What is a film treatment and how do I create one?

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A film treatment is an essential piece of the filmmaking puzzle; it allows you to build a structure for your film and develop the idea further. Knowing how to write a film treatment is incredibly important.  It’s used to help you get over writer’s block, provide you with direction, and even helps sell your idea to potential investors!

This article will look at what a film treatment is, why you need one, and how to write a film treatment. Let’s have a look!

What is a film treatment?

A film treatment is essentially a piece of prose, which is more detailed than an outline and includes details of directorial style that an outline omits.

This is usually used as the next step before you start to write your screenplay in full. It’s a great starting point and gives you structure inevitably when the writers’ block sets in.

Why do I need a film treatment?

There are many reasons why you would need a film treatment. Firstly they are great for developing your latest idea for a film. You may have an idea and an outline in place, but not much else has happened in creating your masterpiece.

By using a film treatment, you can flesh out each act of your idea and develop an overview of the characters. Overall the script treatment gets all of the ideas, logline, synopsis, and characters down in a relatively short document that you can use when presenting to get your film funded.

A lot of the time, film execs won’t have the time to read the full script at first, so a treatment goes a long way to persuading them to pick up your script.

How to write the perfect Internal Conflict.

What to include in your film treatment

Before we show you how to write a film treatment, we will explore what you need to include in your film treatment. 

There are many elements when it comes to writing your film treatment, so below we have decided to break it down into bite-size steps. Take a look at each step and also have a read of the additional articles to help you nail your logline, synopsis, and develop your characters. 

  • Title: Name your treatment, give your script a title. 
  • Logline: A brief summary of your film or tv program – usually one line. The logline is made up of one or two sentences that summarise your screenplay in a concise and intriguing way. Here are some great logline examples and learn how to write a logline
  • Summary: summarise your story, it’s up to how long you want to write it, some go wild and write 80+. We’d advise you stick to the lower end of the scale to keep the reader interested. Some production assistants and managers don’t always have the time to read a long treatment, so try to keep it short but detailed.
  • Key Characters: Summarise the key characters and tell us a bit about them!

How to write a film treatment

There are different ways screenwriters will look to write their film treatment, but in general, most take the following (or, similar steps). 

Compose your title: first things first. You need to write a captivating title, something that captures part of the movie. For example the setting, the characters, even the premise. 

An example of a title using “the setting” is Manchester by the Sea. Ensure your title is original and not already be used a handful of times. 

Write your logline: A logline is a summary of one or two sentences that captures the premise of your film. When writing your logline you will want to include the protagonist and what their dilemma is.

The summary within the logline is what you want to use to hook the reader in to read the rest of your treatment and then your screenplay.  

The summary of your concept: Next, you need to summarise the concept. Expand on your logline and show how the film will develop. 

You can add tone, and establish the theme. Show the background of the film and how you think it will play out. Learn how to write a film synopsis, this will help you summarise your concept.

Discover your characters: Here’s where you introduce your main characters. Who will be the focal point of your story? How do these characters develop over time, and what do they want from the story? Develop the character arcs separately, and deliver a brief overview of the character arc in your film treatment. It will give the reader an idea of what’s to come from them.

Delve into the details of the acts: Explore them, now you’ve shown everyone the world and the characters living within, wow them with the acts, what’s to come next. 

  • Act 1 (The setup). Build your world. Who is the protagonist? Where do they live? What’s happening? Build the initial picture for the audience. What is the inciting incident?
  • Act 2 (The conflict). What brings your characters together? How do they respond to the inciting incident? What’s the rising action? Any more plot twists?
  • Act 3 (The resolution). What’s the climax? How is the inciting incident resolved? Where do the characters end?

Finally, finish with the epilogue: The final part of your film treatment essentially summarises the narrative. How does it conclude? Here’s where you reveal the ending and show how the story comes to an end. What happens to everyone who is key to the story. You give the reader an idea of what’s happened to the world, how it started, now you show them how it changed, for the better or for the worst. Sum it up. 

An example of a film treatment

A lot of people ask “What is a film treatment example” so we thought we’d show you a great example. Here’s a great example of a film treatment that you can use to compare yours to. Remember a film treatment must be: 

The Shining 

Developing the story early on is key for most screenwriters, and in this example, Stanley Kubrik certainly showed the early versions of The SHining in this film treatment example. In fact, you can see some of the early development made it into the final cut

Have a look at The Shining’s film treatment example here, and let it inspire you on how to write a film treatment yourself.

FAQs – How to write a film treatment

Here are some frequently asked questions on how to write a film treatment. Let’s delve into these now!

How long should a film treatment be?

As mentioned earlier, this entirely depends on the writer. Some are short and to the point; others can be tens of pages delving into the whole story. 

If it’s funding you’re looking for when writing your film treatment, you ideally want it no more than 5-7 pages. You will have a limited amount of time from the production team of financiers as they’ll have a few to look at, so getting your story across to them as efficiently as possible is key.

What’s the difference between a spec script and a film treatment?

A treatment comes before the spec script and is used to summarise your story, whereas the spec script is a longer completed version of the story and is written in a screenplay format. 

These can be confused at times.

Final thoughts (TLDR)

Just to recap. Writing a film treatment is essential when writing your script. It combats writer’s block, gives you structure, helps to get the film funded (part of the sales pitch). Furthermore, it allows you to build your script out and iron out any ideas, action points, and resolutions before you build upon them in the script.

If you enjoyed this, please comment down below on what you thought of the article, and what you’d like to see next.

Why not check out some of our latest articles here that will help you nail your film treatment: 

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Jay Neill

Jay Neill is the founder, owner, and managing editor of iFilmThings and believes everyone should have access to the film resources they need to plan their filmmaking project, which is why he’s dedicated iFilmThings to helping all filmmakers.

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