So I’m working my way through a treatment at the moment. I know some people hate them, but I love ’em. Some people think they restrict creativity or somehow strait-jacket the story telling process.
Some people are, of course, mental.
This is my favourite part of the process, just telling the story before you get bogged down in dialogue and page counts and all the technical gubbins of writing a screenplay. I love the organic nature of the whole thing, that it’s easy to alter scenes as you go.
If a good idea for act two necessitates changing a scene in act one – it’s only a paragraph instead of having to juggle pages of dialogue. I love the way it twists and changes as you go with better ideas, supplanting the old ones without effort or emotional attachment. I haven’t spent hours or days worrying at a scene because at this point the scene is just a few lines long.
Once a treatment’s finished, it’s easier to find the flaws and fix them. If the story sags anywhere – you can spot it and correct it. Reading back through and changing it is effectively re-drafting and saves time later on. Similarly, it’s easier for the producer or director to say what they do or don’t like about it; and once they’ve changed their minds, it’s easier to fix.
It’s just … easier.
As an extra Brucie bonus, once you get to the actual scripting – it doesn’t feel like a first draft. The more time you spend on treatments, the further along the script is by the time you actually get round to typing FADE IN: Not only have you nailed down all the story elements and the character arcs, but you’ve been thinking about each scene with every pass over the treatment which should make writing the scenes ridiculously easy.
In my mind, the first draft of the script is actually equivalent to the third or fourth draft – it’s already most of the way there. This certainly seems to bear out with the films I’ve had produced so far, where the differences between the first draft and the the final draft are mostly cosmetic. It’s rare to have to go back and change anything structurally or to alter a character beyond recognition.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s rare.
I love all this pre-writing since it makes the actual writing bit a hell of a lot easier. Altering scripts is a pain in the arse and is needlessly difficult. Synopses, outlines, treatments, character outlines and back-story … those are where the majority of the work should be done. If you’re waiting to resolve these issues in the script, you’re working too hard.