the writer on.

Before sending it off, ask the following questions:

  • Does the synopsis accurately portray the script?
  • Is it a riveting read?
  • Does one paragraph flow naturally to the next?

If doubts remain, asking the opinion of another might help clear up problems. It might also help to put it away for a few days and to read it with fresh eyes. Doing so might be the right choice, as the synopsis is really a shop window for the agent to look through, and first impressions often stick.



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