Why do you treat me like this?

Posted on October 27 2010 by James

Last time we looked at treatments and focused on what kind of a document a treatment is. We’ve nearly finished writing the treatment for Shocking the Donkeys and the next stage is to start writing a script.


Part of Horio, Symi, a possible shooting location

The treatment we are writing is a detailed scene by scene blueprint of what happens (called by some a beat sheet, by others a scriptment). But why do we bother with this?

When authors construct a story there’s a lot going on in their heads about what characters are thinking and feeling and doing at any particular moment. In a novel it’s easy to show this. You just write it down. “Inside, John was seething, but he just kept smiling as if nothing had happened.”

If you stop to think about that for a moment, ask yourself how a movie might show this moment. You cannot film thoughts and feeling. You have to show them in some way. If John’s anger was so successfully concealed from view (as the book described) how, then, is the film going to show it?

This is why the treatment is sometimes called “the book” because it contains the details a novel contains but which somehow need to be conveyed in the script by other, more visual means.

There are ways of doing this, of course. The audience might already know enough from previous scenes to realise that what John has just experienced has made him angry. Or there may be a close up of a slight clenching of the fist behind his back. These are devices. But the anger needs to be clearly stated in the treatment so that others (like the director or actor) can judge if the script itself actually delivers on this bit of subtlety.

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