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Screenplay treatment

Updated on January 2, 2016

What is a Screenplay Treatment?

It Is a summary of the entire screenplay. That summary includes not only the general idea of the screenplay but also in a very condensed form, must contain the general tone of the work, the main characters and their key actions and in some cases should include some dialogue lines - very short - crucial to understanding and progression of the work.

To write or not to write treatments - That is the question

Screenplay treatment has its opponents. The main reasons to be against the act of writing an screenplay are:

  1. that is a double work, a double effort,
  2. that it is an unnecessary activity because add little to the end result
  3. that diminishes creativity and / or 4) because these people declare not be interested in selling treatments of their screenplays. Those who recommend write treatments do so because they consider that 1) serves as the synthesis of a project but also as a executive plan, by establishing some guidelines which contain basic building blocks of entire work, but allowing at the same time add many features of substance and form, 2) this can be used to sell the idea of the work, whether the author writes the screenplay in its full version or not.

The treatment as a executive summary

The treatment is like a map on which, we can follow a path that is indicating the mileage and distance to reach our destination, in addition to places we passed through. Nobody would pretend that the map indicates whether it will rain, our mood during the travel or whether we will have fun at our destination. But it allow us we can manage resources, time, effort, energy, etc., in a wisely manner. Similarly, treatment does not contain all those details that we want to expand on a full version screenplay, nor depicts with enough detail the physical and emotional features of characters, or the wide spectrum of the actions of these characters, however allows set up a map of the work without getting lost in the middle of the screenplay development.

Whoever trusts just in his talents and stands at the keyboard to dip into his creativity flow, runs two risks: 1) extending too much and unnecessarily the description of certain parts of the screenplay and / or 2) omitting details of the characters or their actions or even whole scenes. In both cases ending up with an unbalanced piece at some point. Screenplay Treatment is not a perfect solution, but at least serves as a good and trusty scaffold for constructing a story.

The treatment as a work to sell

The Screenplay Treatments are the written version of a story told and in best case can be sold as they are, regardless of whether the author of a screenplay treatment, is also called to write the full version of his own work or not. Imagine that we suddenly have the chance to speak with a major producer, director or executive of the industry, but that this person gives us 5 minutes to tell him a whole story, the five minutes it takes up the elevator going down, get the bathroom or get on his car, could you tell the complete story in those 5 minutes?, could you tell in a way covering the emotional tone of the play and the essential characteristics of its main characters, with their actions?, could you tell your story in such way that would capture the attention of the other person so, that at the end of a 5-minute lapse got an overview of your work? But more important than this, could you tell the story so that when you finish, your interlocutor become so interested that: 1) He would like to hear more about your work, 2) He would like to read the full screenplay or 3) He would like to buy your screenplay treatment?. That's the power that can contain a treatment, really atomic! don't you think?.

Some notes about format of Screenplay Treatment

The format is not as strict as a screenplay, briefly its lenght is shorter than a full screenplay, must have an extension around 15 pages, although some have done in 1 and other have expanded to 30. It must be written in present tense and can be written as prose if used for a private use or as scenes including sluglines if presented to other people.

What do you think about screenplay treatment? Tell us about it!

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      6 years ago

      Intriguing information! Thanks for sharing!


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