A pitch is used to convince a film company to produce your film. The pitch is usually a one page summary of the main action, characters, and setting of the film. Essentially it deals with the idea.
The film treatment is usually a 2-5 page document that tells the whole story focusing on the highlights. It is more detailed than a pitch. It can include a scene by scene breakdown of a script. It is used BEFORE writing the real script so the author can plan his/her project.
How To Write a Treatment
The treatment should read like a short story and be written in the present tense. It should present the entire story including the ending, and use some key scenes and dialogue from the screenplay it is based on.
What Should Be in the Treatment?
1. A Working titleThe Three Act Structure
2. The writer's name
3. Introduction to key characters
4. Who, what, when, why and where.
5. Act 1 in one to three paragraphs. Set the scene, dramatize the main conflicts.
6. Act 2 in two to six paragraphs. Should dramatize how the conflicts introduced in Act 1 lead to a crisis.
7. Act 3 in one to three paragraphs. Dramatize the final conflict and resolution.
Basic screenplay structure for a full length film usually has three acts.
In The Poetics, Aristotle suggested that all stories should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Well, duh. You know that. But really. You need to remember this advice.
Breaking the plot of a story into three parts, gives us a 3-part or act structure. The word "act" means "the action of carrying something out. For our purposes think act one (beginning), act two (middle), and act three (end) of your short film.
Act 1, called the Set-up, The situation and characters and conflict are introduced. This classically is 30 minutes long. For a short film it can be only a few minutes or 1 minute.
Act 2, called The Conflict, often an hour long, is where the conflict begins and expands until it reaches a crisis.
Act 3, called The Resolution, the conflict rises to one more crisis (the last one called the climax) and then is resolved.
How To Write The Treatment
Find A Title
The first contact a prospective producer has with a script is the title. Pick a title that gives a clear idea of what genre the screenplay is written in. Blood House is probably not a romantic comedy. Americans like one or two word titles: Psycho, Saw, Year One, Rocky, Pan's Labyrinth, Animal House, Tangled, Avatar, etc.After a title, start a logline: a brief one sentence summary of the movie. For example: And Then Came Love is a character-driven romantic comedy about a high-powered Manhattan single mom who opens Pandora's box when she seeks out the anonymous sperm donor father of her young son.
Your treatment should include a synopsis.
Begin by expanding the logline into a three-act story Start with the end. For example, The Silence Of The Lambs:
Act 3: Clarice Starling catches the killer and saves the intended victim.
Then break down this synopsis into three acts. For example,
Act 1: While still a student at The FBI, Clarice is asked to help on a case. She's eager to help and interviews Hannibal Lector who gives her a clue.
Act 2: With his help, she is able to overcome many obstacles, and finds the identity of the killer.
Act 3: She confronts the killer, saves his intended victim and atones for the death of the lamb. The scriptwriter should follow this break down for his or her story, and then expand this into a synopsis that is about 2-5 pages in length.
Get into groups of 1-2. You may, if you wish, work alone, but feel free to choose a person you can work with. Don't feel bad about saying: I need a partner. Realize that teenagers are cruel and may not want to work with you for a variety of reasons. You can feel good about yourself that when these people are older, they will want to date you, but you can refuse them.
Work together to create a treatment. Please turn in your treatments today as homework/participation by the end of class.
Treatment sample #1
Treatment sample #2