Most of my job involves writing up ideas, to all different stages of development.
Stage One: the Pitch. This is usually a one page Word document with a title, summary strapline, short idea overview, and a few pictures. The real core of the idea.
Stage Two: the Treatment. This extends the idea into a PowerPoint presentation, imagines how an episode would play out, and is a lot more visual.
I’m used to writing pitches, but haven’t had much experience with full treatments. So over the last couple of weeks, I’ve learned a lot about what really matters when creating them, and how to put together a really, really good one. So for anyone who’s interested, here are Zenia’s Top Ten Treatment Tips:
- MAKE IT VISUAL. Use the title page to say as much as you can about the show with a picture. They say an image speaks a thousand words, and they’re right! Identify the three key things about the show and put them together in a bold, statement image, along with the title of the show. Even better if you can use Photoshop and create a really cool composite picture.
- KEEP IT CONSISTENT. Find a background design that subtly creates a mood for the show. But don’t make it too elaborate – you’ve got to be able to read what the page says too.
- TARGET AUDIENCE. If you’re writing for a specific channel, keep the channel’s typical target audience, its colour scheme and its logo in mind. Make it really easy for the channel to see that show idea in their schedule, show them clearly how it fits into their existing broadcasting.
- MIND READ. Put yourself in the position of the commissioner. They get hundreds of these things per day, they’ll probably read it in an Uber on their way to a meeting while also worrying about their five year old with chicken pox, and if they can’t get past the first two pages they won’t read on. So make sure they get what the show is about within the first two pages.
- CHECK YOUR TEXT. If you wrote two sentences, can you say it in one? If you wrote ten words, can you explain it in five? Short and sweet. Sure, this is the extended description – but remember that busy commissioner…
- USE YOUR IMAGINATION. Let it run away with you! Draw out a full episode, think about how it would work, invent characters, create tension. By doing this, you not only visualise it for the commissioner, but you also anticipate potential production problems. Many a treatment has been almost completely written up, but then when the sample episode is written out, the fatal flaw is discovered…and you have to start again from scratch.
- DAFONT.COM. You’re a creative. Your job is literally to come up with ideas. So a PowerPoint template and Times New Roman are not going to impress. Download a new font that is totally in the style of the show – but check how it converts to pdf before sending it off. Sometimes if the person you’re sending it to doesn’t have the same font, it’ll go all weird on their computer and look more like a beauty pageant show than the next Jackass…which could lose you that commission!
- LOTSA PICTURES. TV is a visual medium. I know, it’s obvious, but if you’re used to writing stuff in a university setting, this often falls by the wayside. Anything you say that comes with a strong mental image, back it up with a real one! Remember what we said in Point 1…
- EASY TO READ. Choose a font colour that stands out from the background you’ve chosen, make the text big enough, and space it out nicely, so that your text isn’t too intimidating.
- TIME TO PLAY. Play around with all the formatting options available to you. Sometimes just adding a shadow here, a glow effect there, a subtle background colour tint, will turn your dull treatment into something stunning.
Pitches can be written in about an hour if the content is strong – treatments take time. Don’t expect to turn these around within a day – the extra hour you spend playing around with where that picture sits on the page or scrolling through reams of fonts will definitely pay off. This is the important stuff. And remember that a commission could be worth millions…and that translates to what a good treatment could be worth.