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How to Write a Treatment for a Reality TV Show


Like all television genres, there is an art to creating a compelling reality show treatment--regardless of how formulaic most reality shows appear to be. Remember, your work is meant to compel a producer or a studio to invest money--lots of money--on your idea. You need to prove your idea is viable, different--or at least different enough--and above all, entertaining. All are important if you are not an established television writer or producer or you do not have "talent"--a popular actor or actress--attached to your project.

Write Your Treatment

Describe your premise. A premise is an overall description of the program. Seven people are marooned on an island and must compete against one another to determine who will be the final survivor, for example. The premise should be concise, but engaging, leaving the reader wanting to know more. Sometimes the premise is called "the logline."

Describe the players. Give a brief overview of who might be on the program. If the show calls for a host, describe who might fit the bill: an adventurer, a chief executive, a grandmotherly figure. Who will the contestants be? Everyday men and women from small-town USA. Attractive West Coast models. Former child celebrities.

Deliver your synopsis. In four to six paragraphs, share your vision of the first episode. Be engaging, use detail, wow your audience--but be concise. This is a treatment, not a script, so brevity is important. Consider each paragraph an "act" in the first episode: character introductions, rising conflict, the twist or surprise, the climax, the tease for episode two.

List details for five or six subsequent episodes. Each description should be no more than a paragraph long, but should convey a beginning, middle and end. This is an important step because it shows producers that your idea "has legs"--that it can sustain itself beyond the first episode.

Tips
  • Make sure your contact information is included on each page of your treatment.
  • Consider registering your work with either the Writers Guild of America or the U.S. Copyright Office before sharing it.
  • Read and reread your work to make sure it is clean and free of typos.
  • Format your work in Courier 12 point font, the industry standard.
  • Don't fake it. You're the writer, not the director, so don't feel compelled to discuss details like camera angles, sets, production crew and so forth. Stick to the story. That's more important than anything else.
Items you will need
Computer
Word processing program
About the Author

Tom Tennant began writing professionally in 1994 and has served as a journalist and editor for a number of weekly and daily newspapers, as well as several trade publications including "Corporate Meetings & Incentives" magazine and "Healthcare Traveler" magazine. He works as a content marketing team leader for a well-known software company. Tennant graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor's degree in communication.

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