I got this question recently:

“What is the difference between a screenplay treatment and screenplay synopsis?”

Typically a treatment is a much longer and more detailed description of the screenplay than a synopsis.

Treatments are often written before the script is written as a guide for the screenwriter and producer so that the screenwriter doesn’t waste time writing a draft that the producer isn’t going to like. In fact many paid writing assignments have a payment schedule which includes the treatment as a step towards the first draft. I’m a big proponent of outlining your story before turning it into a screenplay, but there really isn’t a good reason to write up a formal treatment if you’re writing your screenplay on spec.

Typically a synopsis will be a less than one page summation of your screenplay’s story. As of right now, I recommend only including a log line in your query letter, not a full 1 page (or shorter) synopsis. What I’ve found is that if the log line is good that’s enough to get a script request, and giving them more than that just gives them more reasons to say “no.”

In some cases a producer or reader will ask for a short synopsis of your screenplay to read before they agree to read the entire script. So it’s good to have one written. I also include synopses of all my scripts on my screenwriter website so if a producer is checking out my site they can get a good feel for which projects might be right for them. I also feel like a short synopsis really helps you boil your story down and decide what’s important, so it can be a very helpful tool in trying to do re-writes, too. Also, in the event that you option or sell your screenplay, almost certainly the producer will want a short synopsis to help him raise financing. And if you have a well written synopsis ready to go, that can prove helpful.

There really is no exact definition or specific requirements (that I’ve ever heard) that defines what a treatment is or what a synopsis is, but that’s the gist of it.

Check out my post Writing a synopsis for your screenplay if you have any questions about how to write your synopsis.

2 thoughts on “What’s the difference between a screenplay synopsis and a screenplay treatment”
  1. So, once we have the perfect, one page query that includes a brief synopsis, where do we find the email address, if we prefer to send them that way? Is there an online list? Should we call agencies and production companies and ask?

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