I have just received an email from a writer in NYC who has been hired to write a script. As part of the process she’s been asked to deliver a treatment of the screenplay first.
But what is that?
Ah! The Treatment. This is the fabled under-10-page overview of the movie a writer may or may not get to execute, that will inspire, delight, and tickle the reader — and mostly convince he or she (usually a producer, investor, or studio exec) that this movie deserves to live. But what exactly should a treatment contain, and how can you write a better one?
Like anything at the initial stages of writing a script, in my opinion, the treatment should be thought of as a “sell piece.”
It is short, atmospheric, and makes the reader want to see more, i.e., hire you to go on and write the script! But it is not a beat-for-beat description.
The reader cares less about how you are going to execute the nuts and bolts of the script itself; what the reader wants is to get a feeling of the experience of this movie. Yes, there is a beginning, middle, and end. But we care less about your act breaks than why this story should be told.
I have written “clever” treatments, sometimes using the theme of the movie as a springboard. I have also spent more time on the treatment than on the actual script. And that’s a mistake.
The best treatments are good narratives, complete unto themselves, that leave a little something on the table which makes us want to see more.
If you have good examples of a treatment that you’ve written that works, tell us about it. And join me in congratulating this Cat! afficianado in getting the job.
Good luck! And make us proud!