Writing The Killer Treatment: Selling Your Story Without A Script, by Michael Halperin, (Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 2002, 171 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
May 8, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - Who better to write a book about screenwriting and the movie and television industry, than Michael Halperin? He has been called “the foremost authority on screenwriting in America.” Halperin has written for television, screen, and stage, and has published both fiction and non-fiction books. Halperin’s Writing the Killer Treatment: Selling your Story without a Script, sets the standard for advice and instruction in modern storytelling for those aspiring to be screenwriters.
Halperin states in the foreword of his book Writing the Killer Treatment: Selling your Story without a Script; “Writing a screenplay or teleplay is a daunting task. Filling 120 pages with exciting, dramatic, humorous, romantic moments that entrance or thrill an audience can force any would-be writer to reconsider his or her career and become an accountant or doctor, even in these days of managed care and lower expectations. Neither short stories nor screenplays, treatments ‘show’ with words the story that ends up on a larger theater screen or on television. They inform others how well a writer can relate a visual story with all of its twists, turns, and character development. They place on paper the megatheme of the story as well as the subtext before committing to the screenplay.” Being a novice myself in the intricacies behind the final product of what we see on the movie screen, the author has given me a jumpstart to the process.
Halperin, a professional writer whose numerous credits include TV shows (StarTrek: The Next Generation, Quincy), nonfiction books (Writing Great Characters), and interactive media programs (Voyeur), is eminently qualified to share his knowledge and expertise with aspiring screenwriters. He makes me feel as if I could go out a write a screenplay.
The most commonly heard phrase in Hollywood is not “Let’s do lunch.” In reality, the expression you’ll most often hear in production, studio, and agency offices is: “Okay, send me a treatment.” Halperin describes a treatment, which may range from one to several dozen pages, as the snapshot of your feature film or TV script. He further indicates that a treatment reveals your story’s structure, introduces your characters and hooks, and is often your first and only opportunity to pitch your project.
There are dozens of books on how to write a screenplay, but Writing the Killer Treatment is the only book that takes you through the complete process of creating treatments that sell. It includes:
- Developing believable characters and story structure.
- Understanding the distinctions between treatments for screenplays, adaptations, sitcoms, Movies of the Week, episodic television, and soaps.
- Useful exercises that will help you develop your craft as a writer.
- Insightful interviews with Oscar and Emmy winners.
- Tips and query letters for finding an agent and/or a producer.
- What Every Writer Needs to Know, from the Writers Guild of America, west.
Halperin, who has worked as an Executive Story Consultant for 20th Century Fox Television and on staff with Universal Television, and has written and/or produced numerous television episodes and documentaries, is also the author of a companion piece; Writing the Second Act: Building Conflict and Tension in Your Film Script.
The author uses the classic tale of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens to demonstrate in his book “The Process of Adaptation”, which is another aspect of movie making. Halperin states: “Literary properties such as books, short stories, and plays form the basis for many films because conservatism and caution have always been the key mantras in the motion picture industry.” He further states, and it makes complete sense and logic: “In a business where excellent screenplays languish, the preponderance of adaptations may seem strange, but a logic does exist – at least for the decision-makers.” Halperin is having me thinking that if I follow his model, I too can be a successful screenwriter.
Dennis Moore is the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.