How To Write Fantastic Film Treatments That Work

Back in the days of yore, film treatments were a 2-20 page narrative account of your story. How things have changed! Modern treatments are more like marketing documents and they often accompany a pitch meeting. They may contain some or all of the following elements:

  • Synopsis 3-5 sentences expanding on theme and plot
  • Extended Synopsis: 1 page
  • Main Character Breakdown: age, a brief physical description and their essence, such as the recently-widowed curmudgeon.
  • Casting Suggestions: Although these are ultimately determined by the casting director, producers will often ask for your input to help visualize the product.
  • Genre, tone and themes explored
  • Target Audience: Let the studios worry about all-audience, four quadrant pictures. You need to be as specific as possible; such as 10-14 year old boys learning to skateboard. By defining your niche, you have already made headway in the marketing strategy.
  • Budget: guerilla (no budget), microbudget ($50-500k), low budget ($1-10 million), medium ($20-40 million), high ($50-70 million) and blockbuster (over $100 million). I’ve left out some budget ranges because they vary depending on the producer.
  • Artwork/ Visual Aids: only if it helps sell your project such as superhero movies and animations.
  • Distribution: TV (cable or network), theatrical, festival, online or straight to DVD.
  • Attachments: talent (by letters of intent) or expressions of interest from producers, distributors and exhibitors.
  • For TV writers, you’re also expected to submit a pilot and an additional two or three episodes with the treatment.

Finally, don’t overlook the key ingredient of any presentation, whether verbal or written; PASSION. Where is the love? Too many executives bemoan that too many pitches and treatments are academic and lack heart.

If you don’t get excited about your project, you can you expect someone else to do the same. So shake things up a bit.

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