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Film Treatment Guide: How to Write a Film Treatment + FREE Template Download

Luke Leighfield
Luke Leighfield, Content Writer

If you're a budding screenwriter or filmmaker with a great idea for a project, the next step is telling people about it. You can tell people about your idea by writing a script, but you might want to write a film treatment, too. It's all part of the screenwriting process.

In this post, we'll explain what a film treatment is, how you can write your own, and show you some examples from the pros. A film treatment serves as a bridge between your initial concept and the final screenplay, helping to convey the tone, characters, and narrative structure. It's a crucial tool for pitching your project to producers and investors, providing a clear and concise overview of your vision. We'll guide you through the key elements that make a treatment effective and engaging, ensuring your idea shines through.

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What is a film treatment?

A film treatment (or film script treatment) is a multi-page, detailed synopsis of your film or visual project. It contains all the key elements of your film, like important scenes, main characters, and crucial plot points. And it’s written in prose, not as a script.

Essentially, it’s your whole story but broken down into one simple document – a roadmap for a reader, producer, or writer. Anyone who picks it up – agents, executives, your pals – should understand (and love!) the story immediately.

Your screenplay treatment needs to sell your story. And with some hard work, it’ll do exactly that.

In the writing process, it functions as a foundational tool, helping you to structure your thoughts and ideas coherently. It's an integral part of developing your narrative, allowing you to explore and refine your concepts before diving into the intricacies of a full screenplay. Crafting a compelling treatment is a skill that enhances your overall storytelling abilities, essential for capturing the essence of your film in a concise and impactful way.

Why do you need a film treatment in script writing?

In filmmaking, lots of screenwriters find treatments to be a useful marketing tool when they’re trying to sell their work to Hollywood bigwigs. They’re a vital part of the development process, helping you to stress-test your story idea before writing a draft screenplay.

Another benefit of writing a script treatment is that it helps you to pin down the tone of your movie or TV show. It’s a way to explore your story’s world before you open up your screenwriting software and start grinding away at your script.

Filmmakers are increasingly using AI generated scripts to assist with crafting the style, characters, and mood they want to fit the vision of their story.

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As Terry Rossio says, “There is no way to write an effective treatment… yet there are effective techniques that should be used to write them.” Once you’ve cracked the art of writing treatments, you’ll have something you can use in a bunch of different scenarios.

This process is especially crucial for clarifying your vision and objectives, allowing you to approach the scriptwriting phase with a more focused and structured mindset. A well-crafted treatment can be a persuasive document to showcase your project to potential collaborators, investors, and other stakeholders, acting as a compelling summary of your creative vision.

How long should a film treatment be?

While there are strict rules for how long a spec script should be, film treatments can vary quite a lot. In essence, your treatment needs to be short enough to be snappy and engaging, but long enough to cover all the plot points and sell the story.

If you’re writing without a specific audience in mind, then a ten-page document is a sensible length for a film or series treatment. If you’re writing your treatment for someone specific – like a reader at a production company – then screenwriter John August suggests asking them exactly what they’re looking for. Sometimes readers have a certain page count (i.e. level of detail) in mind.

But, like we said, there are no hard and fast rules. James Cameron, for example, is known for writing whopping 70-page film treatments. His treatment for Terminator is definitely worth a read… if you’ve got some time to spare.

The key is to balance thoroughness with readability, ensuring you captivate your audience without overwhelming them. This adaptability in length allows for creative freedom, enabling the writer to tailor the treatment to the specific needs of the project or the expectations of potential backers. Remember, the ultimate goal is to convey your vision clearly and compellingly, regardless of the treatment's length.

What should you include in a film treatment?

In terms of formatting, you should write your treatment in the same way that you would write a present-tense short story. It needs to include the key plot points and give a flavour of the tone you’re shooting for, but it shouldn’t be overly stylised – like a novel, for example.

Your treatment doesn’t need to include the whole story, so it’s a good idea to cut out non-critical subplots. You should aim for something that outlines your basic three-act screenplay structure but without the screenplay format. Stick to the meat of the story and the main characters. It’s also a good idea to write your treatment in screenwriting software. You’ll need to turn it into a script format eventually, and it also plays nice with production software.

Here’s a list of things that you might want to include in your treatment:

  • sparkle
    The title of your movie / show. This one’s pretty important.
  • sparkle
    Your name and contact details. So if someone does want to make you a superstar, they know where to find you.
  • sparkle
    Logline. Explain what your story’s about in a couple of lines.
  • sparkle
    Explanation of act one. Where are we? What’s this movie about? Who are the main characters? What do they want? What’s the tone? What’s the setup?
  • sparkle
    Explanation of act two. What pushes these characters to change? What’s the conflict? Where’s the story going?
  • sparkle
    Explanation of act three. How does the story reach a resolution? What’s the climax?
  • sparkle
    Final wrap-up. Where do we leave the characters? What happens at the very end? Is there an epilogue? Could there be a sequel?

The writing process for a film treatment is as simple as taking each heading and expanding on it. You'll have a treatment in no time at all. Use the present tense to keep the narrative immediate and engaging, helping the reader visualize the story as it unfolds.

Get feedback

Once you've got a first draft of your script treatment together, it's time to show it to some people. Hold off on sending it to film production companies until you've had a friend or family member cast an eye over it, though. They might have some helpful tips to tighten it up before it's in front of half of Hollywood.

Also, consider seeking feedback from professionals or peers in the film industry, as they can offer a different perspective and valuable insights into the marketability and structure of your treatment. Constructive criticism is crucial at this stage; it helps refine your ideas and ensures your treatment is as strong and compelling as possible when it reaches the decision-makers in the industry.

Our favourite film treatment examples

There aren’t many examples online, but reading these film treatment examples from some leading TV and film directors should help you get a feel for what’s involved.

Fired up and ready to write your film treatment? Download our free template below to get started.

Film Treatment Template for Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word Film Treatment Template

Get our film treatment template (as a free download) to quickly summarise your next film project.


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