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The term treatment is short for "treatment of bullshit" or "treatment of a concept". While standards for screenplay formats and theories on screenplay structures are ten a penny, it's quite difficult to find any agreed-upon approach to treatments. One person's treatment is another's "synopsis", while some people write treatments that look like written-down pitches. What your "treatment" looks like depends on its purpose. In Scr(i)pt magazine (Mar/Apr 2005), John Hill offers "a sample synopsis/treatment" which reads like a written-down pitch. It's about 1500 words (or 5 pages) and it does a great job of explaining the movie. But Hill then says this: "So, why write a synopsis or a treatment? YOU SHOULDN'T. [...] Why not? Because they are the worst of both worlds for a writer with a new movie story to sell. They expose the idea but not in a form where a deal could be made (unless you're an A-list screenwriter already)." I guess the not-so-subtle implication here is that if you're "an A-list screenwriter", you can ditch your subscription to Scr(i)pt. Hill's point is that people who are already wellestablished in the industry can get hired on the basis of a treatment, but for people trying to break in a treatment isn't going to do the business. Well, it's an opinion. Producer/director/writer Cauri Jaye points out that producers just don't have the time to read every script that comes their way, so a treatment can help them decide whether or not to invest the time reading the full script. Arguably, if you can't sell your script via a treatment, then why should anyone believe your script sells a story? And at the very least a treatment gives you a hell of a lot more room to show what you've got besides a bare logline. I asked Hollywood script consultant Craig Kellem what he thought of Hill's position, and Craig said that "it depends on the situation - sometimes it's needed". To develop that idea: where it's needed is where someone asks for one, and is very clear that they won't read a script as an alternative. Where writing a treatment might do you actual creative harm is when you start your passion-project spec. If you're writing a spec script, a good treatment may create a gloss that gets in the way of your creative process. The glare of your sales vehicle can make you botch your craft. (Okay, so it happened to me, you can tell.) Hill recommends that for your own script development purposes you create a simple step outline rather than a treatment. [edit]


A treatment (or script outline) should adhere to the following:

take the reader through the story of the film. It must bring across the characters and events as they will appear in the film. it must not give more information than the audience of the film will have. it should go through each sequence, but does not have to contain every scene. it should come to about 10 pages for a 90 minute feature film (double spaced, 12 pt courier font) You can separate it into acts and sequences (with titles) if it helps. A treatment sells the film to both creative and financial minds, therefore it must: o grip the reader in the first line of the first page. o make the reader want to turn to the next page at the end of every page. o move the action forward and not linger on descriptions


Style notes

Take all of the language into the present tense. i.e. not "We cut to the Police Sergeant Joe Rawlins who is muttering under his breath" but rather "Police Sergeant Joe Rawlins mutters under his breath" Remove any camera instructions to maintain the suspension of disbelief, this also means get rid of lines like "The final scenes include" and "We are now deep into the third act" for the same reason Generally 1 paragraph = 1 scene and you can link them with CUT TO: Use dialogue now and again to help develop the characters and reveal plot points. put dialogue in novel format, i.e. quotes and paragraphs Take out any unnecessary items: for each scene/paragraph ask "does this express conflict" and "does this move the plot forward" if it does not either insert conflict or remove the scene from the treatment (and probably the script) As an addendum to this, keep the most dramatic scenes. This means skip the transitions and skim over the back story. Try and let the background come out as the plot reveals it to the audience Determine the point of view(s) of the story and try to tell it all from that point of view, i.e. do not reveal anything that sHe does not see or will not know very soon. Start on action, not decription. This goes for the treatment as a whole as well as each paragraph.

Do not use details about the funtional characters. In fact you can probably remove them completely from the treatment as you should only reveal the broad strokes. Remember that we want to tease the reader into asking for more detail, i.e. the full screenplay. Remember make it dramatic, dramatic, dramatic. We want to hear Beethoven's 5th in the background as we read, da da da daaaaaaa :-)


It should flow approximately like this (this comes from a textbook on treatment writing, it summarises what I have learned pretty well, so use what you can): Pgs 1-2 act 1 - introduce protagonist - let us know his (his/her) mission - set up the mood - give a hint of the protagonists conflict - introduce the subplot, the plot-line that conflicts with the protagonists misson - Introduce antagonist - The huge event that changes hir life around Pgs 3-6 act 2, part 1 - Protagonist reacts to hir new challenge, and the decisions made lead hir into action - Protagonist starts to develop along hir character arc - give the reader an inkling of what's coming Pgs 7-8 act 2, part 2 - Protagonists reversals continue, until sHe begins to make headway - Around page 8, new information that turns everything 180 degrees and forces hir to face an even greater obsticle than the reader imagined Pgs 9-10 act 2, part 3 - The characters converge - A hint at the moral of the story. Maybe a place where all seems lost, where protagonist feels maybe sHe should give up. here the plot and subplot begin to break up and we get to protagonist's darkest hour - Suddenly something happens and everything changes. The universe gives hir a break. sHe siezes the moment and goes for it. - By page 10 sHe's standing at the crossroads of action. Hir next move will be definitive, the climactic turning point. Will sHe win or lose? Pgs 11-15 act 3 - the crisis is the sequence of scenes in which the final outcome of the story is completely determined by the protagonist's actions. At this point it's like a separate story with its own beginning, middle and end, here we put in all the twists and turns. - the climax is the end of the crisis - the resolution: the final moments (keep this short end quickly and with a dramatic punch) These are just guide points to help you pace a treatment. It will guide you in where you need to reduce the detail and scenes to make things shorter and where you need to add some meat. The screenplay will follow a similar pacing (just with more pages per act of course :-)