The Art of Writing a Treatment


Today we’re going to touch on a topic that you might not necessarily be familiar with: Writing a treatment. Now, I get it: I’ve had that feeling all too well when you sit down to write and before you do, someone tells you that you should write a treatment... But what is a treatment and why are they important?  

Well, a treatment is a document that tells the story idea of your film before you write the entire screenplay. Think of it this way: before you commit to using all your creative juices to crank out a ninety-five page screenplay, wouldn’t you want to test out your idea on a two pager instead? Well, that’s the value of a treatment! Treatments can help you raise money for your film and can also help you sort out your ideas in a way that is beneficial for your story. 

Treatments can also save an industry professional time as they can get an idea about your script and fall in love with it before actually reading it. 

Now, the length of a treatment is debatable. Some say a treatment should be as short as possible - basically an elevator pitch on steroids. A one pager, two at the most. However, the majority of screenwriters usually narrow down their treatment to two to ten pages. I think this is the best option because it gives you time to explain your movie while also preventing your reader from reading too much. 

However, there are instances where a treatment is a scene by scene breakdown of a script. This could be from twenty to thirty pages and cost you a lot of mental exertion. But, if you’re up for the challenge, be my guest! 

When you write your treatment, you want to cover points along the way so your reader knows exactly what they are getting into. This includes your title, logline, your three act descriptions, character descriptions and a short summary. 

After the basics, it’s time to delve into the crux of what your movie is about. For a treatment to be successful, you should first: explain to the reader the world you are building, second: lay out the structure of your story, and third: explain your characters and the journey they will be taking and identify areas where your film will need more fleshing out. 

Side note: if you are curious on what world-building is, please check out the link below on the art of building your world. Shameless plug, I know. Back to the video.  Now, what are some extra tips on perfecting the perfect treatment? Well, you want to excite your reader! How many treatments will studio execs read in a day?  Probably a lot so you want yours to stand out. Use ACTIVE LANGUAGE. You always want your treatment to be in the present tense. 

Be clear and concise. Try not to have huge blocks of text but focus on short paragraphs. You want to Establish the stakes of your story.  Will the princess only have three hours to find her prince? Will the doctor have to perform surgery on his long lost sister? Whatever the stakes are - we want to know! Illustrate your action and make sure you don’t write unnecessary backstory information. 

As a general rule, if you find yourself saying “What happens next is...” just take a breath, delete those words and tell the story.  Now, I know this is all easier said than done so under the comments you will see links to treatment examples from all the movies you love. The best way to get a treatment down is to read lots of them. So, please enjoy these examples and let us know in the comments if they helped! 

Today we learned about the art of writing a treatment. I hope you learned something today. If you want to help us, please leave a comment on what videos you’d like to see next and make sure to like, share and subscribe for more videos like these! And remember, knowledge is power… the more you know, the better you’ll be. Peace.