Screenwriting : Writing synopsis for ensemble pilot. (Need some new insight.) by Cherie Grant

Cherie Grant

Writing synopsis for ensemble pilot. (Need some new insight.)

So this is a script I've mentioned before. I'm writing a synopsis and have come to a problem thanks to a friend helping me. Now I know usually a tv show has to have ONE main character even if it is an ensemble. I wrote my pilot from an idea seeded by a photo on pintarest of four women (sisters). It came to me rather quickly and while I did outline I have really struggled to decide which character should be THE main character. It was down to two. The eldest and youngest, who will become a temporary villain down the road. So I chose the eldest and jiggled a couple scenes to make her more prominent. The issue is in writing the synopsis, friend says I have to write from one person's view. The protagonist. Well the other sister has some major plot points that should be mentioned. So I don't know what to do. Am I to rewrite the whole bloody thing? That plot point is always going to belong to younger sister. Trust me. It can't be anyone else. BUT the elder sister is the only one who can participate in other important factors of the story. Have I screwed myself or is my friend being super rigid? This is the best work I've done so far and I'm so proud of myself. Never thought I'd do a period piece let alone gothic horror. Would love your views if you can make sense of my loooong post. (sorry)

Elisabeth Meier

Well, what is wrong is that it should be written from one person's view. A synopsis of a screenplay is a kind of appetizer for producers, directors etc. Hence, it must be written and told very well. They must get the idea, but also work up curiosity and long for reading more. As if you offer them the best ice cream in the world - but just a teaspoon of it.

For further details how to reach this please check what advice and instruction you can find online. There are hundreds of websites if you search for "how to write a screenplay synopsis". See here:

(read the details under "explore this article"). Good luck and all the best!

Bill Costantini

You're the creator, and you get to choose how to play that out. There are plenty of ensemble shows/films where it's more evenly distributed. And sometimes the POV is really the filmmaker's POV, observing the going's-on of the characters, documentary/cinema verite style. And there are also ensemble shows/films where it's centered around one. You get to choose how you want to do it.

Best fortunes to you in your creative endeavors, Cherie.

Patricia Zell

It's commonly understood that there are sub-plots in any story. In a synopsis, the summary should be about the main plot. If the main plot has any interaction between the sisters, you might consider including that interaction in the synopsis with something like this: "Older sister confronts younger sister--who has her own issues--which leads to an agreement to confront their parents."

Cherie Grant

Thanks everyone. Elisabeth Meier, I have googled synopsis and read a few articles. Whilst helpful there's nothing about ensembles, particularly and I really wanted to read one to see how it was tackled. Thanks Bill Costantini. I know shows that are more evenly distributed, like Downton Abbey, but finding the synopsis for that show would be a miracle. Patricia Zell, I did just that, but my friend berated me and told me to get rid of it and I'm really not sure what to do at this point. I've racked my brains about how to change this story to meet his view, which I don't actually disagree with, but I do love being a rule breaker. Obviously one wants to know EXACTLY what is going on in the minds of the producer your sending your synopsis to. I either don't include important aspects of my story plot or rewrite the script somehow. That would probably require so much change as to make it a completely different story. GAH! SCREENWRITING! Believe me, people, if I am asking a question here or anywhere, it's because I can't find the answer I want with Google. I kinda still don't know what to do. I think ore Rum and coke will tell me.

Joleene Moody

Try and find the synopsis for Orange is the New Black or Game of Thrones. It sounds like you are writing a collective journey, as opposed to a hero's journey. That's what these shows are, the collective journey. Reading these synopsis could be helpful.

Margaret Lindsay Holton

Hi all, I've got a similar problem. I'm trying to generate a 'collective journey' that spans several generations. It's a challenging but engaging problem ... I wonder Cherie, if it might help you to outline the arc of each character's journey in point form and THEN generate a synopsis? I've generated a 'visual map' that's really helped to synthesize the key characters points. I've also outlined nine summarized episodes. Keeping it very brief, it's also allowed me to get a better sense of the overall 'theme' that I do want to maintain throughout the whole episodic series. Breaking it down into manageable units has really helped a great deal. -- Good luck! Fun stuff!

Dan MaxXx

What’s your friend’s tv experience? If friend writes tv for a living, why wouldn’t you listen to advice from insiders?

Cherie Grant

Because Dan, he hasn't been in the industry for some years. He was part of writer's room for Fresh Prince. I DO listen to him, but that doesn't mean he's right about everything and there's no harm in talking to other people. He can't solve all my problems. That said my writing has greatly improved since our time together. He was writing books when I met and I encouraged him to go back to tv and films and he's recalibrating himself. He has absolutely been so very helpful. I just have some things to figure out and want to talk about it.

Cherie Grant

Hi Joleene Moody, I've so far been unable to track down authentic synopsis of anything. imdb just has submissions from viewers as far as I can see and very few submitted synopsis and rarely are they actually a synopsis. Do you know where I could find your recommendations?

Cherie Grant

Thanks Margaret, yes I have outlined the arcs. I know the pilot story very well in my head anyway. My issue is really a matter of can I write the synopsis with my current script or do I have to fundamentally rewrite? I suppose if I could afford a script consultant they could help, but not these days. :( If you'd like to chat about the challenges of ensemble casts shoot me a pm.

Dan MaxXx
Cherie Grant

Thanks Dan for sharing. I'll have a look through.

Bill Costantini

Not to bombard you with more pilot scripts, Cherie, but you can find some more here. Some of the links might not be working, and some on ScriptReaderPro are not pilots, but many are.

Hope these also help you, and best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Cherie!

Cherie Grant

One can never be bombarded with samples. Thank you Bill.

Stevan Šerban

I did not understand why you need a synopsis?

If you have a great TV pilot there are professionals who will do it for you. But how much did I understand you still have some dilemmas about the script itself?

You also mention the synopsis as an instrument by which you would offer your TV pilot to producers. How to offer a TV pilot about whom you have some dilemmas? Your question is confusing me.

If you need a synopsis to easily finish writing a TV pilot, then search on the net, or see as much as possible pilot episodes of existing TV shows.

But if you need a synopsis to present your TV pilot to producers and managers, then you must have a hell of a good TV pilot.

If you have a hell of a good pilot for TV, then find a service that will do it professionally for you, as I already said.

Not only that, but you have to have at least two hell of a good TV pilots, because the first question that the producer will ask you is: "What else do you have?"

Cherie Grant

Steve, producers prefer to read loglines and synopsis before reading a script. That is why I have to write it. I have answered your other questions in previous posts so won't repeat myself. If you read again you will see I have said I looked online for synopsis samples. I haven't found any so far, not even via links offered. Though I am still looking and those links I will keep anyway. I don't need more pilot samples. I have relevant pilot samples. I need proper synopsis samples, which I cannot find for Tv pilot pitches. NOT movies. I have seen synopsis, which are actually blurbs or treatments or outlines. It seems not many people know how to write them. Thanks for your interest all the same.

Beth Fox Heisinger

The terms “synopsis” and “treatment” are often used interchangeably. That said, I often have more luck searching for treatments and pitches when seeking synopsis examples. That and production notes for various things—studio write ups for a film, for example. Have you looked through John August’s website library? He has pitch documents for TV that contain series and/or episode summaries. I don’t know if you’ll find something specifically labeled “tv synopsis.” Most that I have found are part of a pitch document or a series bible. I think if you look through those types of documents and pick them apart, you’ll find what you are looking for. Look through TV Some bibles there with a synopsis. Me, I’m more of a feature writer, so I do hope that helps you some, Cherie. :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Oh, and my two cents... I think your friend is being too rigid. ;)

Cherie Grant

Thanks Beth. Still looking around. Am reading A LOT of things right now. I'll try googling treatments and pitches. I've read through two show bibles so far. Bunch of tv pilots. Movie synopsis or two, but nothing that helps me in the way that I want, but I guess that's how it goes. In the end I'll just have to make a decision and go ahead with fingers crossed that I was right. I'm very much in two minds about what to do. And yes, I agree about my friend. He can be about a lot of things.

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