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How Long is a Treatment for a Screenplay? An Ideal Length Guide in 2024

Before you write out a full-length feature film screenplay, it’s wise to create a preliminary document: the screenplay treatment. Basically, a film treatment is a brief overview of your story idea that highlights the main plot points, characters, locations, and conflict.

The ideal purpose is to compellingly pitch the movie concept to studios, producers, and other decision-makers to get them interested in requesting your full script.

But a common question asked is: Just how long should your screenplay treatment document take to achieve that purpose? There is some flexibility but tried and true standards you’ll want to follow.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide ideal length recommendations for treatments, and elements that must be covered, as well as tips to nail the winning formula and pitch that piques interest and gets your script greenlit. Let’s dive in!

Typical Screenplay Treatment Length Standards

In most cases, you’ll want to keep your movie treatment in the range of 10 to 15 pages long. Conciseness is key – generally, nobody wants to read a full book just to get the gist of your concept. And longer content runs the risk of getting tedious anyway.

However, sometimes treatments do reach 20 or max 30 pages in length, especially if it is a complex sci-fi or epic story. But we suggest you try keeping it shorter first.

Like a well-crafted logline and a compelling one-paragraph premise summary, brevity and impact beats verbosity, even at this early stage.

If the goal is to excite producers enough to get meetings and read the eventual script, you don’t want a treatment that is prone to losing reader attention. Focus on the dynamite story beats and visuals only.

Elements Your Treatment Must Include

Though treatments have flexibility in style and details, there are core elements every film treatment should contain:

  • Logline: This one-sentence blurb (two at most), clearly summarizes your main character(s), central conflict, and outcome. For example, here is E.T.’s famous logline summing up the classic blockbuster film:

“A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home world.”

  • Premise Paragraph: Expand your logline into a single gripping paragraph that sets the stage. Introduce the protagonist and antagonist as well as the precipitating incident that drives the storyline.
  • Main Characters: After your initial premise overview, provide descriptions of the primary heroes and villains. Define their backgrounds, personalities, goals, strengths, and flaws that drive or hinder the story progression. Only focus on leading roles.
  • Plot Point Summaries: Break your treatment into logical acts or chapters, then summarize the key events in each critical turning point. Follow traditional screenplay plot point structure from inciting incident to climax.
  • Key Locations: Name and describe impactful story settings and environments where much of the conflict and character development unfolds.
  • Central Conflict: Boil your primary tension down into one line. Hero vs _________ (antagonist force – villain, nature, self, society, etc.) The higher the stakes, the better!
  • Resolution: Finally, briefly depict how the story resolves, allowing your protagonist to achieve the climactic victory, defeat the opposing force, and reach their story goal.

Follow this template focusing only on the most pivotal plot points and visual details, and you’ll cover the basics. Next, let’s explore how to turn that into an optimized-length document.

Tips for Treatment Length Optimization

Since most executives prefer digestible 10 to 15-page treatments, here are some tips to trim and tighten yours into an irresistible shape:

  • Be Concise But Compelling: Summarize scenes and events rapidly while using vivid imagery and phrasing. Though sparse on full-scene depiction, use active voice and dynamic verbs to build momentum.
  • Focus on Visual Details: The way to pitch to producers is to help them envision your idea visually. Describe standout movie moments that leap off the page even in summation form.
  • Use Lists and Bullet Points: Break long paragraphs down into quick-hitting punchy lines for skimmability.
  • Employ Descriptive Adjectives and Verbs: Choose colorful or emotionally evocative words to make your treatment more vibrant, gripping, and lyrical even when keeping it minimalist.

Avoid Treatment Bloat

Just as important as making your concept pitch-focused, fast-paced, and cinematic is avoiding unnecessary verbosity that kills the momentum. Here are key things to steer clear of:

  • Full Scenes: You don’t need to literarily act out lengthy exchanges of dialogue and actions. Keep it to dynamic summary sentences.
  • Minor Characters: Unless absolutely essential, side roles don’t need more than a passing mention. Stick to the lead protagonist/antagonist.
  • Excess Detail: Don’t spend paragraphs on technical exposition or minor plot threads. Only cover what’s needed to intrigue interest.

If you notice your treatment bleeding past 15-20 pages, take a red pen to it and trim the fat. Anything that doesn’t serve the core concept can likely go. Then rewrite with some punchy, visual descriptive replacements to keep it lean and mean.

Treatment Examples From Iconic Movies

To see proper treatment length and formatting in action from cinema history, let’s review examples from E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Forrest Gump:

E.T. The Extraterrestrial Treatment

Melissa Mathison’s 18-page E.T. treatment masterfully encapsulates the full emotional scope of the story minus scene details.

In economical yet intimate prose, she introduces us to Elliott, summarizes his discovery of the alien botanist, their growing connection, evasion of threatening authorities, E.T.’s illness, and Elliott’s brave risks to save his new friend and see him return home. It’s a compact read that swept Spielberg off his feet.

Key Details:

  • 18 pages
  • Quick logline + paragraph premise
  • Focus on Elliott’s inner world more than plot beats
  • Heavy use of visual and emotive descriptors

This intimate, visual treatment made the alien come alive for potential backers and helped launch an all-time classic story.

Forrest Gump Treatment

Winston Groom’s treatment for the acclaimed Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks weighs in at a brisk 15 pages.

It swiftly progresses through formative events in small-town Southern boy Gump’s extraordinary life journey intersecting major historical events while focused on childhood love Jenny as the central driving narrative force.

Key Details:

  • 15 pages
  • More plot point-focused
  • Good balance of character development with story progression indicators
  • Use of humor crucial to tone

Takeaways for Your Treatment

To recap, here are the major guidelines for getting your movie concept treatment right:

  • 10-15 pages is the standard length to aim for
  • Cover logline, paragraph premise, characters, summaries by acts, key locations, central conflict, and resolution
  • Be concise but use vivid, cinematic language
  • Focus only on critical plot points and visual details
  • Use lists, bullet points, and high-impact phrasing to optimize the length
  • Examples from iconic films provide helpful formulation guidance

The most important tip is to make your treatment intensely engaging and visual while also brief enough not to test patience. You want readers dying to get their hands on the full script ASAP!


A strong screenplay treatment should provide just enough detail on characters, settings, and storyline progression to hook producers and generate that crucial foot in the door – without drowning them in length or boring them with excessive intricacies. Less is often more at this preparatory stage.

Finding that delicate balance can be tricky and likely requires several rounds of editing, cutting excess, and rewrite strengthening.

But follow the established guidelines highlighted above and focus on gripping premise instrumentals that make your concept easily envisioned as a compelling completed film.

When you perfect that abbreviated but effective format, you have a strong foundation to get meetings, and sign options, and eventually see your story come to life on the big screen as you always envisioned.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a treatment for a screenplay?

A screenplay treatment is a detailed summary describing the major elements and flow of a story intended to become a film script. Treatments help pitch concepts to studios.

How many pages is a script treatment?

Typical screenplay treatments range from 10-15 pages long, sometimes extending to 20-30 pages for complex stories. Conciseness is key.

How do you write a treatment for a show?

Just like film treatments, TV show treatments summarize the concept, characters, settings, acts, scenes, and storyline progression in a compelling, visual manner usually 10-15 pages long.

What is the difference between a screenplay outline and a treatment?

An outline is a bare-bones scene-by-scene list of story events usually only 1-2 pages. A treatment has descriptive paragraphs explaining those events in more vivid detail and character motivation.

How many pages should a treatment be?

Ideally 10-15 pages, up to max 30 pages. Focus on the critical story beats in a lean, engaging way that makes readers eager for the full script while avoiding verbosity.

How long should a novel treatment be?

Novel treatments tend to be 15-30 pages, sometimes exceeding 30 pages depending on story complexity and word count of the eventual full book.

Is 120 pages too long for a script?

No, 120 pages is within the normal range for film screenplays. Independent films could be shorter, while complex stories may call for even longer, in the 150 page range.

How many pages is 10 minutes of script?

10 script pages translate into roughly 10 minutes of screen time as an average estimate (1 page per minute). Dramatic scripts lean towards less time, comedies more.

How many pages is 5 minutes of script?

5 script pages generally equals approximately 5 minutes of footage. It’s not an exact science but provides a ballpark metric for timing estimates.

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