10 Tips for Synopsis Writing


How To Write A Synopsis

In this article, I am going to talk about a very important tool to help you through your script writing process. Synopsis is also one of the ways you sell your film to producers and agents, so it’s important not only to understand what it is, but also how to write a great one.

A good synopsis is the first step of funding your film. I am not going to get into the synopsis format or give any synopsis sample because it pretty much changes, but the tips I’m going to give you here will make your synopsis much more interesting and easier to read.
So for those of you who don’t know what synopsis is, we’ll start with the synopsis definition:

synopsis definition

A synopsis is a short description of the most important information of your script or story.

Here are a few great tips to help you built that tool:

  • The synopsis is usually written in the present tense, Third person. The reader should read the story as it is. Without any complicated gimmicks.
  • If it’s relevant, start the synopsis with a description of the place and the time of the story 
  • It is important that the story will have the structure of the 3 acts: beginning, middle and closure and this is why it will usually be written in 3 paragraphs- one for each act.
  • The synopsis should present the general premise of the film and the general atmosphere (is it drama, comedy…?)
  • When you introduce new and important characters, write a short description of them.
  • Write the first draft of your synopsis by memory as much as you can, but make sure you write the names of the characters and the locations correctly.
  • If there is a second plot, you don’t have to put it in yet, unless you feel it is important to the complete story.
  • Try as much as you can to deliver the emotion and the drama of the story, whenever it is possible.
  • Make it no longer than one page. Remember! The synopsis in an overview. Do not get into too many details.
  • Let someone who already read your script to summarize the story and what are the things he considers important

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The Synopsis of Gone Girl a synopsis example

If we are going to write the synopsis of Gone Girl it will be something like:

On the fifth wedding anniversary Nick Dunne, a young man in the mid of his 30’s, discover his wife has disappeared. 

You can see I didn’t start with a description of a year and the time period (like I mentioned in one of the tips). That is because that’s not that important to the story. I did write, though, about the time period for them, which is their fifth anniversary.  I also wrote his general age.  Now, even though the story will be told from his point of view, I’m not going to write it like Nick is the one who tells it (even though it would be cooler like that) I have to write it in the third person.

Conclusion and Homework

Writing a full script in one page is not an easy job at all. It may take you a few weeks to get there. You will need a lot of practicings and I would suggest starting practicing now. Write synopsis to films you see on TV. After you feel you get the hang of it, write a synopsis to your story. I do recommend to start working on the synopsis even before you start working on the script. Just as basic guidelines. You will be allowed to change it while you are writing.


Organizing Video & Footage in Your Video Editing Software

How To Organise You Video Editing files 

amarotFinding a system to organised your video editing files should be the first thing you do after opening your video editor software. It doesn’t matter what video editing software you are using – movie maker, Avid or Premier, every video editor knows that organising video and footage should be done even before capturing or importing the material.

Finding the strategy to organised your clips will make you work a lot better and faster. If you are working on very small projects right now, you might not see the need for organized files, but you should build the habit of organized work, so you won’t be in shock when big projects will come along.

Here are some organizing tips to get started:

Working With Tapes & SD cards

If you are working with tapes, you should start by giving them names (actually, it was the cinematographer’s job, but it’s your job to make sure he did it and that the names are clear enough for you). These tapes (or SD cards) are what you are getting from the field, so it’s very important to give them the attention they need. When you will start capturing the tapes, you will write the name of each tape you are recording on, so later on when you will need to re-capture everything (maybe to capture again in better quality or maybe just because the media files got lost), you will not have a problem.

Managing & organizing the clips

The clips will be named after the scene’s number, the shot’s number and the take’s number, so it can be something like 05-06-03, which means scene 5 – shot 6 – take 3. Keep the names short.

If you already know the material, most video editing software (like Avid) will give you the option to color the clips in a different color like green for good takes and red color for bad takes. Now I’m going to make a folder called RAW MATERIALS and to put all the bins inside it. 

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Organizing video in bins and folders

Now you need to decide how you want to capture/Import the materials into the bins. Personally, I like to organize the bins first by the days of shooting. For example, If I have 3 tapes on shooting day 1, they will all be placed in the “Day 1” bin. All the tapes of the next shooting day will be placed on the “Day 2” bin and etc.
After I will finish all the capturing/importing, I’ll usually make another folder called “Editor” or “Work” and then I’ll copy all of the clips to new bins which will be organized by scenes. Later on, you’ll also have to make a bin for graphics, audio and everything else that is not your video files. If you want, you can also make a bin for bloopers or behind the scenes shots.

Another tip is to give numbers to your folders, for example, 01_Media, 02_Audio,03_GFX and etc. That way the video editing software will organize the folders in the order you want them to be. It is also recommended to have a bin called Master or Current Edit, and to put in it the last version of the edited sequence.

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No matter what strategy, you choose, you must be consistent with it. If something doesn’t work for you, you can change it, but make sure you are changing all the material. I would love to hear how you are managing you video & footage in your video editing software, so you can answer me in the comment section.

Basic Tips for Lighting Setup


The Basics of lighting A scene

In this article I’m going to give you some basic tips for lighting setup in a scene. Lighting is one of the important tools the cinematographer can use to tell the story. When lighting is made correctly, you can use it to say a lot about your characters, about the film’s theme and atmosphere, the emotional mood of the scene, and more. You can also control the colours of the set and create depth to the picture. When working on lighting for a scene, there is no time for experiments. You have to know what you want and go after it.

Study classical art

Watch some important paintings. You will be amazed how they use light to tell a story in one frame.

Color Balance

The first thing you need to do before you start working with the light in the scene is to color balance the colors in your camera. This is a step cinematographer can skip id they want to create a special effect, but when you aiming for realistic lighting, you should balance the colors first. Most cameras have a Color balance or White balance button. They usually will have at least two standards: One daylight (5500k) and one for indoor light (3200k).

Adjusting The Monitor

When you start planning your lighting in the location, you should make sure your monitor is adjusted. You have to make sure you see all the colors in the palette. It is very important because you are going to see how things will look with that monitor and you want to have a true picture.

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Know all the Scene Details

Before starting the work on the scene, you need to have details about the scene (If you came prepared then you already know these answers). You do need to know stuff like what time of day is the scene happening, Where is it happening? How many actors are in the scene? How big the frame is and where the camera is going to stand? You also should watch a rehearsal, you need to see where everyone is standing and walking.

Use a Light Meter

for professional cinematography (film or video), you will need a proper light meter. The light meter will help you to measure the amount of light in the shot.

Today there are many cameras with a light meter built in them, but they are known to not be accurate many times. A hand-held light meter will give you much more details than the one in the camera will. It doesn’t cost much (shouldn’t be more than 300$) and your picture will have better pictures. I’m probably going to post about how to use a hand-held light meter, but I’m sure the guy in the store will explain it also (let me know if you want me to write about it soon)

Lighting The Scene

First look for interesting elements you can use in the scene. Stuff like candle light, lamp; window and etc. Your next step is to turn off all the lights in the location until you have a complete darkness. Then we simply light one lamp at a time and see how it helps us.

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On the next cinematography course post, I’m going to write about the basic light positioning for lighting a scene. For now I advise you to exercise by shooting under different lightings- natural or indoor. Try to shoot in as many locations as you can and try to learn why each picture turned out the way it did. If it’s possible, try even different weather conditions.

Recommended Books

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Documentary Storytelling

How To Tell A Story In A Documentary Film

A good story is a must in documentary films. You might have an interesting story, but that’s not enough. If you have a good story, your movie won’t be only interesting, but also unforgettable.

Here are all the stages of developing your documentary film’s story:

Find an idea for your documentary film

Observe the world around you. Everywhere you will look there is a story to tell, and every story is representing a bigger story. Keep a journal and write every idea you head. Now:
you never know when you will get back to those ideas so write the idea in detail. Things that are obvious to you now, might not be that obvious when you’ll come back to them after a few months.
Another good advice is to start reading newspapers and magazines. If you want to tell a story about real life, you got to look for it in real life.
You should have a lot of passion for your idea.

Developing the idea

The important thing to think about, when you are working on a new documentary idea, is how can I sell this movie and to whom? Let’s face it- you are going to need money to make that movie. A documentary might take years to shoot and even more, years to edit- it’s going to cost you. So thinking about your potential finders can really help you to understand how your film should look like. You need to have a general idea about it, don’t go into deep details. Unlike in fiction, documentary films are usually much more flexible with their structure, but you do need to think about what your documentary financiers might want to achieve from the film? Who is your target audience? and etc.

The next thing you need to think about is your point of view in the story. This is a very important part because this is the message your movie will deliver. I recommend reading the find your own voice article, but for now, I will tell you that to do that you need to look at the conflicts of the story and the main character and to think what’s your honest opinion about them.

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You can’t go into the script writing a stage without doing a research on the subject first. While you are doing the research, you can start working on a few very general storylines for your film.

Writing the documentary script

The documentary story structure has the same principles that every good story should have in any form of art: The 3 stages- beginning, middle and end(not always told in chronological order), a character that growths and changes as it confronts obstacles, a point of view, a climax and a resolution. The difference between documentary and fiction is that a documentary film deals with facts and not fiction. I will talk about those things in the “Script Writing Classes” section later on,
but for now, you will need to know that:

The beginning is the part that introduces us to the characters, their world and their main conflict. It is also the part that needs to hook the audience to the movie and to let them know what kind of film it is going to be.
The middle part is the part where you will probably won’t have a lot to write about. Many documentary directors have a problem with writing this part, but it is important that you will at least have a list of logic scenes that will prove your message of the film. This will help you to stay focused and not to wander all over the place. When planning the middle part, I would divide it also to a beginning, middle and end.
The climax- The last conflict our main character is going to deal with before the end part comes. It should be a very big conflict.
The end is the conclusion of the film. The ending should still be following the mood and atmosphere of all the film. It should be, as Aristotle said, ‘inevitable’ and ‘unexpected.’

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The characters

you want your characters to have some kind of journey with obstacles, but that’s not enough. You need them to have another narrative in their life. You need characters that have an interesting backstory. Sometimes you might find yourself shooting 10 characters with the same story just to find the one or two that you will need.
As long as your actor is able to take action, you can use every character you want. The character also needs to change throughout the film.

Writing a script for the documentary is very hard, but you must have at least a general idea about it so you will be more focused on the shooting. that will save you time and money in the shooting and editing stages and will improve your film.