More often than not you’ll hear writers, studio execs and producers throw around the term “treatment”. SEND ME THE TREATMENT! I’LL WRITE YOU A TREAMTENT etc. This is because a treatment is one of the most versatile tools in the business. More on this in a bit…but first off, what is a treatment?
There is no precise definition of what a treatment is. Every treatment is written in a different format or a different style based on what it is used for. Generally speaking, a treatment is a document that summarizes a particular project. It could be for a narrative film, a scripted television show, a reality show, a documentary, YOU NAME IT. The content of a treatment varies along with the length. I’ve seen treatments ranging from 1-20 pages long. At the very least, a treatment should have an overview which describes what the project is about. If it’s a scripted film, explain what the story is. If it’s a reality show, explain the overall premise. If it’s a scripted TV show, explain what the series will look like. You should also include descriptions of the main characters and for TV shows, always include several story ideas. If it’s a reality series, be sure to include the format of the show.
A treatment can be used for many purposes. The most common use is a sales tool. Often times a buyer won’t have time to read an entire script, or is too busy to schedule a pitch meeting. An easy solution is to send a treatment. This will give the buyer a sense of the material in a short period of time. It’s almost like a written pitch. Often times writers will write the treatment first to help them in their writing process and understand what their story structure will be.
Producers will often write their own treatments and use it as a tool to communicate with writers. For example, if a producer comes up with an original idea that he/she needs to hire a writer for, one of the best way to communicate his/her vision is write a treatment and have the writer work off of it.