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Writing A Treatment For A Documentary

By Expert Author: John Williams

A formidable task for most, writing a treatment for a documentary is often undertaken by treatment writers with considerable trepidation. A 'documentary' is a term with no clear-cut boundaries. The author faces a problem while composing a script or a treatment for such shows even though they deal with certain aspect of real life. Documentaries are made for the large or the small screen and require smaller budget. There is a slight overlap in the terms 'Reality' and 'Documentary'. Due to the nature of this genre of shows, the action is fully unknown till the end of the filming is reached. Although the modern-day light-weight cameras and editing being done by computers have done a lot of good to crafting one, the writing a treatment for a documentary still sticks out like a soar thumb.
The challenge of compiling a treatment is an unnecessary bother but has to be done mainly because:
1. It helps the investors to visualize your idea. If they see it as a profitable venture, funds will be no problem for making a documentary.
2. A treatment brings improved clarity to your own concepts, ideas and expectations.
3. It helps in the process of filming and editing.
4. A treatment offers a common platform for understanding and interpretation of the approach to producing a documentary by crew members.
The treatment could well be written after filming but it will serve no purpose. As the shoot progresses, the documentary will undergo some phenomenal changes that are difficult to control. It will be wise to pretend that you are writing the treatment after the completion of the filming. Going backwards eases the chore of writing a treatment for a documentary. About 3-4 pages for a treatment are more than enough to paint a complete picture of what the project is about.
Keep to active voice in present tense. You are not simply to narrate what will occur after what but verbally show the reader what they will experience seeing the documentary on the screen. Writing a treatment for a documentary should be done after having conducted the initial research on the selected subject or topic. Include only the facts that have ample evidence to support them. Adopt a professional tone and not a personal one. Check with the producers if the treatment is required in any specific format and follow it meticulously.
There are no templates for writing a treatment for a documentary nor are there any definite formula. Since the treatment cannot encompass sound and visual effects, they have to make greater efforts to attract and sustain the attention of the readers. Treatments should be so written that they become tools for documenting real-life events while they unfold before the camera. If a narrator is needed, you must give some inkling as to who could fill the shoes of one. Crafting a treatment is sometimes considered a waste of time because you cannot say for sure how the subject will react. Besides, it elevates the hopes of the stakeholders that the finished product lives up to the standard of the treatment written earlier. Consider hiring a treatment writer to help write your treatment.

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