Retrospective: Why Write a Film Treatment?

Lisbon 9
*Why this image for this article?

I finished writing my first proper script treatment last night and pressed send. I emailed myself a copy too so that I have an exact record of what I have sent.  With excitement I opened the email to myself and read the first line. A massive typo. It is always the way. No matter how many times I read and re-read the draft, it is only when I read the sent copy that I can be objective about my own work. I quickly did the amendment and rushed off a second email with an apology and a request to ignore the first email. When a few hours later I read the second submission, I had amended the word incorrectly. I left it at that and hoped that the reader will see past the error in the first line.

I want to look back at my scriptwriting experience and share what I have learnt about film treatments. I completed my first script last year and being a novice writer, wrote lots and ended up with a script that somewhere in the 120 pages had a half-decent story. After endless re-writes with god knows how many hours of typing late into the night, the input of an excellent script developer, and some hefty editing, the resulting script had some redeeming qualities that achieved it a place on the BBC Writer’s Room Drama Long List this year. I am going to say it,  I am proud of that badge.

This time I wanted to write to go about writing a script in a more effective way. Instead of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack, the haystack my original full script, I was going to start with the needle and select which bits of hay I wanted to present it in.

I researched what a treatment is, on line and what stood out for me was a phrase, a treatment is to a screenplay, what a screenplay is to the film. It is a template. It allows you to test out your story and shape it while it is still capable of being captured in your mind in one go.

I had the whiff of an idea that could be a story. I used Viki King’s book, How to Write a Movie in 21 Days,  which I had previously read cover to cover, but this time dipped in to whatever felt useful. Early on in the book she suggests going to see a film and noting what happens at specific points and what captures the audience’s attention. I used these prompts to consider my own proposed story as if it was the film I was watching and wrote a treatment.

A trusted friend read the treatment and questioned some of the harsh angles in the story and whether that was my intent. I was able to go back and have a look with a fresh eye and tweak the tone fo the film to get to the essence of what I was aiming for. Adjusting the treatment gave me so much more flexibility and control then trying to tweak a full-length, formatted script.

After two weeks of daily writing in my spare time, I have a ten page treatment, a one page outline and a logline. I hope to work with my script developer and over a few months turn this into a full screenplay.

*This image reminded me of how a story comes together for me. Writers work in different ways but my vision is to see things that, from a certain angle, seem to align and dotted together create a simple plot.



2 thoughts on “Retrospective: Why Write a Film Treatment?

  1. Thanks Roger! I agree, it does help to have time away and also reading on paper rather than laptop but the cheeky little so and so’s still sneak through!

    I will check out the site you suggest! I have been away from WordPress for a bit as busy with other writing! I am shocked that Word and Photo
    Prompt has ended! But why?? Please do let me know if you know why! Saddened from Buckinghamshire ;-(


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