Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Final Treatment (Then Rinse)

The best treatment I can find online that really sells a motion picture is this one here -- Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Go ahead and look at it and print it out. I'll wait...okay, good.

What's really good about this treatment is:

1. It sells the movie.
2. It's short. There's nothing there that doesn't need to be there. Anything else is trimmed away.
3. It's for a high concept studio-level movie. In other words - this is what they will accept as being a professional treatment.
4. As much as it delves into the action - the treatment gives us clues to the characters we will be seeing and (hopefully) relating to.

In fact, I'm looking at this treatment right now and seeing techniques that I can use for my own treatment, Bug-Eyed Monsters (B.E.M. for short).

Just so we all start off on the same foot:

1. A treatment is not a pitch.
2. A treatment can change based on the pitch right up until that time when the pitch is sold.
3. A treatment is not a synopsis, a scriptment (Hate that word! Damn you, James Cameron!) or anything else other than a treatment.
4. A good treatment sells the movie that you (or the producers) want to make - it doesn't just relate the story of the movie.

A good way to think of a treatment is in terms of art. A treatment is a thumbnail sketch of what the final picture is going to look like. You can see the outline of the figures, the action and the tone of the piece.

You can't (and shouldn't) see the brush strokes...

Take a look at it, send in your comments, questions, quips, quotes and conundrums and we'll go from there. I look forward to picking this one apart...


MaryAn Batchellor said...

Okay, I'll play. I suck at treatments. No, that's too kind. I can't say anything bad enough about the way I write a treament. Need all the help I can get. But do I have to finish the film first? Cuz I shut it off in the middle and sent it back to Netflix.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that link.

What can I say. It's a great treatment. I haven't seen the movie, but I would based on this treatment.

I can see why they bought it.

It definately shows you the film in yada yada terms, without having to block out every scene and beat.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

"The two pitched a version of this treatment around Hollywood...and were rejected by every studio."

Okay, finished reading it that one comment is the part of the article that I find most compelling. As good as the treatment was/is/may be, it was rejected over and over until finally Summit hired Kinberg to write it as a script.

Bill Cunningham said...

Ah yes, welcome to Hollywood.

But ultimately Summit had enough faith (based on the treatment and Simon's other work, as well as having Goldsman in his corner) to go ahead and pay him to write the script.

So what does that tell us?

- have a library of scripts.
- Have a champion.
- Have a hell of a pitch.
- Have a hell of a treatment.

My question to you is -- what is the difference between this treatment and your treatments?
Length? Focus? Style?

As I said earlier, I look at this treatment and find a new way to structure a logline, and new ways to bring the characters and the action together. I tend to synopsize a lot, and I need to think about making my tretments more "character-centric".

CD said...

I used the Mr. & Mrs. Smith treatment as the basis for my latest treatment.

And it was a bitch.

The hardest part about treatments is that you (or maybe it's just me) find yourself drifting off to detailing scenes: this happened, that happened, etc.

What's nice about the Smith treatment is that it avoids all the nitty-gritty and just focuses on the sizzle--the trailer moments.

Notice how it details the theme early on, too? That's nice to set that up in the beginning so a reader isn't asking himself through a pitch document "what the hell's this about again?"

The other thing that's nice too is the beginning. Kinberg sets up an overview, too. So you -- the time-pressed development exec -- don't have to guess if it's a comedy or a horror film. Kinberg just tells you: it's a sexy, stylized, action-comedy.

And to Maryann's point. You're right. The treatment was rejected around town. However, I think there was an article in Script magazine that went into a little more depth about their process. I believe the reason it was rejected earlier was that they had never fixed what people perceived was a big problem: the second act. (I'll have to the archives to see if I can find that article.)


MaryAn Batchellor said...

What constitutes a library of scripts, Bill? Four or five? More?

Bill Cunningham said...

I would say that's a good number. I don't know how many scripts Kindberg had under his belt at that point, but he was comfortable with the process.

The more times you do something, the better you become - even if its just that you're more relaxed with the process.

Bill Cunningham said...

Here's an idea that I just tried:

Select the copy of the treatment and paste it into a word file. Then format it to size - 10 pt. font size and courier font.

Take out the pictures and make it look like someone you know sent this to you to proofread.

Then read it.

It takes the polish off of it and makes you concentrate on the words and the images they conjure up in your mind.

deepstructure said...

that's exactly how im about to read the treatment - just copied/pasted into a text editor and printed.

as for treatments being rejected around town (and scripts), i wonder how many of those times that a treatment/script is finally picked up, it was different than the version everyone else saw?

wouldn't have the author(s) made changes given the feedback they were getting? or when we hear these apocryphal stories is it always the same version of the script that was finally bought vs shopped around?