Writing the Treatment

Bryon Stedman  asked me this question in a comment to another post:

I have a situation where a broadcast entity claims they want to hear my idea for
a boxing series or made for TV movie. The characters belong to my family from a
comic drawn by my father.

If a narrative is they way to go, what are the key points to include? Do I go as far as dialog and cameas shots and locations or simply text with main characters CAPITALIZED? Advice requested and appreciated.

A series treatment and a TV movie treatment are very different. A series treatment sells the characters and the franchise of the show…the relationships and format that will generate stories week after week. A TV movie treatment sells a story.

If the studio is already familiar with your Dad’s comic, I don’t know why they need you to come up with a series treatment…the strip itself sells that or they wouldn’t be interested in the first place.

A series treatment isn’t about telling a story…it’s about describing the characters, how they interact within the unique format of your show. Who are they? What do they do? And how will who they are and what they do generate 100 interesting stories?

For a TV movie treatment, you’re selling the characters and their story.  At this point, you’re trying to sell the broadstrokes…they can pay you to work out the rest. Write up a punchy over-view of what happens in the story, as if you were writing a review of a great movie (only minus the praise). You want to convey the style and tone of the movie. But don’t go into great detail. Keep it short, tight and punchy.And whatever you do, DON’T include camera shots or dialogue.

Don’t fixate on treatment format, because there isn’t one. Tell your story in the style that works best for you. Don’t worry about whether the character names are in capitals or not (it doesn’t matter). Concentrate on telling a strong story.

11 thoughts on “Writing the Treatment”

  1. In general, the shorter the better. These are sales tools, not production documents. It’s okay if they read it and have questions afterwards…it gets you in front of them again and gives you another opportunity to sell them. Besides, if they have questions and actually ask you about them, its an indication that they are interested in the project and are investing themselves (at least emotionally) in it a little bit more.

  2. I am pitching a sports documentary to a company that has athletes that I want to use in my doc. I am doing a treatment, but I am afraid that I would be be giving away too much info if I go into more detail than just the general idea. Do you have any suggestions for me?

  3. Hi:
    How about a treatment for a PBS/DIY “How To” series? Is there a specific format for a treatment/proposal? Who would I ask?

  4. I am a marital and family therapist and I am fascinated by the concept of the show. I enjoyed segment #1 and I am looking forward to seeing the series, although nightly viewing may be difficultas I work in the evenings.I would be interested in buying the series if possible.

  5. Dina,
    If you’d read the post, rather than just the title, you’d know I was talking about writing “a treatment” not writing for the TV series THE TREATMENT.

  6. Hiya Lee, I cam across your site by accident. I’m a novelist, but recently have been asked to turn one novel into a sitcom series.
    This is fine, I’m familiar with script, and I just about have the pilot, but the “buyers” would like a treatment, which I’m very rusty on. Would you help with length, brief template?
    Thank you so much, the rest of the site is marvellous! x

  7. My friends and I are all communications grads who put together an outline for a first episode of an idea that we have. What do we need to change/do to get our idea noticed? i feel like we have amazing ideas and it would be easy to sell but have no idea where/how to go from here? any ideas would be amazing please email me as brendandwyer@ymail.com with any ideas. Thank you!


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