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Let's Talk: Screenplay Supporting Materials

Treatments, One-Pagers, Beat Sheets, Outlines, Synopsis, Pitch-Decks... What is the difference and why do we need them!?


Supporting materials: the dreaded homework. BUT they are essential tools for screenwriters to effectively convey their creative vision and pitch their ideas to producers, directors, and collaborators. In this article, we will delve into various elements that constitute a screenplay's supporting materials, to help you navigate the world of storytelling and pitching.

Treatment:

A treatment is a detailed narrative overview of the screenplay, providing a comprehensive synopsis of the story's major events, characters, and themes. It serves as a roadmap for the script and is often used to entice potential investors, producers, or collaborators to become interested in the project. There are variations of a treatment though, so you might also want to check out our Treatment Article.


One Pager/One Sheet:

This concise document condenses the essence of the screenplay into a single page. It typically includes a brief logline, a summary of the main plot, and key character descriptions. The one-pager's purpose is to quickly grab the attention of industry professionals.

Beat Sheet:

A beat sheet breaks down the story into its essential beats or pivotal moments, often aligned with key plot points or character developments. It provides a skeletal structure that helps guide the narrative's pacing and progression.

Outline:

An outline offers a more detailed breakdown of the screenplay, covering major scenes and events. It may also include subplots, character arcs, and important (but select) dialogue exchanges. The outline helps writers organise their thoughts before diving into the actual script. This document can also then be rewritten into the treatment or pitch documents at a later stage.

Step Outline:

Similar to an outline, a step outline provides a sequential breakdown of the story, but it goes further by detailing the specific actions and emotions of characters in each scene. It helps writers establish a deeper understanding of character motivations and interactions. Once you have completed your step outline, it acts as a paint by numbers when you come to write your actual screenplay.

Synopsis:

A synopsis is a brief summary of the screenplay's plot, typically ranging from one to three pages. It highlights the main story arc, major conflicts, and character dynamics without delving into too much detail. It's the whole story, including spoilers. You don't want your synopsis to elude to anything; it must be absolute.

Overview:

An overview offers a broader perspective on the project, including its potential market, target audience, and thematic elements. It can be a valuable addition to a pitch package, providing insights into the project's commercial viability.

Pitch Packet:

A pitch packet is a comprehensive collection of supporting materials that showcases the screenplay. It may include a combination of a treatment, one-pager, beat sheet, character descriptions, and more. A pitch packet's job is to entice producers or investors to the project's potential without making them read the script. If it's done well, they should want to read the script after.

Pitch Deck:

A pitch deck is a visually engaging presentation that accompanies the pitch. It incorporates images, graphics, and concise text to convey the story's visual and emotional impact, often including concept art, mood boards, and thematic inspiration. A portfolio if you will, sent it a pdf to whet appetites and express the vision.

Bible:

A bible is an extensive document that provides an in-depth exploration of the story's universe, characters, relationships, and backstories. Bibles are often used for television series and multi-installment projects to maintain consistency and guide future developments.


SIDE NOTE: A bible could also overlap with a pitch-packet or pitch-deck. There is a level of creative license with the larger pitch documents. For instance, you do not need to produce a bible, a pitch-deck AND a pitch packet. One is fine and people often use these terms interchangeably. Unless you have been specifically asked for one by a producer then feel free to choose the form you prefer. We LOVE a pitch-deck at Script Stable but everyone has their own preference. There's no real right or wrong... as long as it's of a high standard!


And that's more or less it...


In the intricate world of screenwriting, supporting materials serve as invaluable tools to communicate a story's essence and potential. Whether you're crafting a treatment, assembling a pitch packet, or developing a comprehensive bible, each element plays a crucial role in capturing the imagination of industry professionals and paving the way for your script to come to life on the screen.


It may seem a little boring at first but trust us when we say, practising working on supporting materials will make you a better writer. It will help you find plot holes and inconsistencies as well as also preparing you for applications to funding bodies, schemes etc. So even if you've not been asked by anyone yet, start working on your supporting material and make it a habit for every project.


 

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