My Transition from Features Writer to Creating Television Treatments – By Karen Donald

My Transition from Features Writer to Creating Television Treatments – By Karen Donald

One rainy day in the tropics, my love of written storytelling and movie watching merged. I had already brought a story to the big screen by documenting the life of a young Indonesian surfer over a four-year time span. However, as my film making desire grew, logic told me to speed up the production time, and increase my earning capacity. I found myself, under the guidance of several mentors, writing my first treatment for a television series.

At the point of ignition, my imagination was firing off at all angles! I had to brain storm what I was trying to say, and make sure the narrative continued to drive forward. Otherwise, the idea for a story may only be a single hour. For a six-part series, a story arc is essential, linking together characters from each episode, as well as a heart, hero, and hook combination.

The Discovery Channel website revealed what their viewers enjoyed. My concept was a good fit. Documentary/reality TV hybrid. It was time to get started! A one-, two-, or three-sentence story concept, properly written, is the best tool you can possibly have to check out whether your story is working before you invest your time in writing a treatment. Be as descriptive and evocative as possible. Imagine you are telling your friend about a film you have just seen that truly made an impact on you. After that, writing a story synopsis of no more than one page, double-spaced, would be a good next step. Once you have that one page nailed down, from there you might want to write a slightly longer synopsis

After passing the idea by an agent at a film festival, he suggested I go to the next stage. I reached out to a film making friend who sent me a template, which included character and episode outlines. I suggest a simple, third person, present-tense telling of the story in a continuous narrative.

Being able to receive critical feedback is essential. Now, I had an agent, and a co-producer, who was my direct line to Discovery! I created a “Deck,” which extracts important aspects of my treatment, with visual references; this was sent via WhatsApp to the decision makers.

Using the steps above, I now written for several television series.


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Karen Donald is British expatriate who has been living in Bali, Indonesia for 12 years. Prior to her relocation, Karen spent many informative years working in the London newspaper industry (Evening Standard), for British music papers (NME, Melody Maker) and in Bali as Media Director for John Hardy Jewelry and then Features Writer for expat publication, Bali Advertiser. Director of MADE FROM STARDUST, Karen produced the award-winning documentary Chasing the Dream (2011), about Indonesian professional Rip Curl surfer, Oney Anwar, on his epic journey from a remote jungle village of Sumbawa to his debut on the World Championship Tour. Karen directed several short films including: An Athletes Dream (2016) and Silence & Monsters (2016). Following her success at festivals and on television worldwide, Karen is currently writing several TV series.


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One Response to "My Transition from Features Writer to Creating Television Treatments – By Karen Donald"

  1. jedidiah manowitz  March 2, 2018 at 11:06 am

    would love to see that template
    link to it ??