With treatments, you’ve got a page or so to pitch forth your story. Whether it’s on spec or in development, there’s no formula for selling your idea of a music video, feature, or commercial. Creative descriptions, clear actions, quick communication, and multiple options lend themselves well to trying creative approaches.
Director Mark Romanek posted his one-page 2003 treatment for Linkin Park “Faint” on his web site:
we only see their backs — backs of heads, hands, torso, asses, feet. all the emotion is conveyed through the body language. we may catch slight glimpses of oblique profiles. but, they are just that — only glimpses. in the background of all these shots we see silhouettes of fans, creating waves of excited movement. we are teased for over two minutes with beautifully composed and dramatically back-lit images of the band — filmed from behind.
Braddon Mendelson talks from experience of writing hundreds of music video treatments in his post at Noisivision Studios:
As with any form of writing, the more you do it, the better you will get. Keep writing music videos, whether you are getting paid for it or not. Watch MTV. Study your favorite videos and then write what you imagine the treatment must have looked like. Study other treatments that have been written, and then come up with your own style. While there are no hard and fast rules about format, it is important that a treatment communicate its ideas in a clear, concise and creative manner.
Mark Albracht, screenwriter and writer (“Rules of Deception”), added some footnotes to Associated Content’s post, How to Write a Movie Treatment:
“Producers do not prefer treatments to spec scripts and neither do agents. The only reason a screenwriter should write a treatment is to help develop a script idea or because a production company or a studio asked them to. Otherwise it’s a waste of time.”
John August, notable screenwriter and web-savvy blogger (who provides the original one-page outline for “Big Fish” in his library), clears up the difference of spec, treatment and pitch:
An outline might be one page or might be ten; a treatment could be three pages or could be thirty. James Cameron is known for writing “scriptments” that are 70 pages or more. Ultimately, the length is less important than the function: hopefully, an outline or treatment will help a writer spot problems early on, so that the finished script will be better.
Tony Johns, a commercial and music video director, talks at length about the commercial process in Action Cut Print:
If the agencies are impressed with your treatment they may seriously consider you for their next campaign. Remember there are no set rules in the commercial world. No two agencies or creative teams are the same nor are production companies and directors.
Videomaker.com has an article on how to create and use video treatments, which brings up the value of having 3-4 options on hand:
[Y]ou can’t always anticipate the client’s or viewer’s taste. Frequently, clients pass up what appears to be the perfect treatment and go for the red herring. You’ll be glad you presented options.
Related, check out the podcast for “The Treatment”, hosted by film critic Elvis Mitchell on KCRW 89.9 FM:
A “treatment,” in Hollywood parlance, is a concise overview of a screenplay. On The Treatment, … Mitchell turns the tables and gives the “treatment” to some of the most influential and innovative forces creating movies and popular art and entertainment.