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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

This producer wants me to write a synopsis for my screenplay, which I really don't want to do.  It takes so much time and why can't he just read my script?

Typed Out

This week's answer: 

Synopsis Synapses

Typed Out, I appreciate your e-mail and you not wanting to write a synopsis for your screenplay.  It does take time.  It also takes a special talent to be able to synopsize a screenplay.  If you haven't done it before or that often, you might want to consider having somebody do it who has.  Like a story analyst, somebody who does coverages.  Or a PS (a professional synopsisizer).  Not really; I made the last one up.  But wouldn't it be nice if there were PS's.  You could just call one up or go to his or her website (I don't recommend typing in "synopsisizer" in the search box).  Maybe a friend who majored in English lit. could help you.  On second thought, someone like that might write it in stanza's and try to rhyme the whole thing, or, perhaps, write it in prose, but take 350 pages to synopsize a 100-page screenplay.  You've got to watch out for those English literature people.

Even if you end up having to write your own synopsis, take heart Typed Out:  nobody ever WANTS to write a synopsis.  Synopses (I'd rather they were called "synopsissss") were invented for lazy people who don't like to read.  And, since producers are notorious for not wanting to read anything except large checks with their names on it and menus of expensive restaurants where they can spend some of the money from those large checks...

They Love Synopses

I used to write a load of them when I worked at Hearst when I did coverages there.  It was the synopsis of the screenplay in a coverage that took the most time.  I was praised for these coverages, my scintillating and insightful comments, but, after a while, the "powers that be," those who were in another city and who apparently were reading my coverages, sent word that, even though they appreciated my two-or-so- page synopsis, they decided, in addition to those, they now wanted me to write a second, even briefer, no-more-than-one-page synopsis.  Translation:  We don't like to read scripts and now we don't even like to read synopses.  They were looking for the Cliff Notes of the Cliff Notes.  After calming my synopsis synapses and less than pleasant expletives had been expressed by me personally, I acceded to the Powers That Be's wishes and discovered that it was even harder to condense the main story beats into an even smaller space.  But I learned.  I did quit, though, when they wanted a synopsis in twenty-five words or less.  I made that up, too.  But it wouldn't surprise me if, one day, you, the screenwriter, after painstakingly laboring over and finishing your masterpiece screenplay, you hear that a producer is interested and would you please send a very, very brief synopsis.  On a matchbook cover..  

And that shouldn't take much time at all.

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