Treatment Length 7 comments


The good news and the bad news is that there are no fixed industry standards for (screenplay) treatment length.

There’s No Universal Standard for Treatments

Climbing a Pile of FilesThe field is wide open for the content that goes in a treatment and how to format a treatment. Your treatment length is up to you.

We’ve talked about how there are two kinds of treatments. The decisions you make about what to put in your treatment, the treatment length,  and how to format it should be driven by the goal and purpose of the treatment you’re writing.

If you’re writing a treatment for yourself as part of your prep for a project: write whatever works for you, and make it as long as you like.

But if you’re writing a treatment that you need to show to someone else, it might be prudent to find out what that person’s expectations about treatments are and establish a common understanding before you get started. If you can’t have a conversation about what the other party wants, aim for writing a treatment that is shorter rather than longer.

How Long Should a Treatment Be?

I’ve seen all kinds of page counts cited as the norm for screenplay treatments. I’m going to spitball and say treatment length typically ranges from 5 to 20 pages. But there is absolutely no “official” definition of the length of a treatment. If what you’ve written is less than 3 pages, it will probably be considered a synopsis or summary; if it’s more than 20 pages, in the screenwriting world you’ve probably written a scriptment. (As portmanteau words go, “scriptment” is particularly hideous, sorry–but it really is a term used in US filmmaking.)

Are you writing a treatment towards pitching a script or idea? Keep in mind that people in the film industry are incredibly busy: the shorter you can make your treatment the better. At the same time, your treatment needs to be a compelling read in its own right, so make it as long as it needs to be. In other words, aim for the “Goldilocks Zone” in the middle.

Examples of Treatments

Proper Treatment – This article by Terry Rossio on how to write a treatment includes links to several sample treatments and is well worth reading for anyone tackling a treatment.

Treatments, Outlines & More at Simply Scripts – Large collection of treatments.

What length are the treatments you write? What trends have you noticed in the length of treatments?

What other sources for sample treatments can you recommend? Which treatments stand out as great examples you like to refer to?


This article is the seventh installment in a series on writing treatments. The previous installment is Five Characteristics of an Effective Treatment. Coming up next week is Six Treatment Formatting Tips. If you don’t want to miss an installment, sign up for our newsletter!


7 thoughts on “Treatment Length

  • Lydia Mulvey

    “But if you’re writing a treatment that you need to show to someone else, it might be prudent to find out what that person’s expectations about treatments are and establish a common understanding before you get started.”

    Communication is key. Setting expectations is key. Transparency is key.

    “If you can’t have a conversation about what the other party wants, aim for writing a treatment that is shorter rather than longer.”

    Love this piece of advice. If unsure, err on the side of caution and go shorter. You can always expand it if you need to.

    “(As portmanteau words go, “scriptment” is particularly hideous, sorry–but it really is a term used in US filmmaking.)”

    I shiver every time I read this word. It aggravates me no end. The way ‘yesteryear’ aggravates me. (Why can’t there be a yestermonth?)
    But yes, scriptments are very different to treatments.

    “Are you writing a treatment towards pitching a script or idea? Keep in mind that people in the film industry are incredibly busy: the shorter you can make your treatment the better. At the same time, your treatment needs to be a compelling read in its own right, so make it as long as it needs to be. In other words, aim for the “Goldilocks Zone” in the middle.”

    Again, really great advice. Shorter is generally better than longer, especially if longer is meandering and without focus. Concentrating on a shorter form really forces you to eliminate unnecessary padding and to get to the heart of the story. In a way (and just to me at least), a treatment is just a much extended version of your logline.

    • Lydia Mulvey

      I should probably expand on “In a way (and just to me at least), a treatment is just a much extended version of your logline.”

      What I mean is that a logline is the very essence of your story condensed into a couple of punchy lines.
      Your treatment contains the most important parts of your story, the hook, the character stuff and the arc of the plot.

      • Shaula Evans Post author

        What I mean is that a logline is the very essence of your story condensed into a couple of punchy lines. / Your treatment contains the most important parts of your story, the hook, the character stuff and the arc of the plot.

        Yes! I think you’ve stumbled on the secret formula underlying all story summaries there.

        “Your [story summary] contains the punchiest, most essential parts of your story–at a level of detail and scale appropriate for [that kind of story summary].”

  • Mark Walker

    I’m probably guilty of writing scriptments then, more so that treatments, as mine are often way above 20 pages. My current one is just under 12,000 words.

    However, to date, I am just writing them for myself and, as a blue print for writing the screenplay, the more detail (for me) the better. It could be an interesting exercise to rewrite the scriptment (as a treatment) using stricter guidelines as if submitting to a producer – maybe there is a writing exercise in there somewhere Shaula!?

    • Shaula Evans Post author

      Mark, I’m pretty sure you already know what I’m going to say (as you usually do):

      1. There’s nothing wrong with writing a 20+ page treatment for yourself as part of your prep. If that works for you, stick with it!

      2. On the other hand, If you’d like to know you can confidently write an industry-standard treatment on demand (using the term “industry standard” loosely), try writing some shorter treatments. You can always flesh them out to a longer version before you start to write.

      If you do try writing a shorter treatment, I’d love to hear from you how the experience compares, and if you find any advantages to it.

      • Mark Walker

        I’m gonna try that next time, try and go for 10-15 pages. I just get caught up in the writing and find myself putting everything down as i don’t want to forget stuff. Although, with Scrivener, it is easier to keep those thoughts to hand as notes on the various documents. The long treat/scriptment does really help me write though, as I am now 15 pages into the draft and pretty much haven’t had to stop to catch a breath. If I try writing without the script/treatment I have found, in the past, that I meander or spend ages on just one page, trying to get it right – which really breaks the flow.

        I think I can condense the writing a bit though and keep the flow…well….flowing. and I can get to the screenwriting quicker that way!

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