Not Sure How to Write a Film Synopsis?

First, it is important to ask, “What is the meaning of a synopsis in general?” A synopsis is a type of summary that can be written for a novel (either fiction or non-fiction), scholarly paper, newspaper article, TV show or movie. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of synopsis is the following -“a condensed statement or outline (as of a narrative or treatise).”

Based on this, it is easy to assume that it is the same thing as a report, review or critique, but it is actually an entirely different task. It is true that a synopsis entails an overview of the plot of a story and the characters involved or, if it is a scientific journal, summarizes the processes involved in a study or experiment.


Furthermore, you would discuss various elements or other characteristics of the writing such as the setting, genre, style, etc. However, rather than teasing the reader by hinting at major plot points but not revealing them, the synopsis contains all of the spoilers, including the ending.

The synopsis format and type of information contained in this type of work depends on the writer’s objectives. For example, a filmmaker will write a movie synopsis that is very thorough. It will contain a full plot overview, including the ending(s), all of the characters and how they progress during the course of the movie, the themes explored in the movie, and other details. For this article, we will discuss how to write a film synopsis in greater detail.

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The Importance of a Synopsis

First, let us look at some the reasons why a synopsis is the method for getting the attention of a movie studio.

  • The synopsis is the way you try to persuade the studio to take a chance and invest in your idea.
  • A good synopsis demonstrates your writing skills. If you can create a story that contains vivid descriptions, a coherent plot and purposeful characters, it will be easier for the studio to envision it as a movie.
  • Furthermore, a synopsis shows the studio that you have put a lot of thought into your idea and are committed to it.
  • In addition, a synopsis is useful for a studio because it allows them to think about the right kind of audience that this particular movie might appeal to.

As you can see, a good idea for a movie can only become a reality if you craft a well thought-out synopsis that intrigues the studio. While the actual script itself would invariably go through changes at different phases of the project, the synopsis is at least a good start.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Synopsis Writing


You have a great idea for a movie and you are eager to share it with the world. Before you send the film proposal to potential movie studios, here are some strategies for writing an effective synopsis:

  • Use an active voice.When writing a story, there are cases when using a passive voice can be entirely appropriate. But not in synopses. You want the synopsis to be written in a straightforward manner, and thus the active voice is the only option.
  • Make sure your story includes a narrative arc.A good movie narrative is not just a collection of random actions and events. It should contain a narrative arc that involves describing the conflict, including how it originates and how it gets resolved. You should also ensure that the various subplots and character motivations are logical and realistic within the context of the narrative. Ultimately, a studio will only green light something that they regard as watchable.
  • Create something original.Unless you are already a big Hollywood filmmaker, the last thing a studio wants is a story that has been done before. If your plot is too predictable or includes all of those annoying clichés, it is dead on arrival.
  • Focus on depth.Your characters should not merely exist to fill up space, but to truly drive the plot. This means your synopsis should detail what is going on in the characters’ heads, including their feelings and emotions.
  • Limit the synopsis to 2 pages single-spaced.While providing enough detail is important, there are limits to the amount of reading a film studio is willing to do. So as a rule of thumb, do not exceed this page limit.


While the suggestions above can increase the chances that your movie idea gets the studio’s attention, there are several things that you should avoid:

  • You should not mention every single character or event.At the initial stage, the studio wants to see that you have a workable movie that contains protagonists (and antagonists depending on the plot) who drive it. They are not going to care about the minor scenes or the characters who have 20 seconds of film time.
  • Do not include personal commentary.As mentioned, your synopsis should get to the point and be written in a straightforward manner. This means you should avoid making statements like, “In this especially moving scene…” or “Audiences will find this part to be really funny…”
  • Do not treat the synopsis as an advertisement.While you are indeed trying to sell your story idea, you do not want to explicitly write it as if it were promotional material.

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Synopsis Format

The way your paper should be formatted is fairly easy to follow now that you know how to write a film synopsis. In the first paragraph, you will want to identify and discuss the main protagonist(s), the conflict or issue, and the setting of the movie. The next paragraph should focus on additional plot details and characters that drive the story, and create coherency. Finally, you will end the synopsis by describing how the conflict gets resolved. The reason for this is because the studio wants to have confidence that they are going to invest in something that was thought through carefully. If you send them a synopsis with an ambiguous ending that creates confusion (or does not really make any effort to resolve the issue), they are not going to take it seriously.

Writing a synopsis is not easy, but if you put in the effort and follow the advice in this article, there is no reason why you cannot become the next great filmmaker!

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