A treatment is a detailed outline for an entire episode in television or an entire film in the motion picture industry. It includes every scene, lots of action descriptions and camera angles and, depending on the writer, quite a bit of dialog.
It’s the hardest part of writing for television or motion pictures. But having a fully developed treatment makes writing a script go much faster and more cohesively because you have a map and a blueprint of where you’re going and how to get there
Many new writers make a critical mistake in skipping the treatment phase of writing, instead rushing from writing a springboard right into writing the script in the vain hope they can flush a short springboard into an entire script.
While I’m not going to go into it here, all – I mean all – successful television and movie scripts have to follow the classic three act structure. It’s a structure that goes back to Greek plays right up to episodes of Heathcliff & The Catillac Cats, Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater, Friends, Seinfeld, Harry Potter and – yes – The Velvet Queen and Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe. And that three-act structure needs to be a part of the treatment.
But along with following the classic three-act structure, every once in a while when writers are alone and staring at a blank page, something special happens. We pick up a magic wand and pixie dust flies. Taking a two or three sentence springboard and somehow expanding it to a ten or fifteen or twenty page full treatment is like that.
It’s wonderful. It’s also draining.