Outlines and Treatments

John and Craig look at the non-screenplay things screenwriters end up writing, most notably outlines and treatments. We discuss some of the ones we’ve written (with examples), and offer advice on writing your own.

Hardy Boys, in outline form

It’s fascinating to look at something so old yet so familiar. Most modern televison writing goes through an outline stage, at which point the studio and network signs off on the story — or sends it back with notes.

Beware of miserable success

I really like Dan Harmon’s advice to young writers in the sidebar to THR’s showrunner feature.

Taking notes

Craig leads the discussion on how to survive a notes meeting. As screenwriters, our instinct is to defend, deny and debate — but these are almost always the wrong choice. By reframing the discussion about the movie rather than the script, you can often end up at a better place.

Outlines, treatments and numbered pages

To me, an outline tends to be less prose-y and feature more bullet points, but there is no common consensus in Hollywood about what’s what. We use “treatment” and “outline” interchangeably.

Pitching Star Trek

Roddenberry’s 1964 outline is the same kind of write-up TV writers use today.

WTF is a beat sheet?

Is a beat sheet an actual thing, or a mythical Hollywood construct?

Based on an idea by…

“Based on an idea by” is a rare credit, for good reason.

The perils of coincidence

The big villain in Spider-Man 3 was a plague of coincidence. Here’s how they could have avoided it.

Air vents are for air

Ladies and gentlemen, screenwriters, it’s time to stop putting character in air vents.

What became of American McGee’s Alice?

Update query on the video game potentially becoming a movie.

Selling a story if you’re not a screenwriter

It’s hard work to take an idea and turn it into a movie without knowing how to write, but it happens all the time.

Got the story, but I can’t write

Can’t write your great idea? Find someone who can.

To google google

If Kafka ran google.

How long a treatment?

There’s no standard, but past 20 pages I’d be worried.

Specs, treatments, and pitches

The differences, defined.