I think that one’s particular Point-Of-View – Producer or Writer – determines how you would write up a Treatment. Furthermore, a Producer may need a Treatment for creative purposes only. Let me explain.
A Producer’s job encompasses many activities on bringing a movie to the Silver Screen. In no particular order, they must find the funding, guide the creative direction of the film, find the best director, approve the key players (1st AD, production designer, DP and more) and then get talent attached to make the project a viable project in the most challenging of environments – the marketplace.
A Treatment is used by the writer to layout the various stages of a script (whether one follows McKee, Vogler, Hauge or screenwriting software templates) so that the direction of the story, the development of characters and its theme are clear. After working with a creative producer, a writer would then proceed from a Treatment to a First Draft Screenplay.
But how does a Treatment serve the Producer’s Interests and Tasks? In most cases, a producer will want to create enthusiasm for the project, enticing participants (creative crew and cast) and funders. A Producer is de factor a salesman. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. We are all ‘salespersons’ in one way or the other – selling our skills, ideas, resources, opportunities to other human beings. In a Producer’s case, the sale is the Project. So a Producer would require other forms of written communications for the project. A short synopsis. A Long synopsis. And then a Treatment for a serious contender for finance. Now a Treatment is less-detailed than a script and a bit more difficult in terms of imagining the final form. A script has characters, dialogue, settings, themes in all its subtle and not-so-subtle forms. A script is NOT the final form of the movie. The process of making the movie based on the script still involves many actualities, compromises, solutions and invariably unexpected directions. You may dream of a certain location or actor – but then another one takes its place.
A Producer might hand over a Treatment to an interested party – but probably better if they don’t. Using one’s imagination to fill in the gaps of a treatment is considerable. The imagination and its accuracy is stretched in an polished script much less a treatment. So I think that a Treatment serves a useful creative purpose – but is left wanting for a Producer’s sales obligations.
As David Lean told me as a young man, “There are three scripts in the process. You write one script. You have the second script in your head. And the third script is the one you film.”