Create a page on your project website for your proposal. Include the following headings and fill it in based on these instructions. You may not know the answer to all these questions—make your best guess. Your proposal should be 300-500 words, with the treatment being the longest section.
A proposal is a thorough description of all aspects of a project. It is created in the pre- production stage of a documentary project to persuade funders, distributors and others to support your project.
Scripts don’t happen in documentary like they do in fiction filmmaking—you cannot predict what will happen when the cameras start rolling. In place of a script, filmmakers use treatments, proposals and/or outlines to describe and help plan a documentary project. Filmmakers use these concepts in a variety of ways, sometimes interchangeably.
TITLE (or what you expect it to be)
Production team name and names of all members.
One sentence answering the question: what’s this documentary about?
Age range, interest group(s).
OBJECTIVE OF FILM
A couple sentences answering the question, what do you want your audience to take away from your documentary?
Describe the type of sounds we will hear, including music, spaces, and sound design.
TREATMENT (1 to 3 pages, single spaced)
A treatment is a short narrative written in simple, non-technical language (i.e., no camera angles, transitions, etc.) Your goal is to evoke how your audience will experience the film on screen.
The treatment is your way of working out a film story—not necessarily the final film story, but a good working model—on paper, so that even if nothing wonderful and unexpected happens on location to make your film a thousand times better, you’ll at least end up with a film that works. Whereas the LMW SHORT DOC OUTLINE handout describes a working structure of your film, the treatment is your film, on paper anyway—or to be more accurate, it is the film as you expect it to be, based on what you know now.
In the treatment section you should:
Tell the reader what they will hear and see on screen.
Describe the story and introduce any characters.
Write in active-voice present tense.
Write colorfully, so the reader visualizes what’s in your mind’s eye, but avoid splashy adjectives and hyperbole. That is, do not write: “This spellbinding story will be magically brought to life by the remarkable camera work of Jimmy James…” You have to show how the story is spellbinding and demonstrate that Mr. James’ work is remarkable by providing supporting information.
Be specific—don’t use words like may, might, possibly—your film will do this or that. List any other important production elements you expect to use.
Once again, you may not know the answer to all these questions—make your best guess.
You are not committed to use the things you write about—you change your mind later.