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Monday, August 10, 2009

The Treatment

As photographers morph into the world of motion-picture video, presenting a client with a brief but complete description of the project, whether still photography, video or both can mean the difference between getting the gig or missing out

Guideline Two: Too long is as bad as too short. Don’t get bogged down in writing an epic. This is hard, especially for your first few treatments. Try to maintain an economy with words. Your ability to tell a story well is what will win you attention, not a droning, obsequious diatribe of babble. On the other side of the coin, barfing out a few sentences to muscle your way through the requirement of writing a treatment is equally apt to get you tossed in the trash.

Guideline Three: Your words are the right words. Under no circumstances should you start trying to employ a bunch of heavy words straight from the thesaurus like a sesquipedalian drunk. Write a treatment in the same way you would explain the job to your producer, agent, spouse or whoever happens to be in bed with you in the morning. It’s important for your personality to come out in the writing. This is your perspective that you’re trying to convey.

Guideline Four: Break it up. Keep paragraphs to three to five lines with a space in between. Use headings to help break it up. These can be fun like “...AND THEN IT ALL GOES HORRIBLY WRONG...” or a CHARACTER’S NAME when they first appear. Or you can use headings to divide the treatment into its main sequences. Do whatever it takes so the treatment isn’t just some huge, dense chunk of exposition that goes on and on and on. (These headings can be in CAPS and UNDERLINED.)

Guideline Five: Tone it up. Work hard to establish the tone. Just as a writer can use scene description in a script to help convey the tone, it’s a must that you do so in a treatment. If it’s just a scene-by-scene outline without any color commentary, readers will get bored. Also make sure the tone matches the shot described in the boards. If it’s a serious Nike shoot, get into the look and feel through words. If you’re doing a bright comedic piece for an insurance company, let your descriptive words convey that.

Treatments: The New Creative Discussions
Treatments are just written versions of the ideas you’d express to the art director of how you’d visually execute the job. There’s no real formatting protocol, but as you can see, following these guidelines will give you a readable description that conveys your vision. Even if your clients haven’t started asking for treatments yet, write one anyway. Including one with your bid may brand you as more sophisticated than the competition.

SLOW FADE-OUT: The WRITER orders a drink from the BARTENDER, with his laptop just out of focus in the background.

Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker Louis Lesko is the author of Advertising Photography: A Straight-forward Guide to a Complex Industry and the owner of Blinkbid Software, business software for photographers.


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