Loving the treatment

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.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Loving the treatment

  1. Nick Pilgrim

    Hmmm… You raise a good point! I never thought of it that way!

    You are wise beyond your years Phillip-San!

  2. ContainsNuts

    Out of interest do you use the post-its on a board technique to layout your story? I’ve found it quite useful but if there’s a better one then maybe I can see my walls again.

  3. Damn straight phillipe.

  4. I used to use index cards to work out the order of scenes, but its time consuming and I never had enough floor space! I definitely agree that the treatment is the best place to work all that stuff out.

  5. I agree

  6. It didn’t take me long to work out that treatments are pretty much essential. Jump into a script without one, after getting carried away with the excitement of The Big Idea, and nine times out of ten you won’t get far into Act Two before you realise you’re driving through vague territory without a map.

  7. I tend to use a mixture of index cards and treatment to work out the story.

    I start with a one pager which broadly outlines the whole thing; then I switch to the board and use index cards to plot out the act changes and the general sequence order. There’s nothing specific at this stage, just one or two words which describe what each segment of the film is about; like: PANIC! … RE-GROUP … SAVING THE DAY.

    Next stage is the longer treatment which nails down individual scenes and bits of dialogue; then it’s back to the board, transferring all the scenes to coloured cards and possibly shuffling the order as I go. Once they’re all there I can see immediately if a story thread disappears or if there are too many action scenes lumped together or whatever. The colours really help you to see if all the elements are equally represented and distributed throughout the film.

    Once all that’s done, and I’ve written little character bios to help guide me, then and only then do I start scripting.

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