All About Treatments
A treatment is a document that includes everything that will happen in the script, in the order it will appear on the script – usually without dialogue.
Why You Need A Treatment
A treatment is a tool to ensure you DO NOT FOOL YOURSELF.
A treatment is the essence of the drama. If the treatment is not good, I guarantee your script won’t be good either.
It is much harder to take out a scene you love from your script, after you have put so much work into it. After all, you probably love it (or at least parts of it!).
But keeping a scene you don’t need in the screenplay is a bad idea. If something is not working in the plot or with the character? It will be clear from the treatment and you can change it with minimum effort. This will save you time, and frustration. (It will also stop you falling into what Lucy calls ‘The Story Swamp’).
This is why treatments are SUCH valuable tools and why I urge you to start using them.
How To Write A Treatment
Wait! Before you start writing your treatment, you need to answer 5 crucial questions.
You need to write this down. Thinking about it is not enough. So, grab a notebook, or open a new document and get to work.
5 Questions To A Killer Treatment
- What does the character NEED and what will happen if they don’t get it?
- Write down what CHANGE or REALISATION the character will go through in the screenplay.(Repeat answering these questions to all of your main characters. And at least for your protagonist and antagonist)
- What is the inciting incident? How does it affect the main characters?
- What’s the worst and the best things that could happen to your characters?
- How will the story end? Do the characters get what they wanted?
The answers to these 5 questions are the compass of your treatment. When in doubt – read them. They will lead you to a strong effective treatment that you can then use to write an outstanding script.
Now you are ready to start writing the treatment.
KEEP IN MIND – Everything that happens needs to have consequences in following scenes. Cause and Effect.
The 3 Steps Method Of Writing A Treatment
1) Write A Beat Sheet
Start with writing 1-2s sentences for every scene. (Also known as the ‘Beat sheet’). In these sentences write:
Who is in the scene, what happens dramatically and what changes from the beginning to the end of the scene.
Sometimes you’ll have functional scenes like “He parks the car and enters the building.” That’s fine.
2) Examine For ‘Cause & Effect’
Read the list of scenes you just wrote – is it interesting? Does one action lead to another with the your 5-answers? (Cause & Effect, remember).
If not – Rewrite.
Now it’s time to spark your personal magic. So, if in step 1 you wrote:
Paul tells John he won’t give him the loan.
John stabs Paul and escapes.
Step 3 will look something like this:
Paul enters John’s office. John is happy, finally the money is here. Paul apologises and explains to John why he can’t loan him the money. John is devastated, crying. He confronts Paul and it escalates to a fight. John stabs Paul with a pen to the neck, then runs away from the office, leaving Paul bleeding on the floor.
Let’s Recap …
- You need a treatment to save you from yourself. We all do.
- Answer the 5 questions. Their answers will guide you.
- Do the 3 steps.
BIO: Michal Aviram is an award-winning Israeli screenwriter, with shows on Netflix, Amazon and more. Michal teaches screenwriting in college and online. Check out her site for more about screenwriting, HERE.