The more you learn about crafting top-notch scripts with Oscar-caliber dialogue, the less time you want to spend worrying about industry-standard format. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, scriptwriters no longer have to toil away the hours at the typewriter measuring margins and adjusting tabs. Now, formatting software automatically sets columns, adjusts typeface and even reads the script back to you in the voices of your choosing.
The Microsoft Word of script formatting software is Final Draft (www.finaldraft.com), that shiny CD-ROM in the green box that has everyone from Alan Ball to Syd Field and Oliver Stone singing its praises. Billed by Final Draft Inc. as “the No. 1 choice among Hollywood’s professional writers,” version 5 ($249) offers an easy-to-use interface and built-in settings to make your life easier. That is, of course, if you know the tips and tricks to get the most out of it.
- Element shortcuts
- Font control
- Customizable header/footer
- Mores & continueds
- Save title pages
- Scene navigator
Knowing how to use the Enter/Return and Tab keys can significantly cut down on your writing time. Type a Scene Heading, then press Return or Tab to move to Action. Type an action, then press Return to move to another Action or press Tab to move to Character Name. Type a character name, then press Return to move to Dialogue or press Tab to move to Parenthetical. Type a parenthetical, then press Return to move to Dialogue or press Tab to move to the next Character Name. Type the dialogue, then press Return to move to Action or press Tab to move to Parenthetical. Type a Transition, then press Return to move to Scene Heading or press Tab to move to a Character Name.
Final Draft’s default font is customized 12-point Courier. The customized font was specifically designed to provide a better, thicker and more properly spaced Courier font than the standard Courier or Courier New fonts. Note: Courier is the industry-standard font, so change it at your own risk.
SmartType is a database of character names, extensions, scene headings, locations, times and transitions that require you to enter just the first few letters; Final Draft will type in the rest instantly. This is a great way to avoid typing reoccurring names and places to save yourself some serious time.
ScriptNotes are hideable notes for windows that can contain anything from comments about a scene to fully formatted script sections for later use. To add/insert a new ScriptNote, click your mouse where the ScriptNote Marker should be placed and choose Document>Insert ScriptNote. A ScriptNote Marker appears at that position, and a new ScriptNote window appears. Enter (or paste) text into the ScriptNote window. Click anywhere in the script to return to the script.
Label the top or bottom of each page with the page number, revision number, date, title, episode—anything you need. To view and edit the Header and Footer window, choose Document>Header and Footer.
Final Draft’s Bookmark function lets you mark any spot in your script and jump to it with just a click of the mouse. To insert a bookmark, select Document>Insert Bookmark. To change the name of a Bookmark, select the Bookmark name, edit the name in the Bookmark name field at the top of the dialog box and click OK to apply any changes to the script. To go to a Bookmark, choose Edit>Goto. Select the Bookmark you want from the Goto list (Windows) or the Goto pop-up menu (Mac OS).
If you’ve been using an ordinary word processor, breathe a sigh of relief—industry-standard Mores and Continueds are created and placed automatically as you write and edit your script. However, Continueds are generally used in production scripts and are not necessary in drafts or spec scripts. To turn them off, go to Document>Mores and Continueds. Uncheck the Scene Continued top and bottom of page boxes to remove them from your script.
Any file from another program can be opened in Final Draft in a few easy steps. First, open the file in the program in which it was created. Save it as a text-only file. This text file can be opened in Final Draft and converted to a screenplay. In Final Draft, go to File>Open. Find the text file and open it (on Windows, change the Files of Type to text file). You will be prompted to format it as a screenplay or text. Choose screenplay. If you would like to format it as a sitcom, stageplay or any other format, go to Format>Elements. Click Load. Select the format you want. Click OK. The file will reformat with these parameters. Go to File>Save As and name, then save your document. If you have written your script using style sheets in another program, save the file as RTF instead of text only and open it the same way in Final Draft.
You cannot save the title page by itself, because the title page is part of your document. Open the title page (Document>Title Page), and type in your information. Close the title page, and resave your document. Once you resave the document, the title page saves with it.
With Scene Navigator, the script can be viewed in two different ways, Index Card view and Outline view. Both views enable the script to be interactively reorganized. The Outline view provides a linear, top-to-bottom ordering of the scenes. The Index Card view shows a maximum of nine “cards” horizontally. Both display the Scene Heading plus the first line of each scene. To view a script in the Navigator window, choose Tools>Scene Navigator. The Navigator window appears in the Index Card view (default). To switch between Navigator views, choose the desired view from the Navigator Menu. To toggle between the script and Scene Navigator, click the window desired or press Control+Shift+S (Windows and Mac OS).
This article appeared in the August 2001 issue of Scriptwriting Secrets.