Monday, 2 April 2012

The Joy of Treatments

One of the things I didn't miss when I shifted to prose(1) was the ritual known as the 'Writing of the Treatment'. This is when you have to convince 'the money' that they should give you some cash so that you can make your nice TV programme. Since making an hour of TV now costs more than a decent house in outer London this is not a decision anyone wants to make lightly. Indeed a great many people earn a good living by not making these decisions and use that to push up prices in outer London ever higher(2).  Recently I have been sucked back into the wild and wacky world of television production and have found myself writing treatments again. I can't be the only person who views this prospect with alarm and despondency so I thought I would provide these handy tips.

Careful not to break the keyboard.
1) Make sure you have a clear space on your desk so that when you repeatedly bang your head on it you don't damage anything valuable.

2) If you're working with a team make sure you have agreed an approach with everyone else. You're colleagues will find it much easier to sell a treatment they voted for - even if they were drunk at the time(3).

 3) Make sure you know your intended audience. Will the treatment go straight to the man from Del Monte or will you have to penetrate multiple layers of gibbons to reach him or her. You will need to tailor your approach accordingly (see below).

4) If the person you're pitching to is suffering from a bad case of gibbon infestation then the chances are they will be pushed for time. Gibbons like meetings at which they waste time and produce meaningless noise(4) which means the person that does all the work doesn't have much time left over to actually read your treatment. This means they do not want to be mucked about and will make a decision within the first two pages of the treatment. 

5) So make sure that you have heart of the pitch is in those first two pages. There's no point subtlety working in your ideas amongst the character notes and episode outlines the decision will have been made.

6) Proof read your document carefully to ensure you don't come across as semi-illiterate.

7) A couple of illustrations is nice but don't over do it. Nothing says padding like a pitch with more pictures than text(5).

(1) Yeah like that was voluntary.
(2) Although some of them are now repeating the process in Salford.
(3) I can't recommend this strategy strongly enough - nothing eases your recalcitrant colleagues round to your point of view like a huge meal and a couple of bottles of wine. 
(4) And faeces of course. 
(5) I know TV is a visual medium, so does the person you are pitching to but TV is not short of striking images what it's short of is good stories.


pbristow said...


I can never remember, does HTML work on this thing? Oh well, I guess we're about to find out...
(ETA: OK, some HTML is, but strike isn't. Oh well...)

"The Joy of [strike]Treatments[/strike] Porn"

There, FTFY. Surprisingly little else in the piece needs changing... =:o}

Leslie said...

Don't you have to write an outline of the synopsis of the treatment as well?

If it goes poorly have one of these to cheer yourself up!