Thursday, May 16, 2013

Writing for Documentaries

By Laura Puccia Valtorta

The two types of independent films I’ve been crafting involve two different types of writing. With scripted screenplays the filmmaker begins with a regular formatted script, the various elements zapped into place by such programs as Final Draft or Adobe Acrobat Premiere.

Documentary writing is more complicated. The producer or director should start with a treatment. The treatment resembles a simple short story – a narrative of the plot and message the director expects to convey in the documentary.

The treatment does not sell the documentary. The director uses the treatment to guide her in filming the documentary and piecing it together.

Don’t ask me, the neophyte, how to write an effective treatment. The writer must follow her gut. David Trotter defines the treatment well in his book The Screenwriter’s Bible. He also differentiates among the synopsis, the outline, and the treatment.

I adore my new documentary White Rock Boxing. Cliff Springs and I filmed and edited it without a treatment. The process took 13 months. I believe we could have cut that time in half had we started with a treatment (as I plan to do with my next documentary – Blind Runner).

Here is sample text from the treatment for Blind Runner:

This film will trace Amy’s life from a child who became blind at eleven and                                was ridiculed because of her deformed face to a star athlete who inspires      everyone around her. 

White Rock Boxing was a joy to produce, and I learned a million lessons from it. The public premiere will be on September 23, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus. We expect it to be aired on Southern Lens, a series on South Carolina ETV, in the fall or spring of 2013-2014.


Leigh Stevenson said...


Very exciting for you! I can't wait for the premier.

Leigh Stevenson said...


Laura Puccia Valtorta said...

Thanks, Leigh.
Go to Search for "Blind Runner."