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Friday, January 05, 2007

Presentation skills part 3 - Treatments

At the heart of all your presentations is your Treatment. Just to be clear on the definition - an extract from Wikipedia describes it as...

A film treatment (or treatment for short) is a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards (index cards) and the first draft of a screenplay for a motion picture. It is generally longer and more detailed than an outline (or one page synopsis) and shorter and less detailed than a step outline but it may include details of directorial style that an outline omits. They read like a short story.

But that's not the full story.

Yes, writing out the film in prose form is the basic goal. So that means no pictures, no anecdotes about writing it, no CV - those are seperate things. The treatment is a pure document.

But that doesn't mean it has to be a dry document. Treatments are often looked down upon by writers. "If I'm writing a script why am I wasting time with the prose?"

In fact a good treatment can be a great way to sell the film if you follow these 3 guidelines. Treatment purists will argue that the treatment is not the place for selling the script. But I disagree. If someone is reading the treatment with a view to funding the film then it has to knock their socks off.

One: Concentrate on the exciting parts
What makes the script great in your mind. Is it the action? Is it the setting? Is it the quirks of the character? Whatever it is, don't let this get lost in the detail of explaining the plot. Whoever is reading the treatment wants to be excited. You're excited about this script. Let them know why.

Two: Ensure it is easy to read
This can take a while to get your head around. But you need to ask yourself again and again, 'is this an easy read'. Does it flow? Have I included everything that is needed for the story to make sense? Have I included things that aren't needed and are now getting in the way? Are my sentences too long? Can I read it quickly?

Three: Make it easy to navigate
A big block of text that runs for 12 pages is hard to flip through. Try splitting it up into story beats and labeling these. Use bold to highlight elements that need to be remembered by the reader / viewer. See below for an example - the start of Kiss of Judas.



Against a blood red sky we see the silhouette of a strong, well built man in heavy armour – The Knight. An enemy soldier rushes at him, but the knight raises his sword and brutally cuts him down. But he is followed by another, and then another. Wave upon wave of the enemy comes, and still the knight slashes at the horde. The bodies fall to the ground as he holds firm his position. The sun rises to reveal a bloody, surrealistic scene. The knight is no longer standing on the ground but on a pile of the dead and the dying.

New to this diagram?
What is it? - How do I get a copy? - Read from the beginning on the blog.

The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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