Treatments… Schmeatments…

Kelley Baker has a hell of a book, The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide. He and I were emailing about treatments. I thought I’d share my thoughts…


I hate to say, I don’t know much about treatments.
I never write them.

No one reads them.
If you’re Mr. Big Time, you’ll do a pitch, but never a leave behind.
If Mr. Small Time, you probably won’t pitch, so you’ll have to write a full screenplay.
So where does a treatment fall?

THE reason to write a treatment is when you are planning a screenplay… you write it (the treatment) as a prose version of your story to help you solve problems and come up with structure, character, etc.
That is helpful to some people.
I see it as a waste of time. Why write a polished piece of prose when all you need is an outline (whatever form that takes for you)? An outline is not what I’d call “written.” Or smooth. Or for someone else to read.
My outlines are for me to write from. Not for anyone else to read.

But a treatment, that’s to be read.
And I don’t have that kind of time.

However, many people get great benefit from writing treatments. It helps them organize their thoughts, etc.
It just seems like a step in the process I don’t want to take.



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6 responses to “Treatments… Schmeatments…

  1. Hmm. I spent much of December writing a treatment for a producer. And yeah, it was a hellish process — I was tearing my hair out at the fact that he’d object to certain turns of phrase, or even certain words!

    But at the end of the day, after umpteen revisions, it was actually way better than when I started. I couldn’t hide my bullshit behind hand-waving (“and then they get to this point, somehow”) like I’d do with an outline. In an outline I tend to shorthand everything, so I’ll cut corners — unconsciously or not.

    The whole treatment thing was horrible and at the time I thought it was pointless… and yet I can kind of see how it helped to laser-focus my plotting.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Very cool. That seems to be its highest and best purpose, getting the story straight. I like the “and then they invent the whatchamacallit thing that solves the problem.” And the producer looks at me and says, “Which is… what?”

      And I look back at him, blinking.

      • Haha. Yep, it’s easy to get away with that stuff when outlining.

        But I still think I’d rather solve my own problems with an outline than spend weeks wrestling with a perfectly-worded treatment. Bloody producers… 🙂

  2. Melody Lopez

    I wrote a treatment once and I didn’t know how they were supposed to look so it was essentially a short story. That hit all the beats of a screenplay. Then I got turned onto a website that posts short stories- typically thriller mysteries… and the site’s founder posted that his site achieved what he’d hoped it would…someone’s short story got optioned for a film… apparently short stories are great for translating to screen. Next time I have an idea for a screenplay…I’m gonna write a short story and label it a treatment. If someone asks for one..well, I’ll just be ahead of the game, won’t I?

  3. I like this. Thank you! I also believe there is one more reason not to write a treatment, it winds up getting all the raw energy that the final piece should have.

    At least for me, when I spend too much time planning the whole process starts to feel mechanical, and then I second guess decisions until I bury the story with cliches and structure, loosing that initial spark that made the idea interesting.

    So, I guess I’m saying I agree. A treatment is something I’d rather not have to do either. It’s a middleman between inspiration and the final product.

    That’s my 2-cents anyway.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Read my post in the last two months, something about “a new way to write” where I outline and write at the same time. Wow, it’s fun. Not sure if it’s the way to happiness or doom, but at least it’s fun getting there.

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