Treatment Writing

In the entertainment business, conjuring a great concept for a film, tv show, or even a music video is only half the battle. Once you have that seed of an idea you have to water it and watch it grow. You put words and pictures to it. You lay it out so anyone can see and understand it. Then ultimately you pitch it. And while pitching is a skill in and of itself, there’s one thing that makes selling a concept infinitely easier: a kick-ass, spot-on treatment.

Treatment writing isn’t easy. It requires creativity, thorough research, and a keen understanding of your audience. However, when it’s done right it can be the rain, sunshine, and fertilizer that makes your ideas bloom from concept into reality.

What is treatment writing?

Treatment writing is all about clearly and concisely outlining creative concepts. Sure, your idea might sound groundbreaking in your mind. But if your explanation or delivery is wonky you could make 2001: A Space Odyssey sound like Pluto Nash. Knowing what to say and how to present it are paramount to any project’s success.

To start with, treatments break down every aspect of your idea into its component parts. What’s the tone of the video? Are there any specific lighting techniques that the DP plans on utilizing to sell the mood? What are some comparable projects or films? These are all important questions that treatments attack head-on.

What’s more, it’s important to remember that the goal with treatments is almost always to “sell” an idea or get buy-in from decision makers. Providing them a crystal-clear portrait of your vision makes it so much easier for them to make an informed decision. This is the place to “wow” the powers that be; this is the phase of the creative process where having a personal Hype Man would seriously come in handy. An on-point treatment can greenlight a project, whereas even a so-so one can derail it completely. Just imagine if James Cameron’s treatment for Titanic just read: “It’s a movie about a big boat that sinks. Oh, and there’s a little bit of love stuff thrown in there, too, you know, for the kids!” The project would have been dead on arrival.

But, as fate would have it, Mr. Cameron’s treatment was marvelous, and Titanic became one of the highest-grossing and most critically acclaimed films of all time. We can’t say that your project will follow the exact same trajectory with a great treatment, but it’ll be off to a good start.

Treat every kind of treatment differently

As you might’ve guessed, there’s more than one way to write a treatment. In fact, treatments come in tons of different forms. There are single overview paragraphs, robust show pitch decks, or simple photo-driven style samples. Like fancy cocktails, there’s a place and time for each of these different treatment types. But, again like the aforementioned cocktails, choosing a treatment that doesn’t quite fit the situation is disastrous. Like suffering through a super dry gin martini on a hot day at the beach, it’ll get the job done, but it won’t be pleasant.

Avoiding these pitfalls is easy enough if you know some of the basic types of treatments, however:

Paragraph treatments

The written equivalent of an elevator pitch, a paragraph treatment quickly details an idea with as few frills as possible. Though a seasoned writer might stray from the normal formatting, there is a set standard. The usual approach is “Hook, Overview, Call to Action &/or Reason For Tuning In.” In and out, quick and simple.

Except, of COURSE it’s not so simple! Boiling down your ideas into a crisp little paragraph is excruciating. However, the exercise is often well worth the agony. Reaching the point where succinctly pitching your idea is second nature means you know you firmly understand your concept!

Visual treatments

Sometimes these are as simple as curating a selection of reference photos, while other times it’s a mix of visuals and integrated text. Either way, though, visual treatments simply paint a picture (perhaps literally) of your vision for a piece of creative content. Where more robust treatments offer both photos and visuals, visual treatments rely primarily on the former. These kinds of treatments are super common when pitching a music video or short film concepts.

Show and film pitch decks

If you’re making a Show or Film pitch deck, then you’re ready to play with the big boys of the treatment writing world. Both tv shows and films require a ton of capital to produce (duh). And so, in a surprise to anyone, their preceding treatments require a ton of detail. These kinds of treatments drill down deep into the minutiae of a concept and lay everything out. Not only the creative, but also the financials are necessary in these kinds of treatments.

The ECG treatment writing difference

Treatment writing, like all writing, is a confounding art. The immense frustration of knowing what you want to say but not knowing how you want to say it can weigh you down. Your ideas deserve a voice—they deserve a platform—and writing out a kick-ass treatment is the first step to giving them just that.

So, when you have a can’t-miss idea, are working through a pitch for a big brand, or just need help describing your concepts, why suffer through the annoyance of treatment writing in a vacuum? Why not work with a team who have written more treatments than Meryl Streep has awards? Why not partner with a group of treatment specialists who’ll help get your project through the finish line faster than Netflix throws money at Adam Sandler to make another awful movie?

We here at ECG have the experience and the acumen to craft the perfect treatment for your project. Work hand in hand with treatment writing specialists and make your next project an unprecedented success! Contact us now to learn more about all of our treatment writing services!