No matter what type of video project you are working on, they all start with a treatment. But not all treatments are the same. A treatment you write up for a film will look vastly different than the one you write up for a music video. If you are trying to get your foot in the door in the video music world, you need to know how to write a successful treatment. These are essential for clarifying the concept and summarizing the project. Though music videos often come off as mini-films, what you do in your treatment and the layout will follow its own set of guidelines. If you are struggling to get hired for this type of work or are interested in taking the first step to break into the industry, then you need to know how to write a music video treatment.
The Do’s for Creating a Music Video Treatment
1. Do What Works for You to Get Your Idea Across
There are no true rules to follow when creating a treatment. They can range from a page to 10 or more pages. The goal of the treatment is to clearly lay out the concept of the video and support that through words, images, or other visuals.
Use Visuals- Picture and image references, whether drawn by hand or captured in screenshots, will get your ideas across in a visual manner and make it easier for the client to understand what you are aiming for. With an abundance of visuals, you will be able to better pitch, hook, and sell your ideas. This is especially important for music video treatments. Music videos are highly visual projects. Since they do not have a set storyline or dialogue you need to have visuals that will bring the music to life.
Blurbs- These include short notes about certain effects or actions that should take place in a scene. They are also essential for explaining where certain visuals line up with the music.
Descriptions- You want to summarize what takes place in each scene. You want to explain your concept and then support this through your visuals. Any additional ideas you have for scenes should also be described in easy-to-consume words.
2. Make It Easy To Navigate
Use a template to streamline the process and to ensure your treatment covers all the essentials. Much like you may create a storyboard for your shoot you will want to have a condensed version that highlights key scenes, transitions, and effects. Pair images with short descriptions to better get your ideas across. You don’t want to have a lengthy treatment that only leaves your client confused and wondering what just happened. Make everything short and to the point.
3. Be Creative
You want your treatment to grab your client’s attention. The more colorful and eye-catching your treatment is the more likely your client will look through the whole thing. Be sure to include specific styles and techniques you have mastered and will enhance the concept.
Just remember, you want your treatment to still be clean and presentable. While you want to give it a creative twist it needs to be cohesive and easy to understand.
4. Keep Your Client In Mind
Do your homework. Whether you have reached out with a pitch or they have reached out to you you want to have a solid idea of who you will be working with. Know what the client is looking for and what they expect. Music artists have their own style which you will need to highlight through your video.
Research the artist and watch past videos to get a better sense of what will appeal to them. Use this when you are looking for visuals and references. They will be impressed if you reference other videos that match their genre or style as it shows you are interested and invested in staying true to who they are as an artist.
The Essentials of Every Treatment
- Cover page – Include the artist’s name, song title, and logo
- Summary/elevator pitch – use bullet points and visuals for reference. Establish the tone and style that will make the video one cohesive work of art.
- Scene breakdowns- use slides to clearly bring the concept to life. This can often be broken down into three categories. The first is the artist’s performance. How will you shoot the band or artist performing the song? The second is your storyline or narrative. What will take place, where, and what is the beginning, middle, and end of the story? The third are cutaway shots. This includes transitions, establishing shots, and other effects. Some treatments may not include each of these sections. You may have a treatment that is better just highlighting the artist’s performance because the song is enough to tell the story, or the artist may prefer their videos to be done in this manner.
- References – include videos that showcase the type of style or tone you are aiming for. Include visuals for types of lighting ideas. If you have locations in mind or scenes layouts include them here. This is where your client will be able to turn to to get a better idea of what the finished project will include.
The Don’ts of Creating a Music Video Treatment
1. Make It Too Wordy
While words may clearly list your idea they often will not grab your client’s attention or help them visualize the video from start to finish. The words you use should be straightforward. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to compare or find analogies for your concept. Don’t worry about trying to find the most effective and descriptive words, this often can cause more confusion than it does clarification. It is much better to show and tell your ideas instead of relly on paragraphs and long descriptions or summaries.
You want to get this part of the pre-production done in a timely manner. Take your time to create a great treatment but don’t waste time and give others the opportunity to land the job before you. If you are asked to write up a treatment get it back to the client as soon as possible. Don’t rush through it but do ensure that not much time passes from the request to the delivery. It is wise to clarify when they expect the treatment and if possible to ask about how many other people they are waiting to hear from. This can light a fire to get it done instead of procrastinating.
3. Lack Details
You want to narrow down your treatment to include specifics. It is not necessary to include every single shot and transition. You need to ensure you are getting the main points across. You can’t just say a guy walks away into the sunset. This leaves little for our imagination to work with. Instead, include the beats of the music that align with what is taking place in the background or foreground that makes this important. Include the tone or mood you are going to capture. You want your client to visualize and be able to feel what is taking place.
Finally don’t take it personally. If you are just starting in the music video production industry you will often find your treatments are going to get more no’s and yes. This doesn’t mean your treatments are not good. It simply means you need to better cater them to the clients you are pitching them to. It is wise to get into the habit of picking and choosing the right fit for you. If you know that what the client is looking for is out of your realm of expertise or interests, don’t pitch to them. Stick with the genres you know you can do a phenomenal job shooting. Leave the other to someone that will be a better match.