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Updated: 01/28/2017

Module 2

module 2



Program Proposals

And Treatments

Now that you know who does what and you have an overview of the basic production process, we can move on to the actual process of doing a TV production.

Even though you may have a clear idea in your head about what you want to get across in a production, unless you can clearly communicate that idea to the people who can help you launch your production, that's just where your idea will stay -- in your head.

These people include the producer, director, production crew, sponsor, and, most importantly, your audience.

So where do you start?

Writing the Program

Proposal or Treatment

The first step in a complex production is to write a clear and succinct summary of your ideas.

We refer to this summary as a treatment in dramatic productions and a program proposal in nondramatic productions.

A sample program proposal for a local TV station is - illustrated here.

Often, just the process of putting things down on paper allows you to better organize and clarify your ideas.

This step often reveals weaknesses and gaps you should address before it's too late (or before you're asked about some embarrassing details you hadn't thought of).

Get Agreement on Your Proposal

Getting the go-ahead on a proposal affords everyone a bit of insurance. network logosOnce everyone agrees on the treatment or program proposal it's difficult for someone to later say , "This isn't what we agreed on."

This is especially important in large production facilities and television networks, where a variety of people will be involved in program development.

A simple program proposal may be just a couple of pages or, in the case of a feature-length dramatic production, a treatment can run 60 pages or more.

This is as good a place as any to mention the importance of writing.

Yes, I know, you've probably heard that since you were in the fourth grade.

There may even be some people out there who decided to go into TV (rather than print journalism, for example) because they thought they might be able to escape having to learn how to write.


Although it's a visual medium, TV is still based on the written word. When you get down to it, your ability to write and effectively communicate your ideas end up being the most important criterion for success.

Unless you want to stick with the very basic jobs in TV, you have to face this reality -- the sooner the better.

Interestingly, most producers (the people in charge, remember?) arrived at their jobs by first being writers.

Wouldn't you rather end up being someone who makes the major decisions (and is paid accordingly)?

Okay, back to treatments and program proposals.

Although we write them as an aid in presenting and getting agreement on the focus and direction of the production, they are also used to interest key people in supporting the production -- especially financial backers.

See That Your Proposal Engages the

Audience's Interest and Imagination

A program proposal or treatment should cover the essence of the production; or, in the case writing program proposal of a dramatic production, the basic story line.

Dramatic treatments also include the locations and talent required, as well as  the key scenes.

In nondramatic program proposals the basic production needs and approximate times of the segments are included.

Anyone reading a program proposal or treatment should be able to get a clear idea of the entire production.

If disagreement exists on the program concept, it's much easier to change things at this stage than after the complete script is written.

Brief instructions on writing a treatment can be - found here.

Finally, the treatment or program proposal must engage the interest of readers and go a long way toward convincing them of the probable success of the production -- which we'll cover in Module 3.

- Required Reading For This Module

For a politically incorrect look at elements of success for network TV programs, see the blog article, "Your Show Is Too Cerebral."

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