Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Treatments are notoriously hard to write. Not only do they have to be entertaining and engaging but they also have to reveal the beginning, middle and end of the story within what can feel like a very tight word limit. They are an acquired skill and as with all skills - practice makes perfect.

Think of a treatment as telling your story in a fast-forward sort of way. Use them to show off your descriptive writing skills as a filmic story teller. It is an opportunity to captivate a reader - being entertained will make a reader like a script more!

When a treatment is written in the style of 'and this happened and then that happened' it can be dull and at times confusing. The last thing we want to do is put the reader off before they get to the script. So ENGAGE! Choose words that sell and drive the story. Don't tell us what makes this such a great script - beauty is always in the eye of the reader.

In all good story-telling there is no ‘magic factor’ as to what makes something great to read but here are some guidelines which may help you to get there.

My Ten Rocliffe Tips:
  1. Capture the setting, genre, atmosphere and tone of your script/series.
  2. Write in prose, third person and present tense. 12 font is fine. Don't use dialogue or too detailed action.
  3. Tell the story in the order of the script. Make sure you refer to the action of the script extract you are sending us, even if it is only a brief reference, so the reader knows where the extract comes in the screenplay.
  4. Don't avoid ending your story but do avoid dot dot dot endings - you need to reveal how you tie up all the loose ends.
  5. Really identify the conflict between the characters and their motivations, and then show us the resolution. You don't need to name every character just the main ones. Gradually add detail but don’t get bogged down, concentrate on getting to an end.
  6. With our submission calls we ask for no more than 300 words for TV Drama and Film, 300 words for Comedy. [NOTE: Other initiatives/schemes may ask for more]. You may feel the need to write this many, less can be more, and similarly exceeding the word count by 50 or less words won’t mean your submission is penalised. The same length of treatment is required for TV series, short film or feature film calls.
  7. Use this as an exercise in writing (not torture!). If you are struggling to create a treatment try breaking it down: 100 words on the beginning or set up of the world you are creating; 300 on the middle or muddle if it is a comedy and 100 on summing it up.
  8. If you are still struggling then perhaps you need to ask yourself do you really know what story you are trying to tell? Have you developed your plot enough? What is at the heart of this tale? What are your characters reasons for being, their motivations? What do they want or need? Is there enough believable conflict between them and how is it resolved? Only you, the writer and creator of this world, can tell this story and make these decisions - so you have to know your story and what it is about. Sometimes the  difficulty with treatments lies not with the treatment-writing itself but with being sure of the story you are trying to tell.
  9. When you have finished writing the treatment, print it out and read it. How does it relate to the extract? If you are not happy with it change it.
  10. I read once that the key to writing a good synopsis is to read, reflect, write and revise. So now put it away for a day and revisit with fresh eyes.
My writing quote of the week:

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork ~ Peter de Vries

We will be open for submissions from August 2013. No details as yet so watch our website for new calls www.rocliffe.com & follow me on twitter @farahabushwesha and for updates @rocliffeforum & @BAFTA 

Keep writing...