Writing A Script Treatment

13th November 2018

For our Short Film Scriptwriting Competition we are asking for a ‘Treatment’, but what exactly is one?

A Script Treatment is a written document put together by a writer, normally after they have researched and planned their film ‘idea’ but before they write the first draft of their screenplay. Treatments generally read like a short story, but are told in the present tense and describe events as they happen.

PQATV are looking for treatments that tell us what your film is about and what happens in your film …… intention and action & character and plot!

It should cover…..

A 1 paragraph oveview (roughly a third of a page) that incudes:

1.     Genre and theme – for example,a mistaken identity comedy (the genre) about learning to be yourself (the theme).

2.     Main character/s introduction – name, age, appearance, character traits. For example, Jack is 14 with dark messy hair. He has very bad time keeping and is always late when arranging to meet up with his friends.

3.     Setting – where is the story set, ie, rural or city, by the coast or inland, indoors or outdoors, what is your main location. For example, the film is set in a large city, the main action takes place inside a cinema complex.

Followed by a 2 paragraph synopsis (roughly two thirds of a page) detailing the plot:

The main character/s introduction – how is the audience introduced to the character, what are they doing, how does it relate to the plot that will follow, what does the audience learn about the main character/s.

The beginning – What is the “Inciting Incident” – the plot element that kicks starts the story and / or changes the course of your characters life – this should happen very early on in a short film.

For example, the inciting incident in Toy Story would be Buzz Lightyear’s arrival which threatens Woody’s position as Andy’s favourite toy, causing him to lose his identity and sense of self. Which in turn results in both Woody and Buzz getting stuck in the bedroom of Andy’s nasty neighbour Sid.

The middle – Generally the longest section of a script.How does the inciting incident effect your main character/s and the plot.

For example, in a classic hero quest film the hero would face a series of obstacles to achieve their quest during the middle section. This would lead to a point where it seems like ‘All Is Lost’ and that the hero may not fulfil his quest. In the final showdown the hero faces his biggest challenge yet and ultimately succeeds (or not). 

In the example of Toy Story, it is Woody and Buzz Lightyear’s go on a quest facing numerous obstacles to try and get back to Andy that make up the middle of the film. 

The End – The final showdown should lead into the end of the film, “the resolution”. How is the main character/s able to overcome the inciting incident (if in fact they were able to overcome it), will they be forever changed for good or bad by this, what have they learned (if anything)?

For example, the resolution of Toy Story is Woody and Buzz making their way home to Andy’s bedroom and also learning to tolerate each other. 

Some films (not all!) also have a twist ending after the resolution, which you may want to include in your script treatment.

If you have any questions you can always contact us at info@pqatv.com

* competition open to current PQA students and PQA Alumni under the age of 20 only.