Monday, October 4, 2010

Do's and Don'ts: Pitching & Treatment Formats

When registering to pitch a project to industry executives, you're required to submit an original Title, Logline and Synopsis of the project, in addition to other elements of the project's profile (subjects and themes) that may apply, which together creates a "Treatment". Below are some basic definitions with a bit of guidance for each. This should provide some specific insight for understanding how a pitch should be communicated for each main genre. There are no set rules, but there are some essential practices that help bring your pitch to life on the page.What's A Treatment?: [def.- A detailed pitch or summary of a story, format, or concept for the purposes of selling to entertainment industry executives. Length and content varies by genre, but will always include a Logline and Synopsis.]

A great title is the first thing to draw in a Producer, and ultimately the viewers. It should be clever and clear. Clever, in the way the Title is unique, ironic, compelling or funny. Clear, in the way it tells what it is we're going to see. Stay away from creative titles that are so off-the-mark there's no clue or even indirect suggestion as to what the movie or tv show is about. Simple is great. Simple and creative is even better.

What's a Logline? A one or two sentence short pitch that gives the main objective of a story or concept, as well as any unique hook or twist. It does take talent to boil down your overall concept into  a one-two punch for a great logline, so practice writing several until you hit on the right message that will hook a potential buyer's interest in the project. Here's a few approaches...

Logline for Screenplay or Movie Concept: Focus on the main character of the story and his or her agenda. You want to focus on the unique premise and circumstances that fuel the story.
Logline for scripted TV Series: Its all about character and circumstances. Key on the main character's unique circumstances and overall agenda through the series.

Logline for TV Reality Series Concept: In a reality series logline you want to make impact by illustrating the extremely unique or compelling circumstances, set-up, or content for the show. Be very straight forward, and give the big hook or payoff that it leads to. If pitching a docu-series based on people or a profession, detail the subject and unique circumstances that would indicate it'd be entertaining to watch.

Logline for Docu-Style Series: This would have the same approach as a logline for a "reality" series, but you'll want to focus on the person, family, company or venue involved, angling for what makes it a unique and entertaining subject for a series.

Logline for Book Adaptation: Communicate very briefly the narrative or subject of the book, and what makes it unique. It will most often be solely focused on the main character's experience or path in the story.

Synopsis for Screenplay or Movie Concept: This may be 1 to 7 pages, covering the major and critical plot points as they unfold in your screenplay or concept. If your story or concept is fully developed, specify Acts 1, 2 and 3 in your format. You'll want to focus on writing a very compelling set-up and circumstances for the main character. Focus most of the synopsis' writing on their journey, the conflicts and challenges they encounter, any unique twists of irony, and of course a climax or resolution that is compelling and unique. Be efficient and avoid too much expository writing. Every sentence needs to move the story forward, and every paragraph needs to enrich the plot and build quickly toward the third act and climax.

Synopsis for scripted TV Series: This may be 2 to 5 pages. Focus on the main character, the world we're discovering through them, and the circumstances of their life. Provide detailed character descriptions to illustrate their relationship dynamics. Detail a sample episode outline for the pilot (a few paragraphs), and perhaps a list of possible episode premises.
Synopsis for TV Reality Series Concept: This may be 1 to 3 pages. The key to good reality format writing is to be able to describe what we're potentially watching. Some new writers get too caught up in the high concept or "idea" of the show, when the real challenge is in specifying what we're actually watching in the series. Set the circumstances for the series describing how it progresses, who is involved, and specific examples of outcome. Also keep in mind that there should be a specific goal, or ultimatum involved. Although reality TV is unscripted, you need to create scenarios and circumstances that create potential for drama, humor, or other entertaining content.

Synopsis for a Documentary Series: Since most docu-style series focus on people, professions, or special interests, you'll want to focus on describing the specific people or subjects involved and what makes their world unique. Characters and conflict are the fuel for any popular docu-series, and this may be found in a family business, profession, lifestyle or other venue. Provide specific background details, and again, "what we're actually watching". Include any Bio info, web links, or other notable info. If you have any web-links to video of the people or venue, this really helps. Include the URL Address (http://www.----------, etc.) of any videos at the bottom of the synopsis for Producers to navigate and view.

Synopsis for Book Adaptation: Focused almost solely on the main character's experience in the story, provide a summarized view of the book. This can simply be the back-cover of the book, or a more detailed treatment of the manuscript. Keep it condensed, as you'll pull more interest from Producers by focusing on the most pivotal moments in the story.

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