How Long Should My Treatment Be?

I got this question recently:

I’ve written a feature-length script, and wanted to write a treatment.  I’ve heard that it should be between 20-30 pages.  Is that true?

Most screenwriting rules are more like “guidelines,” (as Geoffrey Rush might say, in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl) and treatments even more so.

The quick answer: screenplay treatments can range from one to fifty pages, depending on their function.

So what is a treatment and what do you need it for?

A treatment is a document that conveys – in prose form – what the screenplay will deliver.  Usually, a producer will ask for a treatment from a writer if the writer has just pitched an idea that the producer likes, but the script hasn’t been written.

A while back, I pitched a producer an idea for a movie that he liked a lot.  But my two minute pitch was all I had written – it wasn’t a fully formed idea, really.  The conversation after the pitch went something like this:

Producer: Interesting.  What’s the status of the script?

Me:  It still needs some polishing.

Producer: Have you shown it to anyone?

Me: Not this version.

Producer: Great. Can you get me a treatment by tomorrow?

Me: Of course.

I then went home and stayed up all night writing the treatment.  That treatment was 5 pages, and had a sentence or two about every major plot point in the script.

I didn’t sell the treatment, but later turned it into a script that has gotten some good attention.

If you’ve ALREADY written a script, and want something on hand in case a producer/agent/manager wants to know what the script is about, but doesn’t want to read the script, I’m not sure a treatment is what you’re looking for.  Instead, write a quick summary, or have a logline at your disposal for a quick pitch.

I always tell my clients that we’re SCREENWRITERS not TREATMENT/SYNOPSIS WRITERS, so the quicker you can persuade the interested party in reading your actually screenplay, the better off you’ll be.

Because once they open your screenplay, they’ll be hooked by page 10, right? :)

Best of luck, and…

Onward!

-Eric

Related posts:

  1. What does a Script Reader Do?
  2. Putting a TV Pitch Together
  3. Selling Your First Screenplay
  4. A Different Kind of Coverage

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