Screen Time: A writing conundrum

Staring at the screen on my laptop, I waited.

I waited for inspiration to strike and for my fingers to start typing at warp speed on my keyboard. The blank page seemingly mocked me as I waited.

How come all of the thoughts in my head were not coming out onto the page?

Ever have a moment like this? If you've ever written anything, you probably have encountered this issue.

I write a little of everything – columns, news articles, song lyrics, poems and screenplays included. However, I keep losing my focus every time I attempt to write what film business folks call a treatment.

A treatment is supposed to be a summary of your film that includes its working title, the writer's name and contact information, a short log line (a sentence that shows the essence of your film in a nutshell), an introduction to key characters and basically what happens in each act of your script.

The purpose of a treatment is to help market it to producers. Film producers are busy people, and they don't usually have time to read entire scripts from every prospective writer. So, they will ask for a treatment. IF they like your idea as presented in the treatment, they may then ask to see the full script.

Some say a treatment should be written prior to completing a script in order to help you organize your script. But many say a writer should not complete a treatment until after a script is finished.

I like to walk the fence, so I have been wanting to write the treatment while I'm in the middle of writing my script.

Obviously, this is not working or I wouldn't be writing my column this week about having difficulties writing a treatment!

The length of a treatment is also often debated. Some say it should be up to 60 pages, while others agree it should be no more than 10 pages. I decided to "call a friend" or Facebook a friend, rather, to get some tips on the subject.

My screenwriter friend Mike Reid said he thinks a treatment should only be two to four pages.

"I’ve read where some people write fifteen to thirty page treatment," Mike said. "To me, if a writer can’t establish their genre, theme, plot, protagonist, antagonist and supporting characters, along with their inciting incident, plot points, and climax of their screenplay in two to four pages, then they have no respect for the producer’s time that’s reading their treatment."

Reid recently co-wrote a faith-based film called "Sense of Urgency" that was filmed in and around Waco. He has also worked with Believe Entertainment, who filmed "God's Not Dead 2." The company acquired the rights to Mike's screenplay, "The Tribute."

He has also optioned four screenplays to independent producers. So, Mike is the real deal, and I value his opinion on the writing process.

He also said that he typically writes treatments after the script but only if a producer requests one. Therefore, I will likely not write the treatment for my current script until later.

As a writer with a great idea for a film, it's tough to not put the cart before the horse, so to speak.

A synopsis of your script is often also a suggestion for writers. I have written a couple of these, and they are not as difficult because they are usually just one long paragraph.

Maybe, I should do that ... ahh, I knew writing this column on this topic would give me a good idea!

I will write the synopsis for my film script, finish the script and then write my treatment!

Here's my question.

Do you have an idea for a movie?

I personally think everyone has a story that would make a good film, and it's totally up to that person to put forth the effort to create it.

I think what we've learned from this column is you have to find out where to start – start with a synopsis for your film. How do you do this, you ask? Well, I'm a big fan of Google. Go online and search how to write a film synopsis! All of the resources you will need are at your fingertips!

After you write your synopsis, look up how to write/format a screenplay, and keep going. Hopefully, your ideas will begin to freely flow from your fingers onto the screen, and viola! A screenplay is born!

After you have completed your script, then you can star to work on a treatment ... maybe by the time you've done all of this, I will have mastered a treatment of my own!

Best of luck to you on your writing endeavors!

April Barbe is the editor of the Progress; however, she is also a part-time screenwriter. She has written and directed three short films and served as a casting director. April has also worked as a production assistant, co-producer and publicist on feature films in Texas.

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