Writer’s Journey: The Treatment

Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2

I’ve decided to write a movie. Well, make a movie, but first you need a script, thus write a movie. I’ve written at least one movie before, that is if you combine all my unfinished scripts into one. I enjoy writing and creating, but I get bored and sidetracked easily. A writing session for me is exactly like a session for Steve Coogan’s character in Hamlet 2. Your mind turns to other things, and if you’ve got an Internet connection handy you’re writing day is shot. So to combat this I’m keeping myself in line with blog posts about my progress. Kind of a journal to keep me honest. Plus I’ve got a really great idea (I think), and I’d love to see something come to fruition, even if just this once.

Whilst working away programming effect plugins for video editing and compositing software I accidentally stumbled across an effect that makes people look ugly. Pushing to extremes they no longer looked real and more cartoony, but pulling back a bit this thing made Megan Fox look like a man in drag. And an ugly man at that. It was a neat effect, but useless really. Not at all what I was attempting to create. But wait! My mind began to wonder, as it easily does, and somehow somewhere deep in the boredom this idea came to me. What kind of movie could you make with this effect? Would it be too weird or could it be interesting enough to pursue?

Some of my favorite movies are science fiction flicks. These films often push the envelope on believability and special effects. Combine that with audiences’ growing acceptance of comic book movies (which let’s face it, are pretty ridiculous when you step back and look at them) and suddenly a movie utilizing this effect doesn’t seem so far fetched. I also like how science fiction is often a commentary on modern society, it’s a genre built for 5 year olds who love robots, 70 year old grey haired philosophers and everyone in-between.

Do you remember that episode of The Twilight ZoneThe Eye of the Beholder – where everyone is pig faced except a few (hey buddy, spoiler much?). Let’s take that idea and add a little more to it. Let’s say that perceived beauty is really perceived. Such that everyone is physically the same as they were before, except our brains can no longer interpret faces correctly. And it happens worldwide, over night. What would that world be like?

That’s the basis for my movie, Distortion. I was able to create an entire world based on this idea, not all of that is in the following treatment, but there’s a lot of technology that goes hand in hand with how we’d adapt to this issue. It relates directly to our society as it stands now as well. Honestly when people feel the need to photoshop Jessica Alba or Kate Beckinsale, that’s a pretty twisted reality already. Future blog posts will explore this world more deeply, but for now getting a simple treatment out of my head starts us on our journey.

DISTORTION
** TREATMENT **
By Trevor Anderson


In the near future a new virus has infected all of mankind. This virus doesn’t kill, nor zombify its victims. It attacks the brain in a non-lethal fashion, crippling the infected’s ability to see faces clearly. Loved ones no longer recognize each other under the hideous masks their brains set upon one another. In this world everyone is ugly, and no one is who they appear to be. Less than 1% of the population are immune to the disease. There is no cure.


The following decade in the aftermath of the virus resulted in mass world panic as governments and cities collapsed. There were those though, that sought to return order, and now after 18 years since the virus’ first appearance, a new government has formed in the former state of California. This was in no small part due to The Enforcers, a group organized to police and protect. The past 8 years hasn’t been kind to them, as the new government looks to shift blame onto them for force used to re-establish order. But this new government isn’t without problems. In order to maintain its grasp on power it has become corrupt, making good with bad elements to keep them in check. Gangs still rule most of the land, even as the transition from The Enforcers to a civilian police force comes to an end.


Jessica Clements works for a representative in the new government body. His hard line political views are hated amongst the criminal element. Jessica witnesses his death at the hands of a group run by another representative and mob boss Ryan Grates. In this world witnesses are useless, except Jessica is one of the 1%. Unaffected by the virus she could take the stand against Grates as one of the last true eye-witnesses.


Robert Walker is a dying breed. Once a part of the elite Enforcers, now he must try to come to grips with his life in this new strange world. Not after one last assignment though. Fearing the widespread corruption the Police Chief has entrusted Jessica in Robert’s stead, to make sure she reaches her destination and is able to testify against Grates. Now he must protect one last life, to be certain the future will be brighter than the past. But with such heavy decisions to risk the person he’s falling for, will Robert be capable of making the hard choice and sacrifice to ensure the safety for all versus the one?

Any thoughts or constructive criticisms (or non-constructive criticisms) are welcome.

8 thoughts on “Writer’s Journey: The Treatment”

  1. Trevor,

    Great and original idea. I’m impressed by your treatment. I already have a good feel for the direction and how it will look. Just the thought of “everyone” being strangers is kind of mind blowing. Let me know if you need any support along the way because you should definitely pursue the idea. I also have written multiple scripts, and usually get about halfway through. So, I know how that goes. Good luck, man.

  2. An interesting idea – definitely an original one. And I totally understand what you mean when you say an internet connection is deadly to writing urges. “I’m going to write the great American novel. But…after YouTube.”

    I’m not entirely sure where you would be going with this plot, however. What I mean is the first question that popped into my head was “But what’s the struggle? What’s the conflict?” Don’t underestimate the benefits of a unique idea, but maybe what you have here is the seed for your story. Maybe if you think on it more (or just start freewriting) you’ll find that your Virus is just the backdrop for a bigger idea. Maybe the conflict arises from a couple that falls in love when they’re infected with the virus, and then the virus is cured. Etc. etc. etc.

    1. Thanks, and yes the virus is just the backdrop. The story centers around Robert and Jessica. I’ll get more into what I’m thinking of doing in later posts, but the idea isn’t to tell the story of what happens when the virus hits, we’re several years after that and dealing with a society that is coming to terms and has already begun to deal with it. Kind of like where Children of Men is situated in its post-apocalyptic disaster. This is really just the setting for the story, and the basis for the plot. Stay tuned, I’ll get more into it and looking forward to everyone’s input on future ideas as this pans out. Hopefully you’ll all start seeing the real story come together here. There’s already some conflict involved with getting this eye-witness to the stand, but again it’s more of a basis for a plot, although with some movies that alone is enough. I really enjoy “thinking” movies and interplay between characters, also traversing this world will be interesting with some of the ideas I’ve come up with for how people deal with not being able to distinguish one another by face. I’m trying to stay fairly realistic with existing technologies.

  3. So, I like the idea and think it’s pretty original, but I’m not sure about where the story is heading. Why would an entire world go to shit because everyone is ugly? Sure, it’s a virus that spreads, but as you said, it’s not lethal, so why the panic?

    Other than that, I’m looking forward to this project and seeing where you take it. I tend to be over critical at times (my apologies) but I think that’s what you were asking? :neutral: Anyway, good idea to make it a blog posting series, I know that’s one hell of a motivation.

    1. Ok Nick, I’ve got that covered. Order is restored in a short period of time, mainly because while this drives some people batshit crazy – suicidal perhaps – society does get used to it. I wasn’t completely clear here what the virus does, as I plan to be in future posts, but the basic idea is our brains can no longer interpret faces. So people’s faces change over time as our brains try to make sense of what it’s seeing. It’s not just that people are ugly, they’re always strangers. Faces seem to swim and morph. As for the world crumbling, ya it gets back on its feet fairly quickly, but in the chaos people can’t handle the change immediately, and there’s a lot of folks that would take advantage of this situation and the chaos. It’s an out of this world idea for sure, but most movies are. When you hear more of the specific I hope to sway you in the direction of liking it more. If people can believe that a world where heroes don spandex suits and fly around because they’re aliens and the sun gives them special powers or they’ve been bitten by a radioactive whatever, then I’m certain I can make this work.

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