4 SCREENWRITING SECRETS (I love #3)….. (1st) The Treatment, (2nd) The 3 Acts, (3rd) ACT II and (4th) The Sale
by Dov S-S Simens on July 27, 2019
GOT A MOVIE IDEA… BE CAREFUL!
Ideas, and especially movie ideas, are a dime-a-dozen… and I know that you’re absolutely sure that yours is great and worth at least a million bucks when compared to what ideas Hollywood uses to make movies…
And “Yes great movie ideas are rare.”
But beware, even if you have a great idea, a variation of one of Shakespeare’s “20 Master Plots” or an amazing twist on Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” (superb storytelling book) and your idea is great… Always remember… “No one, no matter how great and how unique the thought might be… owns an idea.”
(“You cannot own an idea. But a Treatment, based on your idea, is something you can own & sell.”)
Lets assume you have the great idea. And you tell it to someone.
Uh-Oh. You screwed up.
Because now the person, you just told it to can make it without you, for all you had was an idea, which you don’t own, and just gave it (told it) to someone for free.
Again, “No one owns an idea”. So what do you do?
Simple, take the idea and make it into something that you own… And this something is called a “Treatment”.
Thus, whenever you get an idea, instantly go to your computer, type 3-5 pages, with a title page with the title centered and six lines down, then skip a line and centered type “Treatment-For-Feature Film”, the skip a line and type “by”, then skip a line and type “Your Name”.
Take these now 4-6 pages and register it with the Writers Guild of America (www.WGA.org $25) and now… it is no longer an idea… it is a thing (a Treatment) that you own with a date (the day you spent $25) proving when you created it.
1st: WRITE A TREATMENT
Writing a Treatment is very-very-very easy. And, once it’s written you graduated from having a thought to having something tangible (3-5 page Treatment, 4-6 pages with Title Page), based on your idea, that is protect-able, because you have the Date-of-Registration, received from the Writer’s Guild, as “PROOF OF CREATION” that has merit in a court-of-law.
(“It only takes 2-3 hours to type 3-5 pages and own a Treatment.”)
So, let’s write a 3-5 page Treatment.
FIRST QUESTION: Can a Treatment be longer than 3-5 pages? Of course it can! But, start with 3 pages, and while writing if it becomes 4 pages “Fine”, 5 pages “Fine”, 7-10 pages “Fine”, 15 pages “Fine”, 20 pages “Fine”, 30 pages… “Enough. Enough. Enough.” This is starting to become a bloody short-story or a novel…
…3-5 pages is enough, 5-7 pages is better, 7-9 pages is even better….if detailed. But you’re not dazzling Hollywood when you state “You’ve written a 75 page Treatment”.
For, while reading the 75 pages, if at any time, the reader becomes bored he/she bins-it.
Again, no one is dazzled with a lot of pages.
Thus, let’s take your idea, which you don’t own, and write a 3-5 page Treatment, which you will own.
SECOND QUESTION: What format do I type? Answer is “not script format going down-the-page with dialogue but simple prose format, going left-to-right with adjectives & adverbs describing “what’s happening”.
IMPORTANT POINT: When you type a Treatment it is DOUBLE SPACE, not single space and that’s half the line/page, which means this 3-5 page Treatment is really only 1.5-2.5 pages of single space typing…and if you can’t do this; then get the heck out of Hollywood and go to Med School…the world needs more pro-bono, non-greedy, doctors not more filmmaker-dreamers with no work ethics.
Now, write your 3-5 page Treatment outlining the 3 Act Structure.
2nd: KNOW THE 3 ACTS
THIRD QUESTION: Everyone says that movies (aka: scripts) have a ‘3 Act Structure’.
Ok, but “what the f*ck do they mean by that?”
I’ve seen a lot of movies and have never seen anything on the screen typed, ACT I, then 25-30 minutes later, the curtain closes & opens, and I see typed, ACT II, then 25-30 minutes later the curtain closes & opens, and I see ACT III.
So, again…“What the f*ck do they mean by a 3 Act Structure?”
Simple. Everything has a BEGINNING (aka: Act I), a MIDDLE (aka: Act II) and an ENDING (aka: Act III).
So let’s write a Treatment and begin with 3 blank pages.
(“The 3 Acts are the Beginning, Middle & End. Beginning & End are simple but what is difficult is the Middle.”)
Any idea, what you are going to call the 1st blank page?
Duh! ACT I.
Any idea, what you are going to call the 2nd blank page?
Duh! ACT II.
Any idea, what you are going to call the 3rd blank page?
Duh! ACT III.
In the Beginning (Act I) you set up (aka: introduce) everything and everyone.
In the Ending (Act III) you resolve everything.
In the Middle (Act II) you tell the story of how the protagonist got from Act I to Act III.
The key is Act II. It is ACT II that is the problem. ACT II is tough to write. Just about every movie I’ve ever seen (try it yourself), I always like the first 5-7 minutes (Act I) and the last 3-4 minutes (Act III), but it is always the big middle (Act II) where I get bored.
(“In my Streaming 16-hour Film School I clearly detail, in 1-hour, how to write a great ACT II… https://www.webfilmschool.com/streaming-film-school/ “
Also, the 3 Acts are not equal in space or time.
With a 90-page screenplay Act I is not pages 1-30; Act II is not pages 31-60 and Act III is not pages 61-90.
In actuality, Act I (The Beginning), with a 90-page script, is very short maybe 5-7 or 7-10 pages and Act III (The Ending) is even shorter with just 3-5 or 5-7 pages.
Thus, in writing a 3-Page treatment allocate the upper half (space-wise) of Page 1 for Act I (The Beginning) and the bottom half (space-wise) of Page 3 for Act III (The Ending).
Now, for ACT I (half of Page 1) with 3-4 long, grammatically incorrect sentences stating (A) The GOOD GUY, (B) The BAD GUY, (C) The SETTING, (D) The SITUATION & (E) The CONFLICT….
Plus, each time you introduce a new character (A) type his/her name in ALL Upper Case letters (Why? It tells the reader “new person”), & after introduced (All Caps) when you type the character’s name again, now just type in Upper & Lower Case letters; then (B) state his/her age; then (C) give a 7-12 word visualization (“immigrant with dreams of riches”; “hooker with a heart of gold”; “salesman that can sell air conditioners to Eskimos”; at the least “a Tom Hanks Forest Gump type of character”.
This is ACT I. It takes only half of Page 1.
Now, go to the bottom half of Page 3 and write Act III.
WHAT IS ACT III?
Act III is a professorial phrase for “The Ending”… Do you think the ending is just going to appear to you between pages 15-80?
Write the bloody ending. Remember, “It can change”. But you must conceptualize and ending, so you can create Act II, a roadmap for how your protagonist(s) gets from Act I to Act III.
You now have written the Upper-Half of Page-1 (ACT I: The Beginning) and the Bottom-Half of Page-3 (ACT III: The Ending).
Your next step is to visualize the tough one…ACT II (The Big Middle, the actual story) which in typing is the Bottom-Half of Page-1, all of Page-2 and the Upper-Half of Page-3.
3rd: ACT II (5 Uh-Ohs, 5 Oh-Shits & 1 OMG) IS THE KEY
(“My STREAMING FILM SCHOOL at $129-189 is the cheapest and best film education tool in the world…. www.WebFilmSchool.com”)
ACT II, is what writing instructors call “structure” and talk professorial about things like plot points, crisis, resolution, twists, back stories, sub-plots, emotional involvements, character development, goals, desires, journeys, etc.
Again, writing instructors call this “structure”.
Syd Field called it a ‘Paradigm’, John Truby calls it Building Blocks, who the heck knows what McKee calls it or what Shakespeare or Chaucer called it… Now, are you ready for what I call it?
It’s the Roller Coaster ride… the Ups & Downs.
You introduce (A) The Boy, then (B) The Girl, then (C) The desire, then (D) The Action, then (E) The Problem….etc.
The Roller Coaster Ride, which I call (“get ready”), the 5 UH-OHS, 5 OH-SHITS & 1 OH-MY-GOD.
This is a total of 11 scenes.
It is my strong belief that every movie has “5 UH-OHS, 5 OH-SHITS & 1 OH-MY-GOD” scenes, 11 scenes that comprise Act II with the roller coaster ride that makes it a story.
So, to write a 3-Page Treatment. First, WRITE “ACT I” (Top Half of Page-1), then WRITE “ACT III” (Bottom Half of Page-3); then plot the 5 UH-OHS, 5 OH-SHITS & 1 OH-MY-GOD, then WRITE “ACT II” (Bottom Half of Page-1, Top Half of Page 3 and all of Page 2).
Finish with a title page and with $25 go to the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA.org) and register it….
Congratulations…you just wrote and registered a Treatment…and not only own something but can prove the exact date that you created it.
However, don’t get too cocky for you own something, a Treatment, but the Treatment needs to be fleshed out more if you are to write a screenplay that is to be sold for $1,000,000.
Your next step, a follow-up No-Bull Blog, will be to take the 7-11 scenes established in your Treatment and flesh it to 40-60 scenes with the A-Story, 3 B-Stories and Back Stories, all intertwined into a satisfying ending and epilogue, which is called a “BEAT SHEET”.
Once you have a “BEAT SHEET” you can write a Great Script in 3-weeks typing 5-minutes/day.
4th: THE $1,000,000 SALE.
Lets get to the million dollars and assume that you have the Treatment… A great idea, with a great Act I, a great Act III, with an amazing ACT II, registered and copyrighted, and are ready to sell it to a production company that has a development deal with a movie studio.
The sale (aka: Purchase Agreement) is going to be an Option Agreement with the main deal points being Purchase Price, Option Price, Option Period, Renewal Periods and Payment Schedules”
(“An Option Agreement has 5 major Deal Memo points (A) Purchase Price, (B) Option Price, (C) Option Time Period, (D) Renewal Periods and (E) Payment Schedule.”)
Let’s run the major Purchase Agreement points again…
(A) PURCHASE PRICE: $1,000,000
(B) OPTION PRICE: $1,000
(C) OPTION PERIOD: 12-18 Months
(D) RENEWAL PERIODS: 2 at 6-Months each, for an additional $1,000
(E) PAYMENT SCHEDULE: Option, First Draft, Polish, Re-Write, Final Draft, Principal Photography, Distribution, Revenues…
And if the treatment never secures the financing, to become a script, that becomes a movie, that gets distributed and shows profits and you only got $1K, for the film never got made, you will market for the rest of your life that you “Sold an idea to Hollywood for $1,000,000”.
Don’t get depressed for in my Film School Programs, and further posts, I’ll teach how to get a better sale, more money upfront, a shorter option period, a paid writing assignment (wga minimum) for two drafts, and how to secure a percentage of Box Office Gross and Net Producer Profits once the film, based on your idea gets made and distributed.
Welcome to Hollywood…
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2 comments on “4 SCREENWRITING SECRETS (I love #3)….. (1st) The Treatment, (2nd) The 3 Acts, (3rd) ACT II and (4th) The Sale”
I always loved plot twists. Most of the movies today does it really well. – Justine
It was my dream to learn how to travel on low budget. This article served as a perfect boot for me to make me put all things aside and set for an amazing journey.