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  • Anthony Hett

How to write a short film - Writing a synopsis

Hello and welcome to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.


Today I will be discussing writing a synopsis: what is a synopsis, how do you write one and why they are important. While I am looking at writing a synopsis, I will also discuss outlines, loglines and treatments.





Let's start with an outline because this is slightly different to the other three.


Outline

An outline is basically for your eyes only. It is a summary of your story, designed to help keep you on track while you are writing your script. It doesn't have to be particularly detailed and the layout is not of particular importance - it can be a list of bullet points, listing the important beats or scenes of your film.


An outline is there so that you can refer to it as you are writing your script. It is there so that if you find that you are diverting away from the story you were setting out to tell, you are aware of this diversion. You can then decide whether you come back to the original story or if you choose to go with the diversion and see where it takes you.



Logline, synopsis, treatment

A logline, a synopsis and a treatment are all short but detailed descriptions of your films which are designed to grab the attention of the person (producer, director, funder, agent, etc) who you want to read and potentially produce/direct/fund your script. These people, especially people reading applications for grants and schemes, are often very busy and might be in a position where they are sent 10s, 100s or even 1000s of scripts. In these cases, they will want to read a logline, synopsis and/or treatment before committing to reading your script, even if it is for a short film and not a feature film.


Logline

With a logline you are attempting to explain as much about your film as possible, in as few words as possible. When writing your logline, I would recommend trying to keep it to one sentence (where possible) and to know more than 25-30 words. For a good example of a logline, read the logline for the film Jaws in the image above.


Synopsis and treatment

When writing a synopsis and a treatment, it is important to write it as though you are writing a short story. It should be written in the third person and in the past tense: "David picked up his dog and started to pick up his pace. He was well aware of the man hiding behind the tree." It should not include dialogue.


They are a summary of your story and you are trying to give as much detail about your film as you can - who is it about, what happens to them, what they are trying to achieve and what are the obstacles in their way - in a limited amount of words. So it needs to be detailed but it is also important to keep it as short and concise as you can.


Your synopsis and treatments should give the reader everything - at least all the important details - of your script, including the ending. Do not end your synopsis on a cliffhanger, it should spoil the ending.


The difference between a synopsis and a treatment is the length. For a feature film, a synopsis should be around a page in length, whereas a treatment can be anything from 5 pages, 10 pages or even more.


While for a short film, I would recommend writing three different length synopses. From my experience of applying for funding and to writers schemes, I would suggest that you write: a 250 word synopsis, a 500 word synopsis and a 750-1000 word synopsis. This way you will have most bases covered, when applying to different funds and schemes.



I hope that you find the information contained in this blog post helpful. If you have any thoughts then please put them in the comments below and f you know anyone who might find these blogs helpful, then please share it with them. I also have a video on writing a synopsis, where I talk about the subject in a little more detail, on my YouTube channel.


Thanks for reading and I will be back next week with a blog (and video) on the topic of Elements of a script.