When it Comes to the Treatment, Everything Serves the Story


When it Comes to the Treatment, Everything Serves the Story

Who creates a story?

In most cases, it’s whomever has a story to to tell.

When it comes to the stories we find in TV commercials, the story belongs to the brand – also known as the client. From the moment a brand has a story to tell, everything must support that story in a way that either brings it to life – or enhances it. People on the client-side, the ad agency, third parties (producers and directors), and even elements including casting, sound design, lighting and location…they all must support the story.

The story is in charge of everything, and the more concise the story is, the easier it is to convey on-screen. Usually.

As a treatment writer, it’s also my job to support the story. Over the course of my treatment writing days, I’ve realized that I support the story in a number of big ways:

  1. I support the story by understanding it. If you’re semi-human with a heart and a little empathy, it doesn’t take much to understand a story enough to know when you’re about to ruin it with something that doesn’t support it. I guess in this regard, I’m a bit like a doctor in that I do no harm to the story and support its health and vitality as-needed to bring it to life on the TV screen. This makes me sound more like an obstetrician, but you get the idea. When I understand the essence of a story, I’m able to see its boundaries and ensure I stay within the story’s intent.
  2. I support the story by showing how the director’s interpretation supports the story. It’s not enough for a director to have the awesome idea of shooting in 60FPS – it has to be linked back to the brand’s story in a positive and meaningful way. That’s where I come in and put into words how something supports the story. “This is a story of nostalgia and the passing of time. To encapsulate the sense of history, I think we should film in 60FPS to capture details that otherwise might be missed by our lens and to create an enhanced sense of realism that helps viewers connect with our main characters.” Or something like that. This goes for every section on a treatment: casting, lighting, location, soundtrack – you name it.
  3. I support the story by giving it more detail. Sometimes a storyboard isn’t the best medium for a story to be told. By nature, it’s meant to be brief and convey just enough for a director to pick up and fill in the blanks with their vision – the treatment! And while directors are often great storytellers, they aren’t always the best story conveyors. If and when it’s needed, I can take a director’s input about the story and work it into the treatment to give the story a bit more focus – adding in subtle additions that bring the story into greater detail and reveal more endearing aspects.
  4. I support the story by making it a bit more…English. I do work on a large number of foreign TVC treatments. Often, boards that come to me are written by someone for whom English is not their first language. And that’s not a big deal – it’s a global economy and we all have to appreciate our differences – especially when it comes to language. But language can make or break a story. Better language makes for a better story – and one that’s easier to read. So if there’s a script in the board and it’s just not…quite…right, I’ll make it a bit more palatable for all the English readers out there.


So there you have it – everyone serves the story. If the story is a good one, and everyone does right by it, including the director and treatment writer, chances are it will make a good TV commercial and result in a happy client – which, ironically is where the story began in the first place.

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