Screenwriting : Treatments? by Rick Hardin

Rick Hardin


I was wondering how many screenwriters have treatments for their scripts. I see the need for loglines, the pitch on paper and Synopsys but are treatments really needed? Do the readers ask for them?

Ginger Marin

Treatments are not needed for readers or agents - they want a logline and script. Finance people will ask for a synopsis. My partner and I only wrote one treatment which was for our own benefit as a prelude to our fashioning the story into a script. We did show it to an agent so he could get sense of our writing ability. But, it's the script that matters.

Allison Bruning

I use them. I had a producer the other day ask for the treatment of the script was interested in after seeing my one sheet.

Orianna Morales

Here's the thing to remember, Rick. You always want to be prepared. If your target audience, ie a producer, doesn't even have a minute but liked your elevator pitch, you can offer a treatment. Is it needed? Well, no. But, do you want to be a scout, always ready? Of course. So, it doesn't hurt to have it.

Kevin K. Jones

Rick, I write treatments for my stories before ever writing the actual script. I want to throw *everything in beforehand, and believe it helps me distill it all into a solid script. That said, imagine it's rare to be asked for one— but it's there if a producer/reader ever wants to see it!

Orianna Morales

Well, a treatment has multiple uses. Not to mention it is a level above synopsis. A well written one should be the marketing piece. A treatment also tells me where I can best recommend editing. A synopsis wouldn't do that too well. Yes, ultimately the script matters. But why do double duty when you can start diagnosing with a treatment?

Sandra Campbell

Question: What do you put in your one-sheet as a screenwriter? Also, how long should a treatment be? I've read it should be 3 to 5 pages. Thanks!

Orianna Morales

Sandra, I'd recommend you check out Danny Manus's blog @nobullscript.

Sandra Campbell

Thanks Orianna. I used to read his blog posts on The Business of Show Institute weekly newsletter. I really like his style.

JC Young

Be prepared to write one if you've not though. Out of the blue, someone may read your logline and ask for a treatment. It's may not be often but not good to be caught without it. And like some others have said, starting with a treatment is a good way to get your idea structured. You might have a great action set or a line you don't want to forget as you're laying it out. Then, when you start you've got a lot of the hard stuff done.

Emi Sano

I hate writing treatments, but I feel like it's the best way to go if you want to just write out your story. Outlines and treatments helped me out on my thesis feature script. I have a hard time condensing to three pages, but if someone requires it at least you'll have something to work off of and send right away!

Rene Claveau

I recommend writing treatments for a couple of reasons. First, for yourself, it's better to work out the story in a treatment, to flesh out the scenes, and to focus on thoughts and feelings so when it comes time to write the script your subtext is right there on the page. I'd rather spend a couple of weeks writing and re-ordering a treatment than spend a few months writing the script only to have to change things around then. Plus, writing the script from a well-developed treatment is a breeze and cuts the writing time down considerably since you've already figured out what each scene looks and feels like. Your first draft will be significantly better since all your focus is on the writing and the dialogue. The second reason is to get used to doing it because if you get writing assignments the producers and studios are probably going to want to see the treatment first, especially if there's competition for the writing job. Do you want to wait until then to figure out how to write an effective and engaging treatment?

Rick Hardin

Hi Thanks for all your input!!! The way I right is by first doing a detailed outline which is usually 2-3 pages. This outline is strictly for me and is definitely something I wouldn’t share with an agent or a client. When I jump into the script I follow the outline but I don’t let it constrain me if the story wants to go in a different direction. Therefore writing a treatment before I write the script doesn’t really work for me. By the time I run through a couple of drafts and re-writes the outline is outdated (as would a treatment if I did that first). So I know writing a treatment before the script wouldn't work for me, it’d feel like I’d have to do 2 re-writes instead of one. I can see where it would might be needed so as many of you have said It’d be better to have one then scramble to write one in a couple of days.

Bob Corso

Can someone tell me what is the difference between a synopsis and a treatment? Seems to me they are practically one and the same. ???

Rick Hardin

A synopsis is usually less than a page no more then a page and a half and hits all the major plot points in your story. I usually make mine three paragraphs, one for each act. A treatment is longer and describes every scene but has little or no dialogue. You’d only add dialogue that has a very pronounced importance to the film and then it’d be only one line. Treatments can be anywhere from 2 or 3 pages or more. In the treatment for Terminator that James Cameron wrote is something like 31 pages long.

Ginger Marin

A synopsis is written AFTER the screenplay is done - a wrap up of what the script is about - 1-2 pages tops. A treatment is written BEFORE the screenplay and is a detailed outline of how you plan to execute the screenplay including all the beats of each of the acts, opening and closing images, etc. My partner and I just completed a treatment for a screenplay based on a true story and it's 26 pages double-spaced for easy reading.

Orianna Morales

Well, more to the point, a treatment is a selling piece.

Steven Seidman

Exactly, I just wrote a treatment with my Co-writer to get investors into our project.

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