Writing a Treatment

A treatment is one of the earliest documents prepared during the pre-production process. The treatment is simply an outline of your story from beginning to end. You don’t have to include dialogue. This is an extremely powerful way to play around with your story without having ideas set in concrete. As Benjamin Craig notes: “A treatment is a narrative version of the story in a script, presented in story format, describing the main action with little or no dialogue. Many writers use treatments as a way of fleshing out their stories in narrative format to map out the flow of the action across the major scenes in the script before they start work on the dialogue. This way the writer can be sure that the story flows correctly before they commence the actually script.”

How to Format a Screenplay

A screenplay is the shooting script that is used by actors during rehearsal and on the set. Screenplays are written in a particular format to make them easily readable.

You may consider using a Microsoft Word template or software like Celtx to format your screenplay. The image below demonstrates how screenplays are formatted.


Consider the following conventions when formatting your screenplay:

  • Page #. Every page in your screenplay should be numbered. This will mean that your actors can quickly find pages when you’re on set.
  • Transition. Used to indicate a transition, such as a dissolve or fade in, the might occur between scenes.
  • Scene Heading/Slugline. Indicates the beginning of  scene. The slugline is written entirely in caps. INT indicates that the scene takes place indoors. EXT indicates that the scene will occur outdoors.
  • Action. Sometimes referred to as the ‘big print’, this describes what is happening on the screen. It is written in present tense.
  • Character. To indicate dialogue, a character’s name is usually capitalised roughly in the centre of the page.
  • Dialogue. Dialogue is indented beneath the character’s name.
  • Parentheticals. Indicates how a line is delivered.

If you’re serious about screenwriting, there is also a great piece of software that you can use called Celtx, which incorporates screenwriting and storyboarding features side by side. This software is available for a variety of operating systems. Download this PDF from The Oscars website which explains how a screenplay should be formatted.