How to Write a Treatment for a TV Show?

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How to Write a Treatment for a TV Show

Having an idea is great, knowing how to write a treatment for a TV show so that you can take your idea from a simple thought to an entire series, is amazing! In fact, knowing how to write a treatment for a TV show is an art that aspiring cinematographers pick up on early in their careers and typically build upon as their expertise in the industry grows.

It all starts with a simple idea for a show.

The Idea Vetting Process

Before you write a treatment for a TV show, you’ve got to think about your idea and whether or not it’s even “good.” Inspiration is great when you’ve got new ideas, but it’s important to have a plan too.

As you brainstorm your television show, it’s important to hammer out some of the finer points such as whether the show will have a running storyline, an individual story for each episode, and whether it has “legs” to keep it alive and moving along.

People get tons of ideas for television shows, but few actually make their way to the screen. Some ideas really won’t have the ability to continue to drag on for multiple episodes.

Even if your idea does have legs, you still need a plan for the beginning and the end of the show, or series.

What to Include in the Treatment

Knowing how to write a treatment for a TV show is really about hammering out all the fine details of your idea and how you can deliver those details in a way that will cause the reader of your treatment to jump and want to take action.

Television producers are looking for short, succinct treatments (typically 10 pages or less) and they want it to be incredibly accurate and to the point. No filler!

Here’s what to include:

  • Title: The Title of your Show.
  • Format Description: Is it a series or a serial show and how many parts or episodes will there be?
  • Logline: This is your elevator pitch, it should be 3-6 lines and summarize your idea in an entertaining manner. 
  • Description: A single paragraph that provides the setting and significant moments that will be included.
  • Character Biographies: Who are your characters? What are their key traits? Bring them to life!
  • Episode Outlines: Outline the main story line. Make sure that you provide enough detail to fill the number of episodes or parts that you intend to produce.
  • Main Story Arcs: This is the primary outline of the main story and the character’s journey. Make sure their story is front and center here.
  • Episode One: This should just provide the Pilot breakdown, not all the details but enough to set the story up and help the producer to see where things get started. Summarize and provide the ending of the pilot, but keep all the dialogue and filler out.
  • Central Theme or Message: Another summary of your logline, this could dig a little deeper into the overall core message of your show. What do you want your audience to feel or think after they watch the show? How does your show connect with the world?

How to Write the Treatment

Knowing how to write a treatment for a TV show is really about practice and trial and error. When you submit a treatment to a producer, keep in mind that they may not have interest in your story, or it’s possible that a lack of interest is due to how your treatment is written.