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How I created a treatment for my script

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Before I delve into the heart of the ‘Thought Experiment Program’ TV script, I first wanted to write a bit about how I developed the TREATMENT (AKA the Bible for some people). I think this makes sense as it will be the first thing that a prospective director/agent/show-bizy-type-person will look at, so getting this done – and getting it done right – is quite important.

So, how was my experience with my first ever treatment?

Terrible!

My first script was finally completed and there I was staring at a blank page, trying my best to come up with a LOGLINE – three lines that summarised the plot. And I couldn’t do it! I felt frustrated – I mean I had just completed a whole episode of dialogue, action, plot twists with great pacing – and I couldn’t write a stupid summary!?! And that was just the logline. This was going to have to be followed by a synopsis of the episode, a synopsis of the whole series, and a blurb of each coming episode. I was frustrated. I was going mad. I was questioning my sanity…when it finally happened.

No not that.

Inspiration hit and I committed to something.

And it really wasn’t that bad.

Actually, once I was in it, the process helped me to redefine the purpose of the story and forced me (yes, forced me – more about that later) to think about the whole structure of the series.

But I am jumping ahead. Before we get to that point, I wanted to share some of the resources I used in my journey.

  • Two very good (and surprising!) resources came from the site wikiHow: The first one I came across deals with developing a pitch for a TV show, the second article deals with developing a treatment.
  • Script Advice was another site I looked at, and the first one to give me some good insights to how a treatment should be laid out.
  • One of the best sites I found was: Bang2Write. The site contains lots of really great advice on all aspects of writing that I still return to quite often.

So, the research was done and I had a structure to play with. From all the sites I looked at, I needed to aim for a treatment of around FOUR pages. Some will say up to eight pages is ok but it’s probably best to stick to four pages. Why? Because the reality is that whoever is going to pick up your script/treatment will not have the time to read through a lot of pages to better understand your story. The shorter you keep it, the more inclined they will read through it – and I think the more professional you will appear. By the way, this is the same no matter where you go. In my job as communications manager, I am presented with reports and texts each day. There is simply not enough time in my day to read through everything – at best, each report gets a few minutes. The more unwieldy it is, the less time it gets. Key message here: keep it tight!

In this case, your treatment will/should/maybe look something like this:

Page 1) ONE PAGE PITCH:
In my case, an overview of the TV series and the format it was going to take. Specifically:
– Logline – Complete Series
– Logline – Pilot:
This is something I added myself but I think it makes sense since I would also be submitting the first episode too.
– Genre Definition:
Doesn’t hurt to include this.
– Age Rating:
I came across a site that mentioned to include this but I can’t find it anymore. I don’t think this is really needed but then again, where’s the controversy in leaving it in?
– Page Count:
Same as age rating…doesn’t hurt to include it…unless you are stuck for space!
– Length of Show/ Timeslot:
this one is open to discussion – some say it’s not needed and others say it is. Maybe it just applies to American submissions? Don’t know.
Series Overview Synopsis: Basically, this is the section where you will need to summarise the COMPLETE series…yes, this is a pain! / Contact details. And in case you are wondering – YES, ALL IN ONE PAGE!

Page 2) CHARACTERS: A one page overview of all the major characters. Remember, it all has to fit in one page so only a few lines per character.

Page 3-4) SHORT SYNOPSES of ALL other episodes in the series. Seemingly, a treatment should contain an overview of every episode. This was a pain for me. I had a vague idea while writing the first episode of where the story was heading – but the whole series! I struggled with this in the beginning but once I got into it, the story just seemed to unfold itself. Actually, it turned out to be fun exercise and opened up avenues to the plot development that I hadn’t considered before. I also bent the rules a bit. From everything I’d read, each episode should be limited to 2-3 lines but I went a little bit over on each one. It was challenging but really worth it in the end.

So, that’s the structure. What does my treatment look like?

It’s coming. Over the next few blog posts I will be breaking down my treatment even further. I hope to re-examine each section to see if I can improve on it. I am hoping you will join me with this and maybe, just maybe, you might even have a comment or two that will help.

Until next time!

Drum roll…

Article written by Shane O’Halloran. Have something to say? Leave a comment below or contact Shane directly via TwitterFacebookInstagram, or email. Or, you could just buy him a coffee if you like? (AKA a pint)

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