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How to Write a Screenplay Treatment Grips the Reader’s Attention

Every screenwriter or filmmaker faces a point in time where they must write a screenplay treatment. Whether it’s your first, or your twenty-first, preparing to write a screenplay treatment that’s going to grip the attention of your audience and stand out against all of the competition takes a lot of preparation. Even the most experienced screenwriters know that learning how to write a screenplay treatment that goes above and beyond to actually grab the attention of your reader in such a way that they can’t help but to keep reading is a matter of both hard work, and a little bit of pure luck. 

Screenwriters have more opportunities than ever to make money selling their screenplays to streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu as well as the many other online and broadcast options that are readily available. But if you’re new to screenwriting, you might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed. There’s a lot of competition out there, that’s for sure!

While a lot of things have changed in the industry, there’s one constant – only the strong survive! You’re going to need an amazing script if you want to have any opportunity at standing out against all the competition.  

So, what does this have to do with learning how to write a screenplay treatment? The bottom line, if a producer or a production company requests a treatment after you’ve pitched your film to them, you’re going to have to deliver! But you can’t just send over some halfway thought out, thrown together summary. You need to deliver your best!

That means putting together a film treatment that’s going to amaze them! It means, hard work that outshines the rest. It means, you have to be prepared!


No Industry Standard Formatting Requirements

The great thing about learning how to write a screenplay treatment is that there are no industry standard formatting requirements that exist in creating a screenplay treatment versus writing a script. So you might be surprised that you don’t have to worry too much about a specific format or structure the way you would need to if you were writing your script.

Ideally, you’re going to use block paragraph form and enter a space in between paragraphs. It’s also good practice to use a 12 point font that is easy to read such as Courier New or Times New Roman. Separate your Acts 1, 2, and 3 with headings to introduce the reader to the start of the next act.

Important Considerations when Writing a Screenplay Treatment

first draft typing script on computer

Although your screenplay treatment doesn’t necessarily have to be formatted a particular way there are some key concerns that must be adhered to when writing your treatment. The treatment should excite your writer, so you want to make sure not only that you keep the read engaged throughout the duration of your story, but it’s imperative that you grasp your reader’s attention from the very start with a hook. Think carefully about how you will hook your reader because you’re going to want to do so in the very beginning.

Additionally, your screenplay treatment should:

  • Utilize short paragraph structure. Avoid long sentences or paragraphs with excessive sentences. 
  • Be written in a visual prose. 
  • Be written in present tense. 
  • Utilize precise wording. Just as in your screenplay, every word counts!
  • Represent a clear reflection of your screenplay.
  • Clearly articulate the hook that’s going to draw your reader’s interest unlike other stories.
  • Deliver a compelling climax.
  • Establish who your protagonist is and who the antagonist is.
  • Detail key supporting characters. 
  • Illustrate action in a way that creates visual focus.
  • Include dialogue snippets where critical to define the character.

How to Write a Screenplay Treatment 

The steps you take in learning how to write a screenplay treatment may vary depending largely on your own needs but, generally speaking you’re going to begin by planning your title and logline. These two elements are key to your story and must be planned with absolute care. Once you’ve established a working title and a logline, you can begin to dive into the more intricate parts of the screenplay treatment.

The next step is to format your plot summary. This is your chance to grasp the attention of your audience and share with them why your screenplay is something that they should keep reading. Keep it engaging, and exciting. The summary of your concept or plot should clearly articulate your various acts and structure, the climax of your story, and the theme or tone.

Next, you need to set the main characters up. Introducing each of the key characters and what they expect or want will keep your reader engaged. The key characters should be briefly summarized as should their individual character arcs. The idea is to get your audience emotionally invested in your characters, so that they feel connected to them in some capacity. 

As you’ve summed your key plot and structure, you’ve built your characters, and you’ve established a personal connection to them, the next step in writing your screenplay treatment is to fill in any missing details in regards to how your story unfolds. Who is present? What happens? What are the most eventful moments? This should pull your screenplay treatment together so that it reads like a short story.

As a final step in learning how to write a screenplay treatment you’re going to write your epilogue. This is the final paragraph of your treatment which not only wraps your narrative but also specifies what the ending of your story is and what happens to each of the key characters. In your epilogue, you will detail what your characters have learned giving your audience a sense of how their world continues forward.