Director Jeff Clark talks about the basics of writing the Music Video Treatment. As the Executive Producer for several Production Companies, Jeff has worked with such acts as the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync earning MTV awards for Best Video of the Year as well as catapulting both groups into worldwide success. His commercial and animation experiences have brought him to work with such major brands as General Mills, Sony Playstation, Skechers shoes and Nescafe Coffees as well as a few feature film projects.
Jeff is now apart of the MVCI team, bringing his ideas and invaluable production experiences to assist others in their quest for knowledge in the exciting world of Music Video and Commercial production.
Interview with director Jeff Clark on how to write A music video treatment
Let me first start off with saying this. There is no format, no style that must be adhered to, no distinct outline or structure. This is a creative writing forum, so however you choose to best express your ideas is the way it should be done. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paragraph or ten pages, as long as it sells itself. You can misspell every word and still get the gig if your idea is great.
Originality stands for a lot more than the layout of a Word document. I wouldn’t recommend hand writing your treatments though. There’s still a certain level of expected professionalism. Feel free to get creative in your writing and to develop your own style using visual wording. Use expressive language whenever possible. It really helps the reader to feel the concept.
That said, I know some of you would like some starting point as a reference for writing a treatment and haven’t a clue as to where to begin. Here is a popular outline used among video directors. Keep in mind, this is not the only way to present your ideas, just one way:
I think it goes without saying, but include the Artist Name, Song Title, Director’s Name and Production Company at the head of your treatment. You can include other information such as Record Label and copyright info, but it’s not really necessary.
This is the first thing anyone reading your treatment will see, so give it all you’ve got. Summarize the treatment into a condensed version that doesn’t give everything away at once. Use this as a teaser to keep the reader reading. Give a brief on how the video breaks down and the purpose for taking a particular direction with your ideas.
Here’s your opportunity to set the mood and visual style to the video. Talk about makeup, hair, wardrobe or anything out of the ordinary that’s visually exciting about your vision. Make reference to color schemes and how they might influence the overall look of the clip. How you plan to make certain segments of the video sepia or black & white, how contrast might be used to affect the feeling of each visual mood. Camera movement and editing style could also be covered in this section, whether choppy and frantic or smooth and flowing.
Never bore your reader with technical jargon that describes complex techniques used in production. Save it for when you meet with them in person. It’s not likely they even care about such details anyway. They want to know how you’re going to make them look good, not how you plan to attack the production technically.
Here’s where you lay it all out. Whether you express it as a linear story, a poetic dream or follow the lyrics of the song in a literal fashion. You could break down the song structurally by verse, chorus, bridge, etc…, choose to ignore the song entirely or the artist as well for that matter (although most like to see themselves in their videos so that’s probably not the best approach). Whatever you do, however you attack it, make your words visual and write them with flair! This is where the action takes place so don’t miss a detail. Don’t be afraid to elaborate on your ideas, just stay away from being too specific. It’s a lot easier to improvise on your own ideas if you haven’t locked yourself in too tightly. That little tip will help you in meetings and on the set.
It’s also good to have some kind of hook, A catchy device or trick that captures the viewer’s attention. First be sure that your gimmick works well with the artist, the song and the way the record label wants to market the act or record. It also never hurts to reiterate how you’re going to make the artist look good.
Even if it’s not a linear storyline, it’s always easier to relate to things when they’re written with a beginning, middle and ending. Tell it with a style that is uncluttered, even if you envision frenetic mayhem. Nobody likes to try and make sense out of something poorly organized. And if they don’t get it, your terrific idea could end up in the circular file.
Now for the big ending. Sum it all up with good reasoning for your concepts success. This is your last opportunity to sell your idea, so say it well. Mix it with your understanding of the label’s marketing strategy, band image, whatever it takes. Drive it home with a strong reiteration of the videos key points.
That’s about it. This should be enough to get you started. Remember, it’s a competitive market, so don’t get too discouraged. It sometimes takes more than a few tries to land that first music video gig. And if someone doesn’t buy your great idea, you can always recycle it for the next act.