Treatment And Structure Workshop with Alistair

Treatment And Structure Workshop with Alistair

Today we attended a workshop with Alistair to try and flesh out our project treatment. We started by reading some of Alistair’s own film treatments one for ‘Bonnington Square’, A documentary about a creative community which formed during the 80’s as a number of squatters took residence in  a central London residential area. Having seen the film previously it was remarkable how similar the treatment was to the final film, it was as if it was a script for the making of the film.

With Alistair’s treatment in mind we compared it to our own, Alistair’s read just like a story, explaining the how the film would run with some technical detail but mainly a structured story. When comparing with ours, ours was much more technical and kept mentioning the film as if we were trying to sell a product rather than a story. We used phrases like “The film will be…” and ” we want to make a film about..” These are things that weren’t featured at all in Alistair’s treatments.

The workshop prompted us to dig deeper into our story and find a “rock” that the whole project centres around. So far we have just been vaguely mentioning the Chartists as our story idea, Alistair wanted us to dig right down into it and find the element that is the centre piece of the story, this of course being the people massacre on the night of the chartist uprising. With this in mind we could expand and explore themes and feelings and elements that will help tell this story.

We drew a mind map where we thought about key elements. such as narrative structure, characters, contributors, locations and images. At this point we were working towards the online documentary rather than the mobile app as the app has a limited format (see my AppFurnace meeting with David). The mind map helped to draw out items that will contribute to telling the overarching story including how the project will look and who it is aimed at.

After working on the mind map we looked at creating an initial treatment, Alistair asked us to write a list of how we imagined we’d tell the story in order; what would we see first, what would we hear, how the sequences link and what are the sequences telling us. When comparing our list to the treatments Alistair showed us it’s much clearer now how Alistair was in a position to write a detailed treatment that ultimately resembled his finished films.


The workshop has thrown up some questions about the our own story. Alistair suggested that we should focus solely on the march, Newport and the people killed but initially I wanted to expand on this to include more of the South Wales valleys. Although the march did end in Newport, it was mainly people from the valleys who contributed and I want to be careful not to cast doubt on who should be credited as the heroes. Newport council are trying to re-brand it’s image and highlighting their role in the creation of democracy but I think it’s important to remember that the Newport council were the ones who tried to stop the Chartists.

This workshop has helped with my further understanding of documentary structure, I’ve often had ideas for stories but structuring them has always been my weakness. I’m hoping that using Alistair’s techniques will enable me to re-think some of my other projects directions too.



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