Film Treatment – A treatment is a summary of a screenplay, TV show, novel or other story, sometimes in the form of an outline. It can be anything from one to ten pages or even longer in length. Treatments can be used as a tool of development for the writer’s or used as a marketing tool.
Treatments – can be as long as 30-40 pages, but 1-10 pages is probably most common. There is no correct “length” for a treatment the way there is for screenplays because treatments are for a certain audience.
Create the log line. Most screenwriters begin with a one-to-two sentences description of their story. Ideally it includes the main character, the main antagonist, the nature of their conflict, genre elements (if it’s a comedy, it should be humorous; if it’s a thriller, it should thrill; if horror, it should horrify, etc.), and hints of the plot through, without revealing the end.
- Usually screenwriters flesh out this log line further into a paragraph or more. At this point they are leaving behind the straitjacket of the log line and entering the more free-wheeling realm of the treatment.
Be aware that there are two ways to proceed from here:
- Some writers expand the story like an outline, letting each bullet point represent a story beat or a scene, so that the final product approximates a rough scene outline of the entire story. Some may keep gradually fleshing out these bullet points, the way a painter colours in trace lines, until they’ve filled the whole thing out into a full rough draft.
- Other writers prefer a more categorical approach, where they explore different aspects separately, not necessarily in chronological order. For example, they may have a list of major characters whom they describe with a paragraph or two. They may have entire back histories of the main characters that run a page or two long. They may describe key locations with a paragraph each. They may also describe the plot but have it deconstructed, perhaps with the main plot in one group of paragraphs and various subplots described separately, not interwoven the way they would be in the script.
Don’t be hung up on rules. Screenwriting is a fairly rigid craft with countless rules. Treatments are one of the few areas with no rules. It’s just a summary of the plot, perhaps with a little character study, usually 1-10 pages long.
The Actual Treatment