Treatment Writer 101: Getting the Most out of Your Relationship

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Treatment Writer 101: Getting the Most out of Your Relationship

When you find a freelance treatment writer for a TV commercial project, there may be a temptation to simply hand over the recording of the conference call, your notes, a few previous treatments of yours and simply wait for the first draft to arrive.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with that. You know you’re busy. I know you’re busy. Your producer knows you’re busy. So if that’s how we have to do things, then it’s ok with me. Getting the most out of your TVC treatment writer is important, but there are certainly other factors that mitigate what “getting the most” looks like.

On my end of the relationship, as your TVC treatment writer, I want you to get the most from our working relationship out of sheer selfishness because, you see, I want the most out of the experience as well. Flip back to my previous post about TVC treatment writing and learning experiences for more on that. For me, learning is earning and I learn with every TVC treatment I write.

As you can expect, there are some things you can do to make the process of working with a TVC treatment writer more productive. Most of them you probably knew, but it’s always a good idea to go over them – kind of like a refresher course.

Provide as much input as you can from the start. I understand that, sometimes, information doesn’t become available to you until after the TVC treatment writing process begins. Little things, like the approximate age of the child protagonist, aren’t a big deal to change in the treatment. And I know that agencies are constantly working with clients to tweak and make changes – even after directors have been on conference calls secured treatment writers.

As long as I’ve got the same information you have up-front, I’ve got no problem with it. What makes my job as a treatment writer difficult is when I get the “I forgot to mention…” texts just as I’m finishing up V1. Honestly, that hurts you more than it hurts me.

Rely on the treatment writer for more than treatment writing. Working on a synopsis? Developing a pilot pitch? Got a side project that needs a writer? Developing a relationship with a treatment writer isn’t just about the work. It’s about knowing each other’s style and how that translates to communication. The more I’m exposed to your thoughts, ideas and visions, the better i can articulate them in a document that’s intended to make you money.

I’m not saying you have to work with me on a daily basis for the next three years, but we both know that a second set of eyes (and hands to write+edit) go a long way toward success in this industry.

Communicate regularly, and effectively, with the treatment writer during the project. I’m only as good as the communication you put forth. So when you sent me a garbled text at 3am that says “4yo now 6yo shoot Dubai no handheld in chase” I kind of get what you mean, but it’s better for me (and for you) if I know EXACTLY what you mean.

I work with many directors for whom English is not their first language and we get along just fine. Sure it takes some hard listening and I may have to re-play the conference call a few times and listen with a well-tuned ear, but it’s worth it in the end because I know that those directors work hard to ensure their communication is as effective as possible.

Give honest feedback at every junction. Ego is great, isn’t it? Wait. What ego? Not mine. I don’t really have one when it comes to my work as a TVC treatment writer. Sure I like it when you like my work and I really like it when you get a project because of my work. But I also need to hear the feedback that might make other TVC treatment writers cringe. Don’t like the way I described that character in the treatment? Good. Tell me about it so I understand.

Taking the final treatment and editing it because you didn’t want to hurt my feelings doesn’t help me. It leaves me with a false sense of security and that doesn’t help me or the next director with whom I work.

I know these things may seem basic, but that’s kind of the point. When we nail the basics, the foundation, of the director-treatment writer relationship, there’s a far greater chance that we will both get the most out of the project. Ideally you will be the chosen director and I will have become a slightly better TVC treatment writer.

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