Story Not Images

Your focus is on story, not photography. In fact, one sure sign that a treatment has been prepared by a less-experienced filmmaker is that it begins by mentioning spectacular sunsets or mists across the valley. If you're focusing on shots or describing the dolleys and cranes and helicopter mounts you'll be using to get them, you're not conveying story. With that said, you can write a treatment that is (occasionally) cinematic. For example, "Work-worn fingers moving rapidly under the sewing machine seem to belong to someone other than the lively 14-year-old operating the machine." That sentence clearly is a close-up that widens out to reveal the person sewing. Or this, from The Milltail Pack (see sample pages at the end of this chapter): "The pack [of red wolves] is heading to a corn field just at the end of the road. In the brown, dry stalks of last month's corn live mice, rabbits and voles—tasty appetizers for the Milltail Pack." This is enough of an image to carry the reader through the exposition that follows. Using a different style, here is the first sentence of the treatment for You Could Grow Aluminum Out There (for the series Cadillac Desert): "In California we name things for what they destroyed. Real estate signs whiz by the windshield ... 'Quail Meadows,' 'The Grasslands,' 'Indian Creek,' 'Riverbank Estates,' 'Elk Grove Townhouses,' 'Miwok Village.' Before the Spaniards came, 300 tribes shared the Central Valley of California."

Note that there's a difference between writing to describe what you know you can see, and inventing it as if you were writing the treatment for a dramatic feature. A treatment for a dramatic feature might set a scene like this: "It's late at night. President Truman and his cabinet sit in a smoke-filled room, deliberating their next move." If this is how you're writing a treatment for a factual, historical documentary, either you're aware of stock/archival footage of this scene, or you're planning to recreate it, based on historical evidence that supports your visual interpretation—who was in the room, how late at night it was, what was being discussed. In either case, it should be clear in your treatment how we'll be seeing what we're seeing. For example, "We recreate an impression of this meeting as we hear an actor reading from the president's own diary: It's late at night. He and his cabinet sit in a smoke-filled room. They are deliberating their next move " Or, "In black-and-white-footage shot by the president's niece, a young art student who happened to be with her uncle that fateful day, we see the late-night meeting, the smoke-filled room. A weary president and his staff, deliberating "

If this is a scene that you're anticipating for a present-day story—for example, you've gotten permission to film a corporation as it unveils a new product—then imagining a scene is permissible, if it is based on research and reasonable expectations. For example, "Our cameras accompany Heather Bourne as she strides into Gotham Towers and rides an elevator to the penthouse, where we'll see her present the new, and somewhat radical, ad campaign to the company's famously traditional board of directors."

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment