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Top Ten Treatment Tips

What is a treatment?

A treatment is a detailed overview of a script idea or screenplay, which is used as a marketing tool for both spec and for-hire screenwriters to sell their project. While treatments and synopses are both marketing tools to sell a screenplay or script idea, there are differences. A synopsis is generally one-page only and includes only the main plot points or your screenplay, while a  treatment is a more comprehensive and detailed overview of your script.

Do you really need to write a treatment?

It depends on the scenario.  It’s not really necessary to write a treatment unless it assists you in fleshing out your ideas and developing your screenplay. Studios, production companies and/or industry folks might request you submit a treatment to them after you pitch an idea and they are interested in your project.  They will tell you approximately how many pages to write for the treatment.

Top Ten Treatment Tips

  1. Your goal is to entice and excite the executive to want to see this treatment made into a movie.This also means that your writing talent and distinct voice shines through.

  2. Write your treatment in prose form and in the present tense.

  3. Make sure that you consistently follow the conventions of your script’s genre.

  4. Follow your main character’s journey and the major plot points. Indicate your protagonist’s goal and the major obstacles in his or her path, including the antagonist.

  5. Include dialogue snippets (using quotation marks) only when absolutely necessary to highlight a poignant or critical moment of your script.

  6. Your treatment should be a clear and accurate reflection of your script idea and/or screenplay.

  7. Do not include your characters' inner thoughts or your editorial comments.

  8. Clearly convey your three acts but do not label them as such.

  9. Have a trusted friend, colleague, or consultant read your treatment prior to submitting it to make sure that it’s an attention-grabbing and interesting read -- with no typos or grammatical errors.

  10. Register your treatment with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) prior to submitting it to companies for consideration.

About the Author

Susan Kouguell, award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, is the author of THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER and SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises (available at $1.00 with DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD: ).   Susan is a regular contributor to Indiewire/SydneysBuzz, Script Magazine and The Script Lab. 

Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College, SUNY and presents international seminars. As chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990, Kouguell works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, executives and studios worldwide.  Recipient of many grants and fellowships, including the MacDowell Colony, Jerome Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Edward Albee Foundation, Kouguell’s short films are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and archives, and were included in the Whitney Museum’s Biennial.  Kouguell worked with director Louis Malle on his film And the Pursuit of Happiness, was a story analyst and story editor for many studios, (Paramount, Viacom, Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Productions), wrote voice-over narrations for (Harvey Weinstein) Miramax and over a dozen feature assignments for independent companies. Follow Susan at Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell on Twitter, and read more articles on her blog:

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