How to Write a Treatment

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Screenplay treatments can be a struggle for screenwriters, but starting with a simple outline and building out the rest is a huge step in completing your final draft! That’s where we at Script Mag come in to answer your question on how to write a treatment with tips and techniques as well as a free download with more detailed advice and even a screenplay treatment example!

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How to Write a Screenplay Treatment

Many screenwriters struggle with the idea of writing a film treatment. Do you really need a script treatment? Why not just write the first draft organically? What even is a screenplay treatment? Some people call it an outline, but a screenplay treatment is a little bit different and has a greater use, not only in fleshing out your story, but in also pitching to executives.

When learning how to write a treatment for a film, you always start with a simple outline. That beginning step is straightforward – create characters and fill out a beat sheet. But to turn an outline into a screenplay treatment, you need more detail. Think of it as writing a concise short story of your script. One short paragraph per scene.

Seems like a lot of prep work when all you want to do is crack open Final Draft and dive in. But this extra step between outlining and writing is valuable.

Why is writing a treatment worth the effort?

Taking the time to analyze your story in a richer way allows you to learn your characters better. Resist overanalyzing the process when you learn how to write a film treatment. It’s merely a beefed up outline that is written in prose. Your prose should show character conflict, not just plot points and always use active verbs. With just that extra bit of prose, you can easily see if your story is actually working.

Why not just use an outline?

When you take that outline, beef it up and put it in prose form, you can see the holes in your plot and character evolutions. A screenplay treatment is invaluable for getting a sense of rhythm and pacing.

What use does a screenplay treatment have when you pitch a screenplay?

When you pitch your screenplay, some executives will ask you for a treatment instead of the screenplay. Sure, you want them to see your script, but sometimes they simply want to know if the story is there or not, and to see if you know how to write a screenplay treatment. If it’s an agent you’re querying, that’s important because you’ll have to show them you know how to write script treatments to get writing assignments.

Bottom-line: Screenplay treatments are a valuable marketing and pitching tool as well as a great way to flesh out a solid story.


Get our FREE download, Screenplay Treatment 101, with script doctor, writing coach and producer Marilyn Horowitz on how to write a script treatment, including a screenplay treatment example!

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