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How To Sell A Movie Script Write The Treatment

Updated on December 16, 2019
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Penelope is retired but teaches English in Rome. She is a published feature writer, playwright and poet. She loves local Italian customs.

story book
story book | Source

Get an Agent

The film business is run by massive Corporations who put up millions and millions of dollars of financing for films. Agents and lawyers have offices and staffs of script readers who read scripts all day long searching for those half dozen films they are prepared to invest in. How to sell your story could depend on how you write your Treatment.

This article will show you why and how to write the Treatment.

Firstly a few words about 'story' and the story teller (the scriptwriter) - and reaching world wide audiences.

A writer has the greatest story for a movie! The story speaks to our emotions, to the human condition. There is conflict. It disrupts the status quo. It clarifies the audience's emotional focus, extracting the full price of loss, sacrifice, rebellion, leaving, growing- up. It is a structured story. It pulls us through from beginning to end.

So yes! The scriptwriter has the story. The script. The script has to be sold!

But how?

What Is A Treatment?

It seems paradoxical that in such a world of fantasy there are as many hard- core document requirements as there are. But there are. Audiences, as well as film makers, really hate ambiguity. So motion picture doors won't open - the agent is not interested in any of their stories, or 'ideas ', or scripts, unless the writer puts the following documents together. They are these documents;

A Full Treatment with The Pitch, (and Synopsis) an industry acceptable Film Script, a cover letter with contact details.

The Treatment:

- It is a 35 page piece of prose that will sell the proposed film to the agent or investor.

- is the summary of a the film (written in the present tense)

- must be meticulously precise and economical

- a good read. The prose jumps off the page.

- depict simply and vividly what the camera sees but also the

- order in which it sees it. (finely worked out so the reader can visualize what's important about each sequence and scene)

- no diversions (keep it tight keep - the reader on the edge of his seat)

- describes the vital action, the emotional state of the characters, details, locations or sets (place), mood

The treatment would also include

  • character descriptions
  • a synopsis

- If it is a dialogue driven script, then include excerpts of dialog (whatever will sell!)

Only at this point can the writer look for their agent! They will carry the script under their arm, with a perfect copy of their treatment, a smile on their face, hope in their heart and more confidence than Dirty Harry.

A Script Document First Page

A script first page
A script first page | Source

What is The Script Document?

Back to the business of documents! They have to look top notch professional. Agents won't glance at the title on the front cover - if the script doesn't look professional. The work will be tossed in the trash. There are hundreds more on his desk.

The script is bound in a specific way - two holes punched on the left of A4 typed pages. The script is on one side of the page only (the right). The pages are numbered, bound at the left. The front cover page will have the title of the film and the name of the scriptwriter - with their contact details.

Copies of film scripts can be downloaded for reference off the internet, (references included in the links). Reading scripts and then watching the movie from the script teaches a scriptwriter not only what a script looks like, how scripts describe stories for shooting, but everything they need to know about the art of scriptwriting!

A full length feature film script will be the following:

- between 90- 120 pages (each page is between 45 seconds to one minute of film time)

- typed on movie scriptwriting software - such as Final Draft

- proof read for typographical errors.

- will look like the following- a comedy, which is the opening few minutes of the movie 'Ace Ventura. Pet Detective'

Except from the Screenplay Ace Ventura


Written by 
 Jack Bernstein 
 Tom Shadyac 
 Jim Carrey

A UPS Man with a big pot belly is walking down the street, 
whistling and carelessly tossing a package in the air. 
We hear the sound of broken glass in the box. 
He passes a professional woman.
Good morning, UPS!
He tosses the box behind his back like a basketball, 
then acknowledges another passerby.
UPS, good to see you!
He takes a couple of steps, then flings the package incredibly high 
into the air, spins completely around and expertly drops to one knee 
and catches the box. A Hispanic man passes.
Buenos dias. Uo Pay eSsay.
The UPS Man dodges a couple of black kids as though playing basketball. 
He runs up the front steps of the building. 
He reaches out to open the front door and inadvertently flings the package 
behind him and back down the steps.
He goes back, retrieves the package, then enters the building.
Several people stand in the elevator. The UPS Man just makes it, 
but the door closes on the package... REPEATEDLY. 
He feigns embarrassment.

How to Pitch

Pitching their story has to be energetic and convincing.

The writer pitches any which way he can - as long as the pitch is breathtakingly fantastic, and short and grabs his audience (the agent or producer). The pitch has to wrench the audience from reality, totally seducing them into wanting more of the story, blow their minds!

No time to be shy. Get the dinosaur in you - out, or the penguin, or the devil himself. Practice pitching with friends before your meeting. Ask for creative criticism. (There will be loads more of that! A script changes constantly until the film has been edited for the last time.) This is your one and ONLY opportunity to tell your story, to SELL it. (Good luck).

Ace Ventura

Looking For An Agent?

Have you written your treatment yet?

See results
DVD's of movies
DVD's of movies | Source

How to Look For An Agent

It has happened that a writer runs into a producer who loves his script and options it, without an agent. Here is one such, true story. Tony Bill, the movie producer of 'The Sting' ran into a young script writer called Rob Thompson at a coffee shop in Hollywood one afternoon who told him about a script he had written. Tony Bill was interested in his script, liked his pitch, read his script, liked it and optioned it and it became "Hearts of The West" a film directed by Howard Zeiff, starring Jeff Bridges, in the 1970's at MGM.

But usually it is a lot harder than this. Today a scriptwriter needs to arm themselves of an agent. This is very, very challenging. The film business is run by massive Corporations who put up millions and millions of dollars of financing for films. Agents and lawyers have offices and staffs of script readers who read scripts all day long searching for those half dozen films they are prepared to invest in. Being a scriptwriter in the movie business is one of the most competitive businesses in the world! Here are a few suggestions however, that might be helpful in trying to find that agent. Other writers have done it!

It is not impossible.

Before a writer makes their first call, or posts their first script out, it is prudent to register their script:


1. Make a list of agents, their addresses and numbers: literary agents, script managers, 'creative management' agencies. Print it up.

2. Check out on the Web which agencies are specializing in what. Who are their clients? You will see which ones specialize in theater, or TV and those in film. You will discover which ones scout for talent, which ones are old literary types, discover who might be right for you.

3. Call them, cold. Introduce yourself and tell them that you would love to know what you have to do for their representation.

4. Develop a queries letter, less than a page, to follow up - (including your Script and Treatment. Make it as passionate about your script as you can). Introduce yourself interestingly. Attach a CV (1 succinct page)

a. Include about a paragraph of your material, (synopsis), submit it with a pithy log line, give the idea of the genre and the audience you are attracting. Mention briefly what kinds of things you write.

b. End nicely thanking them in advance for their consideration.

c. Leave contact details.

5. The movie making capital of the world is Los Angeles, as everyone knows. Ideally, it is where a writer will more likely sell their script -than anywhere in he world. If a writer can change their location, moving there for a few months would be ideal.

Where to Find Film Funding

Oh OK? So you can't move to L A. There are institutions which offer funding for film making - occasionally to screenwriters, wherever they live.

In the UK, there is the BBC

International grants that are available to scriptwriters

Search the web and make the lists.

Then one by one, call them and PITCH! Send their Script, their full Treatment, their Letter Their Details.

They might get feedback. This is good news. Thank them for it. Re-write their newly adapted scripts with new feedback which may always contain nugget of improvement. Continue.

Scripts get written tens of times. Sometimes they get sold. Sometimes they get re-written.

Scriptwriters need a hide as hard as a rhino's, a heart as tender as a child's and a determination that is as enduring as an Eiger climber.

Hollywood Street Map

Map of Hollywood
Map of Hollywood | Source

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© 2012 Penelope Hart


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 years ago

      Thank you. Good tips.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Most don't respond to unsolicited materials indeed. You still need to write the treatment before you pitch. The Writers Guild of America guidelines would be the best guidelines to follow, so of course you'll need that paragraph for your initial inquiry. But your treatment needs to be industry -standard and ready.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 years ago

      Interesting article. It seems very few agents accept anything more than a paragraph on an initial query and most don't respond to unsolicited materials. Is this correct or am I working on the wrong list? I'm working off the list given by the Writers Guild of America.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Really hope you can crack scriptwriting. It certainly is a different art form to other kinds if writing and very challenging.

      Appreciate image your kind comments thank you.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      This is very helpful, and I want to add it to my pinterest page for future reference. Of particular help was the example of the UPS man which is very visual. It's not easy for a writer to change mediums from print to film, but you have shown a way and given me some hope that I can do it.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      carozy. Sorry it's taken so long to get back and thank you for your comment! Just found you. Many thanks.

    • carozy profile image


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Great, informative hub.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      JanisGoad. They are two different skills, as is indeed writing a hub and social networking the hub are different skills! Many thanks for your votes and sharing. Appreciated.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      JudiBee. There's so much more to getting a script made into a movie than meets the eye- let's hope this helps aspiring writers, yes. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 

      7 years ago

      Specific and helpful information for writers with a script to sell. Clearly, writing it and selling it are two different skill sets. No wonder writers need agents!

      I'm sharing. This information is useful. Thanks!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      7 years ago from UK

      I've heard the terms "treatment" and "pitch" in relation to scripts, but never really knew what it meant exactly. Now I do! Great hub for aspiring script writers!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It's very hard work, but so important to get the treatment done in a detailed way to accompany a script. In fact it helps the script, because you have to work through every single detail of the story - to make it work.

      Agents and professionals, when they read a Treatment that is clear and concise, are much more inclined to read the script. They know it's had it's kinks worked out! That the story 'works'.

      Thanks for commenting! All the best with your scripts!

      Very hard business isn't it?

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      This a detailed and well-written explanation of a treatment. I've done a script writing course, and I feel like you explained what a treatment is much better than my teacher did. Excellent work!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Honored, thanks. Structure is all in a Treatment. Wit gets everyone a long way.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      This is a fine explanation of a treatment; I had not understood what it entails previously. Reading an old treatment by Harlan Ellison helped me somewhat, but from your Hub, I see the structure and wit needed to complete a treatment.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      shiregerald Hi. Firstly go online and search thru "literary agent" selections. Do it for the cities in the world that might be interested in your work. Make the lists from your searches. I mentioned it in my Hub! all the best.

    • shirgerald profile image


      8 years ago from medford

      Very helpful information to know, how can you find a good agent?

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      The Treatment is a must cherrycrime26 and so is an agent. Wishing you all the best. Thanks for dropping in.

    • cherrycrime26 profile image

      January Moon 

      8 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

      This is a great Hub, Ive been writing screenplays for years and I'm trying to sell them now, I was looking for an agent but If I can do things myself, then why not :-) Thanks for the Info, voted up


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