How To Write A Treatment

By Marilyn Horowitz

Writing a treatment is a skill that can help any screenwriter succeed, at any point in the creative process. 

There are at least three parts of getting a screenplay sold or financed. Learning to write a treatment can jumpstart a writer’s career because it allows a screenwriter to communicate his or her screenplay idea in a brief but compelling way. It also can be a powerful diagnostic and creative tool. 

I am often asked if a writer has to actually write a screenplay, or can they just sell ideas? 

You can’t copyright an idea, only the execution. If you have a great idea, the only way to own it is to write it. Writing a treatment is a fast way to test out an idea before the screenwriter commits to writing a script. If it isn’t terrific, move on. 

Part of of succeeding as a screenwriter is to write at least one great screenplay. There is no substitute for craft. Screenplays are hard work and take time to perfect. If a writer has completed a screenplay, writing a treatment can help the writer determine whether or not their screenplay is viable, because the treatment creates distance. This allows the screenwriter to get an overview of their work and look at it objectively. 

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