It’s been mentioned several times that Screenwriters are storytellers, so let that nugget of knowledge be the guiding principle when creating a film treatment. Just write the story3.
As with a script, don’t be too critical with the first pass. Write out as much as is necessary until it feels like the full story has been told. Just remember, present tense and third person!
And once that first pass is completed, now the fun begins. As with a solid script, a tight film treatment can be achieved only with a discerning eye4. Think about the big picture—what is the story really about? If a detail can be deleted without it affecting the story, do it.
Edit, edit and edit again until the story flows. Once the film treatment feels strong, put it away for a while. Yes! Just like a film script. After a few days or weeks, review it again with fresh eyes.
Now here’s the thing. It’s okay to have different versions of a film treatment for the same script. Because in some circumstances, as when an Executive simply wants an idea of what the script is about, a film treatment in the three-to-five-page range will likely suffice.
But if we’re talking about the potential to go into production with a script, and perhaps some investors or Producers need to be convinced to come on board, it might be more beneficial to have a film treatment that’s longer, with more details.
It never hurts to get a little feedback on a film treatment as well. Especially if a friend or colleague has already read the script, getting an outsider’s perspective on whether or not the treatment is faithful to that script can be hugely beneficial.
Sounds like the steps Screenwriters take when writing a script, eh? An important piece of advice to keep in mind when asking for feedback for a script or film treatment: Make sure the person reading it can offer constructive criticism. Having someone who is too nice to be honest about what needs improvement is just as bad as someone who is overly critical or has no tact when pointing out faults.
At the end of the day, a film treatment can be a highly instructive tool and asset for a Screenwriter. In an industry where countless creatives are hoping to get noticed, those looking to make a career for themselves should take all opportunities to keep honing their writing and make it the best it can be.
A strong film treatment can truly be the difference between an Executive passing on a script and getting them to take notice of all those hours of time, energy and passion that were put into the Screenwriter’s work.