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    How to Write (Proper Format) Feature Film Treatments?
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    I have been hanging around here for a while, never had a question that couldn't be answered by reading old threads so I never registered. But now I do, hopefully you all know the answer because days of Googling have failed to turn up an answer.

    So I have this script that I have been working on for the last year or so. Its a good, wholesome All-American story destined for a PG rating. I have engaging characters, a powerful story where the dreams of a child come true against all the odds, I have multiple subplots and fast pace. A small amount of family humor, its just a good family film. My script cover to cover is the perfect 110 page length. Its polished and ready to be shopped around. I have re-written at least 10 times, had it read by friends, family and even paid a retired English teacher read it for spelling and proper English and mark it up.

    My writing process is somewhat crazy, as I went straight to writing the script from a bulleted list outline of scenes and another of my cast. I skipped the index cards and all of that. That process works for me, so I see no need to change it. However, it has presented somewhat of a problem. I also skipped writing the treatment.

    Supposedly, the thing should include a treatment when I shop it around to agents. That makes sense to me and I disagree with the few folks who say its not needed, they seem to be in the minority and most of the books I have read recommend against going without the treatment. They say that the readers generally do not even read your actual script unless the treatment gets them interested, so in effect the treatment sells the script.

    But I cannot find any guidelines on how to format the treatment except the most vague of descriptions. I also have not been able to find any samples of treatments other than a single two page synopsis. Its my understanding that treatments and synopsis are not the same. The synopsis is generally two pages long whereas treatments are usually more than two pages and as long as 30 pages, with the average being somewhere between 12 and 15 pages.

    Does anyone know of a guide on how to properly write these? Or better yet, anyone have some samples of treatments that were used to successfully sell a script? Any help that comes my way on this topic I'll be eternally grateful for.


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    If you already have a script, no one will read a full "treatment." They'll just read the script! Treatments (in the "traditional" sense of the term*) are boring and awful to read. Are you sure you don't mean a "synopsis" when you say treatment? You know like a one or two page pitch? That way someone can just get the heart of the script by reading a page or two, to see if (a) you can even write one page, (b) is the genre of interest, (c) is there something else of interest in the story?

    Treatments are the most abused and abusive form of writing in the film industry...as if writing the actual screenplay wasn't abusive enough.


    * I have to put "traditional" in quotes when I refer to a treatment, because NO ONE can agree on what a treatment really is. They serve different purposes for different people and situations. I hate them.


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    Hi Keith,

    As you mentioned there are several opinions about the need for treatments. Here's mine. I find the treatment beneficial before I write the script. My treatments have landed anywhere from 3 pages to 18 pages, depending on the complexity of the story.

    With that said, of the several scripts I've written and the hundreds of query letters I have sent to countless agents and production companies, a treatment was requested once. And it just so happened I didn't have one ready for that script, so I took a couple hours and wrote one for him. No big deal and definitely not something you need to do until it is requested, as it's never requested, in my case anyway.

    Don't get me wrong, there will be certain circumstances when they simply don't have the time to cover a full script but keep in mind, if you have a great query letter, they'll want to read your script. Not to mention most producers and agents set aside time to do this, afterall, they're looking for a script! There's that occasional busy producer that's NOT looking right now but says, hey, I like this logline, send me a quick treatment. Make sense?

    As for samples, google is your friend. I googled "sample screenplay treatment" and found several. here's one I quickly pulled up:
    http://members.tripod.com/~e-luttrel...eatment-2.html

    I briefly read it and though it's not the best treatment in the world, you'll get the idea. There are not specific "treatment rules", and yes, it's really just an extended more in depth synopsis, hitting key points through your script. Good luck man and keep us posted on your journey.

    -a


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    Quote Originally Posted by sean90291 View Post
    If you already have a script, no one will read a full "treatment." They'll just read the script! Treatments (in the "traditional" sense of the term*) are boring and awful to read. Are you sure you don't mean a "synopsis" when you say treatment? You know like a one or two page pitch? That way someone can just get the heart of the script by reading a page or two, to see if (a) you can even write one page, (b) is the genre of interest, (c) is there something else of interest in the story?

    Treatments are the most abused and abusive form of writing in the film industry...as if writing the actual screenplay wasn't abusive enough.


    * I have to put "traditional" in quotes when I refer to a treatment, because NO ONE can agree on what a treatment really is. They serve different purposes for different people and situations. I hate them.
    Nope, I don't have them confused and I am aware of the differences. My understanding (which very well may be incorrect) is that the treatment is the step between the query letter/synopsis and the script. Its what gets them to request the script. I am also under the impression that readers don't read scripts, they read treatments and proceed to the script only if the treatment gets them interested.

    I think you're right about the confusion surrounding treatments. I did quite a bit of searching and never did find two people who agreed on the topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by alveraz View Post
    Hi Keith,

    As you mentioned there are several opinions about the need for treatments. Here's mine. I find the treatment beneficial before I write the script. My treatments have landed anywhere from 3 pages to 18 pages, depending on the complexity of the story.

    With that said, of the several scripts I've written and the hundreds of query letters I have sent to countless agents and production companies, a treatment was requested once. And it just so happened I didn't have one ready for that script, so I took a couple hours and wrote one for him. No big deal and definitely not something you need to do until it is requested, as it's never requested, in my case anyway.

    Don't get me wrong, there will be certain circumstances when they simply don't have the time to cover a full script but keep in mind, if you have a great query letter, they'll want to read your script. Not to mention most producers and agents set aside time to do this, afterall, they're looking for a script! There's that occasional busy producer that's NOT looking right now but says, hey, I like this logline, send me a quick treatment. Make sense?

    As for samples, google is your friend. I googled "sample screenplay treatment" and found several. here's one I quickly pulled up:
    http://members.tripod.com/~e-luttrell0/scripttreatment-2.html

    I briefly read it and though it's not the best treatment in the world, you'll get the idea. There are not specific "treatment rules", and yes, it's really just an extended more in depth synopsis, hitting key points through your script. Good luck man and keep us posted on your journey.

    -a
    I saw that link (and some other stuff like it) and I was like "No way this can be used as a template to work from, it looks awful! This must be something someone cooked up for high school, or something. No way that this can be what I am looking for."

    So what I am hearing is that what I am looking for does not exist? No nice, neat little template I can borrow that makes it all look nice? No accepted standard for treatment layout? No margin and font specs? Every other part of the process has very throughly defined proper layout and I just found it hard to believe that this was exempt from all that. Heck, even query letters have an accepted structure and general layout.

    So in essence, I am free to come up with a document, call it my treatment and present it in whatever manner I find is most visually efficient?

    Thanks for the wishes of good luck. Much appreciated. No one gets anywhere in this business without a hearty helping of that, so I'll take all I can get! :-)


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    I've always been told not to turn in a treatment since it is not a template format without guidelines and they can be all over the map...anywhere from 3- 100 pages....covering anything and everything that's in the script and more. I normally view treatments as something used to build up to the script...not something you want others to get their hands on. Usually the top agents go from a letter/referral to a synopsis to a pitch to the script.


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    Senior Member alveraz's Avatar
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    There are no "templates" but that's not to say there is no structure. Let me clarify. Here is something I found that lays it out nice and easy for you.

    It is useful to write a script treatment before writing a screenplay. The treatment provides a rough overview of the screenplay and is stylistically similar to a short story.

    A treatment is usually several pages long and describes the main action sequences. Brief lines of dialogue can be included in these sequences to emphasize key moments of action.

    When outlining your treatment, list and describe the most important elements of your story:


    1. The main conflict.
    2. The person, place, or thing that is the subject of your story.
    3. Each action sequence.
    4. The main characters.
    5. The climax, which is the confrontation between the hero and the villain.
    6. The resolution of the main conflict.

    Define the main conflict by asking yourself why your hero and villain fight with each other.

    Define the subject of your story by asking yourself whether the main characters in your story experience conflict as a result of a person, place, or thing.

    Define each main action sequence by describing the action that takes place, the location of the action, the characters involved, and the conflict.

    Define the main characters by describing their physical appearance,
    the way they interact with other characters, the role they play in
    the story, and their family history.

    Define the climax by describing the action sequence in which your
    hero and villain have a final confrontation with each other. The
    confrontation can be a physical and/or verbal battle.

    Define the resolution by describing what happens to your main
    characters after the climax.

    Writing a comprehensive script treatment can help you outline your
    screenplay. This outline will serve as a guide as you write the scenes
    in your screenplay.


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    Supposedly, the thing should include a treatment when I shop it around to agents. That makes sense to me and I disagree with the few folks who say its not needed, they seem to be in the minority and most of the books I have read recommend against going without the treatment. They say that the readers generally do not even read your actual script unless the treatment gets them interested, so in effect the treatment sells the script.
    Keith,

    The above quoted is wrong on many fronts.

    I know you mentioned books that support treatments to go with scripts. What books are these?

    In the probably thousands of queries (loglines) that I've sent, only say 2 producers requested to read a treatment before the script. The other hundreds requested straight away to read the actual script.

    Agents, managers, lawyers, execs can only sell your spec script and not your treatment (unless you are an establish pro) so 99.5% of producers want to read a script and not the treatment (which lets face is is more of a planning tool than a marketing one at this stage in the game).

    EJ
    Last edited by EJ Pennypacker; 06-13-2008 at 10:10 AM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kess View Post
    I've always been told not to turn in a treatment since it is not a template format without guidelines and they can be all over the map...anywhere from 3- 100 pages....covering anything and everything that's in the script and more. I normally view treatments as something used to build up to the script...not something you want others to get their hands on. Usually the top agents go from a letter/referral to a synopsis to a pitch to the script.
    OK, then my understanding was incorrect. Not the first time, probably not thew last, either. Thanks for setting me straight.

    Quote Originally Posted by EJ Pennypacker View Post
    I know you mentioned books that support treatments to go with scripts. What books are these?
    I am away from home at the moment doing my day job (you know, the one that feeds me until I manage to figure this all out, lol) so I don't have my bookshelf with me. I'll get back to you with the full list if you like, but one that sticks out was 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend by Jennifer Lerch, ISBN: 978-0684856407. There were others and that book did help me quite a bit as I have worked on this thing over the last several months.

    Ok, so it sounds like what I am hearing is that since I have a polished script thats ready to be shopped, I can start shopping it and start working on my next one. Which is good because I just had a killer idea this evening and hammered out an outline for it, I think it could possibly be workable. I am thankful for my mind, it always gives me ideas. I wish I had more time and more dexterity in my fingers so that I could commit them to text before I begin suffering from carpel tunnel too badly.


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    While I'd agree that there are various treatment formats and styles based on the needs of the reader and standards within cultural ecosystems, certainly a solid treatment may be a prerequisite to promoting the script. A typical treatment synopsis might be 3-4 pages, with the underlying treatment running about 30 pages.

    There are tons of books, website links, postings in our dvxuser forums, scriptwriting teaching methods (Syd Field, Robert McGee, etc), and even entire books dedicated to treatments (as "Writing Treatments That Sell).

    Looking in my local files, I see I've downloaded about a dozen treatments from major movie pictures (Aliens, Chinatown, ET, Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Groundhog Day, Lord Of The Rings, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, Terminator, Thelma And Louise, etc). Poke around the web for sites that host movie scripts and you'll find these and more.

    At any rate, I'm certainly of a different opinion that those that scoff at treatments because it's not a one-tool-fits-all. Some of us see the treatment synopsis as a prerequisite to the initial scriptwriting process.

    IMHO, it's a shame some scriptwriters invest untold time falling in love with their scripted words while the foundational structure (treatment) will never sell. If you haven't done so, read (or listen to) Robert McGee's "Story" to reinforce why treatments not only work for him but hundreds of award-winning scriptwriters.

    Okay, I'm turning over the soapbox to y'all.

    Warm Regards, Michael


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    It's also worth thinking of researching your idea to see if it's been done before or recently sold or is in development.

    Checking sites like:

    www.imdb.com

    www.donedealpro.com (pay $23 and then search their extensive SALES SECTION)

    www.trackingb.com (older 2 wk posts are free to view, but the SEARCH option is handy).

    And AICN site.

    EJ


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