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Articles | Program Proposal (What is it?)

The Program Proposal is a key document in the production process. Essentially it's a one-sheet executive summary of the project containing all the pertinant information from title to budget. While its style varies, it usually contains:

  • Title - Always have a working title. It's tough to sell/pitch a show without one.
  • Objective - State what the show will accomplish. Fictitous stories don't typically have clear objectives, but can teach values, lessons, and history while entertaining an audience. Non-fiction programs usually have specific objectives. If you are producing a documentary or informational project, avoid fuzzy statements, like "viewers will learn about....." Be specific!
    • Example: After watching "Feeding the Needy," viewers will understand three things they can do to help feed needy chidren and feel motivated to take action in their community.
  • Target audience - Who are you trying to reach? Non-fiction programming usually has a very specific target audience. Consider the different target audiences for these shows: "You Can Learn to Sail!", "What Every Single Parent Should Know", or "Strategies for Getting the Most Out of Your Home".
  • Show description - What is your show about? (Do you have a log line? If so, you can lead off this section with it.) If you are producing a piece of fiction, this is the perfect place to describe the story in a paragraph or two.
  • Format - How long is it? Is is a documentary, a reality show, a talk show, etc.? Is it shot in a studio, on location, part of a series, funny or serious, or animated or told with sock puppets?
  • Venue - Where will this be shown? (TV Broadcast, web, trade show, conference, etc.)
  • Production method/plan - Specify the production strategy, personnel, facility use, number of cameras, special audio needs, use of historic or pre-existing footage, etc.
  • Tentative budget - While students typically don't have very large budgets for class projects, this would be addressed in a treatment for a professional production. Time and money are always key and limiting factors in any production.
  • Treatment - A treatment is an abbrieviated narrative description of the story. It doesn't contain detailed production information, but should concisely describe the story, the act structure, and the scenes within the acts. Treatments can show precisely how the story flows by describing the dialog and action of every scene. (If the scene does not advance the character or the story, cut it out!) Treatments for shorter programs can be included in a proposal. Treatments for long-form programs and movies (which can be 50 pages or more) are stand-alone documents.