View Full Version : Treatment or Full Script?

06-14-2004, 04:22 PM
Here's a question that's probably answered in one of the FAQs, but I could not find it. So, I apologize for the rehash...perhaps someone can point me to the links?

A novelist (he publishes his own novels) and I are currently pre-writing our first screenplay. It is a true story based on an incident that happened off the Texas coast a few centuries ago and and I was wondering if it was best to pitch this as a treatment or develop it into a full screenplay? I've dabbled in screenplays before but have really never completed a feature length script. My friend has never written any scripts and nor is he fluent in the industry.

What route would you recommend we go? Thanks!

06-14-2004, 05:57 PM
write the script. Few people will be interested in reading a treatment from those who haven't written a script.

06-14-2004, 06:07 PM
I'm assuming that you guys want to be screenwriters - hence, write the script.

If you're just hoping to sell the idea, then write the treatment.

06-14-2004, 06:42 PM
Hi Jim,
I think we may be interested in just selling the idea. However, what are the benefits of each (treatment or write the script)?


06-14-2004, 06:48 PM
I think it's so so difficult for unproven writers with no prior writing sample (a feature screenplay or some script) to get a meeting with the executives who make decisions that the notion of just selling an idea is a near impossibility.

06-14-2004, 10:30 PM
Unless your name is on the cover of that book, your only way to get anything out of this is to write a spec and pray that no studio or producer decides to take out an option on it in the meantime. Unless you optioned the book, you have no legal claim on the material. If someone else options or buys the rights to it, you, a first time writer, will never get the chance to write the script. And there is nothing you'll be able to do to change that. So the author of the book will get his paycheck. You, however, will get nothing.

06-15-2004, 07:11 AM
Hi Thanks for your replies.

There are NO books or documents about this story. It is just based on material we found in Spanish archives.

Bess McNeil
06-15-2004, 09:43 AM
Definitely write the script.

If this is based on a true story there is nothing to keep the producers from reading your treatment, saying 'thanks, but we're not interested' and then turning around and hiring a proven screenwriter to do the work for them. You're more protected if you have a copywritten script in hand.

06-15-2004, 09:52 AM
Excellent point, however, like I said before, this is our first script and so I don't know if we'd be able to do it justice. Is it common for people like us to hire other screenwriters to write it for us?

Bess McNeil
06-15-2004, 09:59 AM
Not really. I mean, to hire a professional screenwriter to do it for you you'd have to pay them as much as the production company would pay you to buy the script, I imagine.

The thing is, if you write the script, and they like the concept, but not the execution, they can then go ahead and buy your script and hire someone else to rewrite it. That's very commonly done. They're much less likely to steal the idea if you've presented them with a completed script.

It's much easier cheaper for them to buy a script from a first time writer than to pay out to a potential lawsuit later....

Good luck!

06-15-2004, 10:52 AM
If you want a professional screenwriter, you're talking at least a 100K (and that if you're lucky). Are you prepared to pay that much?

06-15-2004, 12:16 PM
They're much less likely to steal the idea

Writer's paranoia plain and simple.


06-15-2004, 02:21 PM
KWV is right. I think Film's idea getting stolen is the least of his worries.

What he may wish to worry about his whether or not he can get anyone to even read his work. Agents are not going to want just a treatment. Studios never look at unsolicited materials, and ditto for your typical studio back company (with a few exceptions).

Film, if you want to get a screenplay sold you have to decide on a career in screenwriting, and developing your writing yourself. You say your a first timer, and your friend is a self published writer, so it is doubtful either of you could hire a screenwriter. Besides, I'd say on a producer, director, or studio exec has any business hiring a screenwriter.

No one is likely to buy or steal an "idea" from an unknown writer, then go out and have to hire a screenwriter or screenwriters to develop it. Then go out and actually produce it.

So take the time and learn the craft, if you're interested. And after you finish the screenplay and start marketing, move on to your next screenplay. And so on.

06-15-2004, 02:47 PM
I have to make a career out of screenwriting in order to sell a screenplay? All I want to do is sell this one idea or script.

Bess McNeil
06-15-2004, 04:20 PM
Normally I would agree with you, KW, but in the case of scripts based on true life stories, I've seen producers take a writer's pitch and develop their own project based on it, without including the original writer who pitched it to them. Since it's a real life story, the producer has just as much right as anyone else to develop the script, and the original writer has no recourse.

06-15-2004, 07:56 PM
I think it's so so difficult for unproven writers with no prior writing sample (a feature screenplay or some script) to get a meeting with the executives who make decisions that the notion of just selling an idea is a near impossibility.

Not to mention, that they're going to risk "stealing" the execution of an idea, whether fiction or non-fiction.

The character names were changed to protect the innocent (mind the pun, Bess). ;)


Bess McNeil
06-15-2004, 08:27 PM

06-15-2004, 09:39 PM
"I have to make a career out of screenwriting in order to sell a screenplay? All I want to do is sell this one idea or script."

Ah, Texas -- the land of opportunity.

You could find a buyer for your old hunkajunk car, even if you've never sold anything before.

And here you have this unbelievably great *idea* (and the cool thing is it really happened) but you can't tell anyone what it is until they cough up huge amounts of dough first.

There outta be a law against this sort of discrimination.

Go on, kick the tire... I feel for ya.:rolleyes

06-15-2004, 11:03 PM
OH well we'll see how far I get and then I'll report to this forum:)

I've heard a story about a guy who went in to pitch an idea to HBO and was rejected...and then when the guy started talking about his brother, HBO bought his story on the spot and asked if he'd be interested in helping develop it into a script.

Strange things happen!

06-16-2004, 01:27 AM
I wonder with no credits how on earth will you reach a legit producer or studio exec?

The main board, www.scriptsales.com, has the telephone numbers for the studios and for many of the prodcos and agents. Don't take our words for anything. Call them yourself, and ask if they will just buy a total newbie's idea.

06-16-2004, 11:22 AM
Of course if he puts it the way you put it, they won't. But if he pitches it well... who knows. It's been known to happen, though rarely. One of my instructors at USC (a well known producer) once told us that he bought an idea some waiter pitched him @ Spago... go figure...

Augie Kestrel
06-16-2004, 03:24 PM
I'm curious. When you say you found this story-idea in the Spanish archives, are you referring to legajos stored in Seville?

06-16-2004, 04:01 PM
Hi Augie.
I am not sure, as I did not find it. My novelist/writer friend did and Seville does sound very familiar. Is that a known depot of work and literature from Spain?

Augie Kestrel
06-19-2004, 11:35 PM
Sort of. The Spaniards were filthy sailors, but kept excellent records. When a ship left the New World (usually from Havana, which was the "hub" of all Spanish shipping in the New World), each ship carried with it a copy of the ship's cargo manifest. A second copy was retained in Havana, while a third copy was sent back (on a different ship) to the King in Spain. Generally, all of this bookkeeping was done so that the King could collect a tax on the goods on board (including gold, silver and other treasures).

As I recall, the King's legajos (files) were originally kept in Madrid. A few natural disasters (fires, floods) destroyed a lot of the archived legajos. Eventually, the remaining papers were relocated to an official archive in Seville. There are still millions of pages of UNTRANSLATED documents and maps stored in the archives there. Most of the serious treasure hunters operating around Florida and the Caribbean have spent some time in the archives when searching for information on specific shipwrecks. Mel Fisher, who found the treasure of the Atocha, beat his competitors to the loot because his researcher in the archives noticed that legajos already examined by others had been mis-translated. The legajos indicated that the ship had gone down to the EAST of a particular island. Everyone else was looking for the Atocha to the west of the island. The exact problem involved the mis-reading of the words "oeste" and "este", written on centuries-old paper with an extravagant handwriting.

Here's a link to a really old website. While the whole article is interesting, you can learn about the history of the archives by scrolling down to the subheading "The Archivos":

Restoring the Archives (http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byauth/rutimann/archivo.html)

06-20-2004, 01:20 AM
I really don't understand what treatment means in this way of using that term. Is that just another way of saying rewriting?

Augie Kestrel
06-20-2004, 08:31 AM
No. Here's an example of a treatment.

Go to www.scriptsales.com, then click on "Examples" (or just click here) (http://www.scriptsales.com/Treatment.html)

06-20-2004, 06:19 PM
You got it right Augie, that's what he found (Seville).