Writing a TV Show Treatment

Writing a TV show treatment is similar to writing an outline, but with a few key differences. Knowing these differences can help you write more succinctly and increase the likelihood of selling your screenplay. Writing the treatment can either serve as your pitch, or it could occur between the index cards and the TV show’s first draft.

The objective of the treatment is to create a guideline for writing the script. Think of writing a TV show treatment setting aside touchstones, important scenes or events that must be there for the show to make sense or to remain true to its original vision. It’s useful for writers to keep focus, to remind them of things that should still be there. It also helps when you want to get feedback or if you want to generate interest. Treatments are an amazing commodity, so much so that many insist on registering their work with Writers’ Guilds before showing it to anyone else.

The format is relatively straightforward. It should end up looking like an extremely condensed screenplay, phrased in the present tense and written in paragraphs. A TV show treatment is usually between seven to fourteen pages and written from the writer’s perspective. The paragraphs should be single-spaced and in Courier New, 12-point font.

Most of the time, what you end up with after writing a TV show treatment is not in order of how it will be presented in the onscreen show. After each short paragraph or two, you ought to move on from one scene and start describing another one. These scenes should be absolutely integral to the concept of the show, and should clearly indicate new characters and have a description of these characters to clearly present their image to anyone reading it.

The treatment should clearly illustrate the type of show you envision so interested producers and executives will be clear about the genre, characters, and potential audience demographic. Writing a TV show treatment can be as important for an executive as it is for a writer. In fact, many pitches involve using the treatment in one way or another. Make it a good one, and it will speak for itself. Maybe it will be next season’s biggest hit — but it will not get there if you cannot write the treatment properly. Consider the TV show treatment to be an advertisement to potential buyers. You may have a great script, but if you cannot gain interest in the TV show treatment, then they will not bother to read the longer script.

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