Posted by: steveonfilm | December 13, 2009

Pride is Forever: Day Seven

“The hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write.”

Now we’re starting to get into some serious writing. Chapter four is titled “Four Pages,” and is the first time Syd Field introduces you to the concept of a treatment. What is a treatment? According to Syd it’s “a narrative synopsis of a story line.” In other words, its a basic explanation of the story from beginning to end.

For the exercise at the end of the chapter, Syd has you write out a four page treatment. Syd calls it a “kick in the ass” exercise because it’s the first time he asks his students to take the vague, “amorphous” idea, and give it some serious structure and backbone. And this is true, in more ways than one.

This chapter is by far my most favorite of the book. Mainly, because Syd shares an experience he went through writing one of his screenplays that is almost to a T what I went through the first time I sat down to writer a screenplay. He talks about sitting down with a general idea, a good amount of research, and just giving it a go. “Banging my head on the typewriter” he called it. But it didn’t work. He never took the time to plan out his story, give it structure, plot it out. He just started writing and hoped it would all come together.

I know that’s the same way a lot of new writers start out too. I know I did. Sure, maybe there are a few people who can write a screenplay that way. If it turns out any good, more power to them. But those people are the exception, not the rule. It is possible to write a screenplay like that, but it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. And if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not likely you’re going to come back any do it again.

I’ve gotten a lot better are planning out and really putting time into fleshing out a treatment. In a lot of ways, I do it in tandem with my 52 points, because I end up writing so much description into each of the points. But the bottom line is that I end up spending a lot more time with my 52 points than I should. So I essence I need to to get better at working out a treatment.

One of the nice things about this chapter is that Syd goes to great lengths to remind the reader/writer that everything they’re about to write is completely flexible. This is just an exercise, an attempt to add another layer of structure to your idea before the actual screenwriting occurs. The ideas and concepts fleshed out at this point can, and will likely, change. It kind of takes the pressure off, reminding you that this isn’t a make or break moment, it’s just a step forward in the writing process. He also remind you not to show your treatment to anyone. The point of this exercise isn’t to get feedback, it’s just to get your head working around putting more structure into your story line.

Syd gives a nice outline of how to structure a four page treatment to sort of ease you into the treatment writing process. Buy the book if you want to know more about that.

Since I’m going to be putting in a good deal of time on this, it might take a day or two, maybe longer, before I have the whole thing completed. I’ll post my progress as i move along, but I’m not expecting to have this all done at once. I’ll likely chew on a lot of things for a while as I try to plan out how the second act is going to work. Fortunately, with “Pride is Forever” I already have a lot of real life events that I can choose to use if I need to.

Until next time, keep writing!
-Steve

P.S. I didn’t just jack that image because it had the word “Treatment” in it. KCRW’s “The Treatment” is a great radio show for writers and film makers in general. A free podcast of each episode is available in iTunes for those who want to check it out. I encourage you to do so.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the podcast, I’ll check it out


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