Writers: A Room of Our Own

by Polly Whitney

Home Forums Fade In: Movies and Screenplays Exercise: writing a treatment

This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Polly Whitney 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #259

    Polly Whitney

    The first step in selling a screenplay, or even writing a screenplay, is the treatment.

    What it is: a brief prose statement of what the film is. Treatments are difficult to write well because of the need for brevity and what I call “visual rhetoric.” Great screenwriters are dual thinkers: they think in images and in words. The treatment, using only words, should evoke a powerful image in its attempt to tell the producer (or actor, or director, or slush pile reader) what your film is trying to be.

    Decisions concerning whether a film will find an audience are often based on treatments. Practice is the best way to get going on the road to a perfect treatment. That’s what this exercise is meant to be: practice.

    I’m going to sacrifice myself for the purpose of this exercise. The image here of a woman on a hill is a photograph of me and my pal Janie. Here’s the deal: write a treatment (maybe two or three sentences), based on the information in the given image, that would sell a producer on your idea. You can go anywhere with this image: sci-fi, romance, mystery, thriller, comedy, etc. “Treat” this image as though it were the first thing you see after FADE IN.

    I, and others, will feel free to comment on your treatment, but the purpose here is benign, so please don’t decimate honest attempts from participants. Let a spirit of helpfulness by your guide. Give it a try? Using the image (which the producer will not see at this point) and your prose treatment to convince us to make your film. You need not write a full treatment of your movie. Only write about this first image.

    The image is filled with visual information. Have fun turning that into a treatment.

  • #488


    A woman and a cat, both in red sweaters, climb a hill behind a house, attracted by a brilliant light in the sky. The woman looks up, shades her eyes, and frowns. The cat looks up and smiles. It is mid-afternoon, and the producer leaves for lunch.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by  davidsmith.
  • #515

    Polly Whitney

    David, you forgot to say that she’s a beautiful woman. And also the cat.


  • #520


    Well, that comes later, in the development.

  • #521

    Polly Whitney

    Hey, David!
    How nice. I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, and it’s sure nice to come back to some good old innuendo.


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