Writing screenplay treatments


This is for all those guys out there who have been asking to write something about treatments-
If the whole scriptwriting business is a game of chess, treatments are your foot soldiers. Most of the (meaningful) interactions which you do in the film industry will be with the help of treatments. Well, earlier you swallow this bitter pill, the better for you- No one has the time or inclination to read a 120 page screenplay to find out whether you have got it. Basically no one here is into reading anything except their own twitters.
So, what is a treatment? One doesn’t have to be dogmatic about what it is or what it should be. But basically for me, it includes the basic story of the whole movie. The premise, important beats, twists and turns. What treatment tries to do is to impart the experience of what it would be like reading your script or hearing your story- with much less time and effort. I don’t use dialogue usually, but at certain places it helps. My treatments doesn’t cover all the scenes, but all sequences will be there. Usually my treatments are around 3-5 pages long. I have read about people who write 22 page treatments also. But my advice would be to keep it short. That’s the point of this whole notion of writing treatments, isn’t it?
Treatments are not only for sending out feelers. It will serve as a blue print for yourself while you write the original screenplay. Some thing that you can always go back to, to get the order of things. But it’s most helpful during the process of outlining the script. It’s something that you can play around with, juggling and replacing elements. Imagine doing the same thing in your completed script. It will take more time and effort. So basically I take more time to finalise my 5 page treatment than my 120 page screenplay. And also the stage upto the finishing the treatment involves the most hectic ‘mental weight lifting.’ Once that is done, usually I write screenplay without much effort. And also I don’t change much because I have weighed the pros and cons of every possible change during the outlining stage. That may also be the reason I haven’t abandoned any script half way except my first one (which I didn’t outline). But I have abandoned a lot during the stage of developing treatment. So you can say that whether you can write a comprehensive satisfactory treatment is a litmus test regarding whether your concept is viable.

Photo by KristinaVF

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