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How to start Scriptwriting Part 4: The Treatment

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Posted 8th June 2009 at 06:31 AM by Peter Neal
Updated 8th June 2009 at 07:54 AM by Peter Neal

A treatment in the "professional" sense- the kind you send on its journey to production companies and cultural/media funds- is telling your movie's story from start to finish, scene by scene, on 10+ pages (depending on the length you're aiming at).
You should avoid reflecting too much about what's happening INSIDE your characters, most important is what's actually supposed to happen on screen.
If you have a clever "surprise ending/revelation", do yourself a favour and DON'T leave it out in a seemingly "smart" quest to increase the interest/tension for your readers at the production office etc.
Those people are most interested in finding something, which could surprise/shock etc the audience, so how could they value the cleverness of your twist if you leave it out?!
A treatment is very "action oriented", as in "actions of your characters".
Try to stay focused on the "on screen action" and try to resist "dressing it up" too much with colourful and lengthy descriptions.
Your intended "target group" of readers usually values their time highly and likes to get to the point asap.
Sounds a bit dull and limiting at first sight, right?
But believe me: Writing the treatment upfront to your script will give you a lot of freedoms during the actual writing process:

First off, there's never just one treatment, you'll probably write a couple of versions before you'll actually start writing the first scene of your script. This way you can put the planned structure and plot of your script to the test before investing days/weeks/months into something, which just doesn't seem to hold together all the way through to the finale.

And remember, the treatment you'll start with as the blueprint of your script WILL NOT be the treatment you'll send out to get your script sold. The script will most likely go through some (more or less) radical changes before you're really finished with it.
As with the synopsis, the treatment is a most useful tool to point your story and writing into the right direction, so you don't have to stop and worry about it all the time during the script-writing.

I guess you're probably hungry and more than ready to start writing now

I'd strongly recommend you to check out some books by experts on the issue if you're interested in learning how your script presentations should look like to catch the eyes of the professionals, but if you're just curious to test your writing skills and have a camera of your own or some pals waiting to get shooting a bit of home made fun, I guess I've told you what you need to know about the basics by now.

Oh, wait!

Next time, I'll talk a bit in general about the actual writing of the script, the cool part, the one we've been waiting for long enough..
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