Treatment: The blueprint of your entire project
Treat others, the way you want to be treated, right? Well the one I'm referring to is the film 'Treatment,' the blueprint to your entire project. I'm sure you have read of success stories of some of your favorite filmmakers who got their big break by writing a spec screenplay (1*), dropping it off at a famous producer's home, and behold! They have a film in production. Unfortunately, those days are few and far between, nowadays producers, distributors, and actors all have an idea of what kind of projects they want to be involved in. Writing a solid spec screenplay will only prove that you can write but doesn't guarantee that the spec screenplay will get made. However, focusing on writing a solid treatment, which varies between 10 to 20 long will increase your likelihood of it being read (2*). If the producer were to like where the treatment is heading, she or he may then request for the screenplay or better yet, call you in for a meeting. A screenplay is technically "written" 3 times, once by the writer, once by the director, and finally by the editor. The treatment is that one constant that will remain unchanged during the filmmaking process. It serves as a blueprint of your entire project.
With the growth of streaming platforms, there are a lot of opportunities for independent filmmakers to get their movies or TV shows made. However, on the flip side, it also means that the decision-makers (producers and studios) have much lesser time and attention to read your entire screenplay. Do bear in mind that these people have other business and personal matters to attend to, so taking the time off their day to read your screenplay may not be at the top of their priority list. Unless it's a screenplay written or recommended by an established source.
Treatment or Synopsis?
A synopsis is a one- or two-page summary of the plot of your screenplay(3*). There is the short synopsis which you would see at the back of a DVD cover or when scrolling away in IMDB. It’s different from a logline (4*), which is a one- or two-line plot summary in which the focus would be on what the story is ultimately about. The log lines are what you would read when deciding what to watch on your Netflix, Prime Video, or other streaming platforms.
A treatment on the other hand is a document that presents the story idea of your film before writing the entire screenplay. It is a way for writers to flesh out their ideas before spending their time and energy into writing the actual screenplay. Treatments are often written in the present tense, in narrative-like prose, and highlight the most important information about your film, including title, logline, story summary, and character descriptions.
What do Producers look for in a Treatment?
It has been discussed that a writer should be able to write a much better treatment than the screenplay itself. As mentioned before, producers do not have a lot of time (or would rather not) to read an entire screenplay, instead, they rather read a treatment preferably around the 2 to 4-page length. The treatment should allow the reader to envision the world the story is set in, structure the entire story into 4 to 5 acts with each act should being a paragraph long, identify the characters and their importance to the story. It should also clearly identify the 7 plot points of your story (5*).
A screenplay is "written" 3 times, once by the writer, once by the director, and finally by the editor. But the treatment is that one constant that will remain unchanged during the filmmaking process. It serves as a blueprint of your entire project.
What you should not do with your treatment
Do not send it to a producer or a studio unsolicited. It will most likely not be read and you will end up on the banned list. Instead, be polite, and do it the right way, check with their agents, attornies, or assistants before sending the treatment.
Make sure the treatment is copywritten. You should register them with the WGA or with the US Copyright office. There are too many tales of stolen ideas floating around in the film industry (6*).
Finally, do not take it personally if your treatment is to be rejected by a producer or studio. Art is subjective. A lot of movies have been made after being rejected by numerous people for many years(7*). If you believe in your project, do keep on fighting to get it made and you will get your due rewards.
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