Screenwriting : Final Draft only acceptable script format? by Michelle J Kenoyer

Michelle J Kenoyer

Final Draft only acceptable script format?

Hi all, I'm trying to resolve an informational conflict I'm coming up against re: submitting screenplays in Final Draft vs. Word vs. PDF. I see calls for screenplays in which producers and agents seek scripts in either PDF or RTF (Rich Text Format), which can both be generated via a Word doc source. However, I've heard recently from an independent producer that Final Draft (and to some extent CeltX, which as I understand is a lower-grade stepchild of Final Draft) is the ONLY admissible format that producers and agents will accept. Anyone know which is accurate, or does it just depend on the producer's/agent's preference for reading-script submissions? Asking because I do have MS Word and Adobe Acrobat, and am not a multi-millionaire, so don't feel like popping down the $100-plus for a Final Draft install if I really don't have to. I'm familiar with screenwriting format standards (thank you, Google and research!) so feel I have a good grasp on how to set margins, indents, sluglines, and so on, but I could be wrong... :p Thanks ahead, Michelle

Michael L. Burris

Michelle I was in the same boat and let me tell my thoughts of Final Draft. It is like having the difference in decent thread that can break and a great thread you can weave the strongest rug with. I will say the conversion from MS Word or any other format takes work but it is so worth it. Even converting to a PDF with Final Draft is so much better. I still haven't mastered the entire Final Draft but I was comfortable with it within a week or two. As far as treatments go, LogLines, etc. Ms Word or Office might actually be better. You can however general write with Final Draft as well.

Mark Souza

Final Draft is not the only acceptable screenwriting software. If you wrote the next Citizen Kane, no one is going to throw your script in the trash because it wasn't written with Final Draft. Proper formatting is key and a lot of programs do that, including Final Draft. That said, Final Draft is the most used software. Any production company will be able to deal with the output from Final Draft. I use it. The last point is that while shopping your script, send out PDF copies, not the FDX files. You don't want people altering work until it's been paid for.

D Marcus

I have heard some zingers in my time, but the producer who told you that FD is the ONLY admissible format that producers and agents will accept is a real con man. As Mike mentions, a writer should NEVER send an editable version of the screenplay to anyone requesting a read. Never. Once the screenplay is sold send it to then in any file they want. An aside, unrelated to the questions at hand; Avoid that "producer" who gave you such terrible information.

Monique Mata

If you're talking about submitting scripts to query or enter contests, always submit a pdf, not an editable file. In this case, it doesn't matter if you use FD, MMSW, Celtx or word, as long as you can convert to pdf. Where it might make a difference is if you're collaborating on a script with that producer and he uses FD. If you're both working on the same script, it's easier if you have the same software to track changes.

Danny Manus

FD is not the only acceptable format. However, if you submit a script written in WORD, It will be thrown out. Guarantee it. It needs to be some sort of screenwriting software format - FD, MM, FadeIn, Celtx, etc. Word is not acceptable. That being said, I'd say at least 70% of pro screenwriters use Final Draft

Robert Sprawls

That's too bad Danny Manus, because I'm beginning to not like FD9 all that much. There is some very irritating bugs and shortcomings I haven't seen the FD developers acknowledge. I'm test driving Fade In and I'm rather liking it. I think what I'll do is write in Fade In and import to FD9 for submission. Back to the OP. Use PDF if you can't use FDX. It doesn't require much and PDF is a well known and generally accepted format. Also, FadeIn is $50 as opposed to FD's $250 price tag.

D Marcus

Where does that 70% come from? FD advertising? Or has there been a serious study?

Cecil E. Davis Jr.

As Lon as the en result is te correct format it will work. I use Celtx which converts to the correct format as a PDF file.

Danny Manus

The 70% figure was pulled directly from my ass lol. But in 12 years, I have met about 50 pro writers who use Movie Magic (incl my old boss) but pretty much everyone else has used FD. But FadeIn is picking up some fame due to Mazin and August's podcast

Shrirang Nargund

the main motive behind format is neatness and easy to send via any digital medium. that's it. this is like "I won't read your script because S in the word script is not capital..." :) :)

Mark Souza

The main reason behind format is it easily defines key elements of a script. Slug lines defining location and time of day and are easy to spot. Dialogue is heavily indented and easily recognizable. Action is not indented so also easy to recognize without having to hunt for it. One of the first things a reader is liable to do is to quickly leaf through a script just to check the balance of dialogue to action (newbies tend to write dialogue heavy). If your script isn't properly formatted, it'll show up even before the reader starts reading. That's the first strike against you. At that point the writing and story better grab them by the throat or it's onto the scrap heap. Screenwriting software assure that at least you'll clear that first hurdle. and your work will appear professional.

David Taylor

Dan - Does MM have the same 'Reports' capability as FD?

CJ Walley

Michelle, contrary to what's been written above it is possible to format a Word document and export a pdf to script standards, but it is relatively cumbersome to work with and can't be exported to Final Draft format. Don't be fooled into thinking Final Draft is anything special or the alternatives inferior, it's overpriced and underdeveloped. However it is, without doubt, the file standard every screenwriter has to respect because it's so deeply routed into the working process of the industry. There are people out there who think Final Draft is somehow special in terms of its programming, it's a shame you've bumped into one. A few seem to mix up industry standard and software capability. I think you need to look at this a little differently, for a couple of hundred dollars you can have no software demands to worry about. That's a bargain compared to most other career choices, especially when you consider so many professional screenwriters like working in Final Draft. At worst it's a tax you have pay as you climb the ladder. A couple of hundred dollars speculation on an entire career - not bad really. And it gets better, there's competing and compatible software at every price point right down to zero. Talk about a low barrier to entry.

Michelle J Kenoyer

I'll consider it; I just need to pay bills like student loans, water, electricity, mortgage, my kid's after-school care, etc. etc. etc. Maybe I will use my next bonus on it. :p Another question--once I do purchase and download Final Draft, can I import an existing script created in Word into FD, and will it recognize any custom styles I've set in Word (e.g. Slugline, Parenthetical, Character, Dialogue, etc.), or would I basically have to reformat the bloody thing from scratch? I am not really familiar with FD's functional capabilities so just thought I'd ask as a follow-up. :)

Robert Sprawls

Final Draft has poor import/export capabilities, in my opinion. In fact, it actually has no import function. It can open an RTF, but you'll likely spend a lot of time reformatting. I'm beginning to like FadeIn more as I use it. It can import and export PDF, RTF, FDX, fountain, formatted and unformatted text, HTML. It can import scrivener and Adobe Story, export ePub and XML. You can edit dual dialog. FD turns dd into some kind of pic or locked section of text, so you have to undual edit, then dd it again. FI has full screen writing capability, FD for windows does not. FD has various font issues: the fonts get squished or cut off at the top. Courier Prime formats poorly in FD (about 50% more pages added in FD), but no where else. You can get Courier Screenplay for FI, but I really like the look of Courier Prime, which doesn't work well in FD.

CJ Walley

You'll have to reformat everything Michelle but it's really no hardship, it's just a case of selecting text and hitting the tab key until it's the right type of element. Probably around a few hours work to convert a full feature. If you want to save on costs you could download Celtx for free or look at Fade In and the other low cost options. They should all export in the fdx format and load into Final Draft no problem.

Robert Sprawls

To add to CJ's advice on low cost, I would in general avoid scrivener. It lacks too much capability. It's a good draft tool so I don't hate it, but it has poor granularity for reporting. It'll report a single scene that is five lines long on a page, incl the slugline, as taking a whole page. It's a single monolithic page for every scene, so you will have difficulty eyeing up scene lengths as well.

Shea Christian Reinke

I have had to do a couple of these kind of conversions, software/format changes caused by software taking hours. In a sense it is like editing backwards .. odd.

CJ Walley

Personally I love Scrivener and have been using it for a few years now, there's a few features I'd struggle to be without and I agree it's a good drafting tool. The page count thing is frustrating and it also can't put in the (more) and (cont) where action and dialogue breaks pages and the developers say it never will. It does export to Final Draft fine though. As ever you tend to want a feature from one piece of software and feature from another.

Robert Sprawls

Don't get me wrong CJ, I love scrivener. I think the binder system is one of, if not the strongest feature. It's helpful to setup structure, files within folders, etc and isolate a scene from others. Really, no scriptwriting software comes close to that. However, for someone on a tight budget wanting scriptwriting software, I would recommend FadeIn for $50 over Scrivener for $40 for the focused feature set and greater capability to analyze and format. One can still use Word/Open Office to outline and draw up characters.

Richard Welch

Michelle, it depends on who you ask. I had a meeting last year with a Lead Producer at Paramount Pictures and we talked at length about the scripts that are submitted to her -- and she receives hundreds each week. She said that all the talk about which program is the best is just that, a lot of talk, and she, as a long-time movie and TV producer, told me is that it doesn't matter as long as the script bears some kind of consistent format and is readable. She has editors to put it into a format that she wants when the film goes into pre-production and all producers that she knows prefer different formats. Don't generalize. Producers are people, too, and no two will agree on the perfect format. She said that they all agree on one thing, however. Your script must be written in good English with no spelling errors (unless you're writing in some type of dialect, but then be very careful that you don't overdo it -- let the actors speak in accents or dialects. They are supposedly the experts). I have one character in my "Escaping Paradise" who is a son of the hills in Eastern Kentucky and he uses y'all, gonna, ain't, etc. all the time and that's perfectly acceptable. Minimal use of dialects is easy to understand so don't be afraid of them if they are important to the development of your character. But be careful. If your character is a hillbilly like my Ben Kittsmiller, then don't give him words or pronunciations that someone from West Liberty would never say. Same with foreign words and names. If you're going to include them, be absolutely sure that you've done your research and the words and names are correct. I have several characters in two of my scripts who speak a few lines in Mandarin and Korean. My wife is from the PRC and speaks Mandarin, so she is my expert in Chinese language and names. One producer said her name as Ming Fei Zhou. Wrong! And it made her angry because it was obvious that this producer did not know or understand the Chinese culture and/or didn't care. The Zhou family was with Mao Zedong on the Long March (and thus are national heroes) and her father was a member of the provincial congress for many years and was an active member of the Communist Party in Liaoning Province. Zhou is her surname and it ALWAYS comes first. For Korean I went to the language arts department at the University of Arizona and found some Korean students who provided me with the correct grammar, names, etc. as they would be said in Korea. I was a Russian translator for NSA for several years and I recently watched a movie in which several of the characters were supposedly speaking in Russian. If it was Russian, then they were from the "other" Russia because I didn't understand a word they were saying. Even the names the characters supposedly found in a book were all wrong. In other words, do your research before you write. Simple mistakes in language will become HUGE mistakes on the big screen and all the perfect formatting in the world won't be worth spit. Your script must be clean and neat with plenty of white space for notes. Remember that your script is the initial script that must get the producer's attention, not the shooting script, so if you feel you must include them, go easy on camera and lighting directions. In fact, avoid them. You will not be hired as a sound or lighting crew member. Let the director and his crew worry about those things. She said that she shouldn't have to tell me, but she NEVER reads a script that is written in pen or pencil -- she said that it's amazing how many of those she receives each week. Don't even attempt it. They are sent immediately to script Hell. I got my laugh of the week from one comment she made about a script that she received several years ago that was written in pencil with hundreds of notes along the margins. She set fire to it and threw it into her waste basket and then had to explain to the studio head why she set off the fire alarms. Your script must LOOK professional and don't fret about the different formats that are available. That's what she pays editors big bucks to do. What she looks for is a great story that will wow the audience and make them recommend your movie to their friends. Her goal is to make lots of money for the studio and if you have a story that is unique and attention-grabbing then concentrate on the story. I use David Trottier's "Screenwriters' Bible" and I was told that it is just fine for the screenwriter's product. Anyone who tells you that FD is the ONLY format that producers will accept is full of you know what and probably owns stock in the publishing company. P.S. The Lead Producer that I met with told me one other thing. She NEVER reads loglines and only rarely reads synopses. She goes directly to the scripts that she REQUESTS from screenwriters and agents and then reads maybe 10 to 20 RANDOM pages, not necessarily the first ten pages. If it's a good story, the entire script will be great, not just the first ten pages. Unless you've written "Forrest Gump", the first ten pages are probably dull as sin anyway so she skips over them. Those were her comments for what they're worth, but she's been in the industry for a long time and has been very successful, so I trust what she told me.

David Taylor

Ah. The 'Page-Turner' phrase strikes again. Very understandable.

Shrirang Nargund

well said Richard. Friends, the script should be neat and clean. easy to read. software is just a tool to make these things happen. I always write by hands for first 1 or 2 drafts. after making enough mess on paper then I put it on comp. to make it clean. even though being a technician myself I can tell you, please don't let technical things overpower your creativity ever...!

Robert Sprawls

One other bug with FD, a more major one in my eyes, is it taking up to 50% CPU even when you're staring at a blank page. I don't understand why an idle process would take up so much CPU, unless it's badly designed to hurry up and wait. FadeIn takes up 0% when idle and even OpenOffice's Writer takes only 8%.

Craig Martin Johnson

Hi Michelle, I’m relatively new to the business, but I might be able to give you some insight based on what I've observed. I have an acquaintance who has been at it for a while and has pitched all levels – indies to the big guys. In fact he signed one of his scripts with Lionsgate. Although he does use Final Draft exclusively he always uses its pdf conversion to pitch with a pdf document. He’s never told me that he received any negative implication with that format. I think the reason that FD is stressed is because it doesn't allow you to make any formatting errors. For that reason alone I personally think it’s worth the money (if you can afford it). That’s a lot to take off your plate with less to clog up your creative mind when trying to craft and develop your script. That being said, I personally don’t think script readers would want an FD format because they may not have the program handy to open the script. And there just might be some computers without MS Word. In either case your script may not be read due to technical reasons. Everybody and their dog has Adobe Reader, so that makes it easier for an important reader to actually read it. It’s your job to make it easy as possible for them to get to the contents of your script. With all that out of the way, if you’re confident that you have command of the proper script formatting without using FD and have the ability to convert your script to a pdf document, then you have all that you need. Just remember that pro readers can sniff out a formatting error a mile away. That can be enough for them to stop and move on to the next script from their enormous pile.

Michelle J Kenoyer

Thanks, Craig. :) Good points about the fail-safe formatting capabilities of FD. I notice on the internet that there are some differences among what's considered "industry-standard" and what's not, and I'd expect that a program like FD would have the absolute 100% correct industry-standard template. Does FD allow for PDF conversion? I would assume it did, but maybe not--if not, do you need an ancillary program to run the file conversion from FD to PDF?

Mark Souza

With Final Draft it's a selection under the 'FILE' tab; SAVE AS PDF. Then you pick what folder you want it in and decide whether you want to change the name. It's very easy.

James David Sullivan

Most will accept PDF. Does CeltX not have an export option for Final Draft format?

Len Hart

I have just completed two screenplays with Movie Outline .....it's easily the best on the market. It's EASY to use, and conforms perfectly with Hollywood specs. When your opus is complete, Movie Outline will even print it out on U.S. (Hollywood) standard sizes, three hole punched to specs with brads in the right place. And --of course --the font and back covers are just the way "your" producer is going to want them. Having used the others, it's Movie Outline for me.

Craig Martin Johnson

Hi Again Michelle, Yes FD does create PDF documents of your script so you don't need another program to do so. By no means am I stressing FD. There are other programs out there that probably do just as well if not better. Based on all the answers you've already received it sounds like there are better ones. Personally, I've only used FD so that's what I'm used to and I'm not up to speed on any of the others (usage or price). Probably the only advantage FD has over the others is that it gives you the ability to collaborate across the Internet. If that's not an issue for you then there may be a better one for less money. In conclusion the only thing I would stress is making sure the formatting is absolutely perfect however you end up doing it!

James David Sullivan

According to Ben Cahan, one of the founders of Final Draft, he led FD to a 90% share of the worldwide screenwriting software market sometime on or before 2004: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ben-cahan/20/53/6b6 If anyone is truly interested in finding out how he came to that number, he can be contacted via LinkedIn.

James David Sullivan

My comment had nothing to do with whether or not FD is the best screenwriting software. I believe that is a personal matter between a person and his software. My comment was meant to address the dispute about what market share FD had, which came up earlier in this thread. I am sure MMS will be glad to know you think so highly of them.

James David Sullivan

FD didn't make that claim. It was a former top employee of FD. I don't see what he would gain from making such a public claim - it could well destroy his credibility and chances for future employment (if his claim were determined to be bogus), since it is out on LinkedIn for the whole world to see. Many believe that Sony Beta Max was a better video format than VHS tape. Many believe that almost any personal computer was a better choice than an IBM-PC. Many believe that AT&T is not the best wireless system. Market leaders don't always have the best products. But the value of a network, even if it supported by an inferior project, carries a lot of value. It would make collaboration a lot easier, for example. There are at least two good free screenwriting software packages "on the market". With such alternatives available, MS-Word doesn't seem to be a wise choice, especially for novices who aren't that familiar with screenplay formatting.

James David Sullivan

Let's not lose sight of the original question here: Is FD required for screenplays? No. PDFs are much better in most cases, at least until a sale is made and a screenwriter can afford $100-$200.

CJ Walley

I can certainly believe FD has 90% market saturation with professional screenwriters. I feel it's a lot like Microsoft Office in the corporate world, most professionals are going to at least have a copy and have a basic understanding of how to use it. I find it a bit odd when somebody states a particular piece of software is the best. I doubt many screenwriters have extensively worked with every available program to make that judgement, and besides I feel it's a personal choice. In a way I'm looking forward to paying my FD tax and becoming more familiar with it. Even if I come to dislike it further, I think I'll feel more confident going forward in my career by being able to say I can work with it.

Laurie Ashbourne

The problem with forcing M word, or RTF (or even some lower cost screenwriting programs) to the protocol of a script is that they inevitably miss the mark formatting wise -- especially when it comes to dialogue and line spacing. And while yes, a lot is to be said for if your story is good enough these things won't matter -- fact is the people that read scripts for the decision makers will instantly see this as amateur and discard it regardless of story. If you are serious about being a screenwriter, you should be serious about your tools. There are rtf programs for free such as John August's fountain but you still have to eventually get that properly formatted. So why not do it right from the beginning? Regardless of what software you become comfortable and proficient with - most submissions are done as pdfs, enabling your formatting to stay in tact and be read by anyone.

Robert Sprawls

Laurie, I used OpenOffice's Writer and I setup a template for screenplay writing that worked perfectly. I'm sure Word can do the same, but I'm not familiar with MS Word anymore, but I have trouble believing I couldn't make a screenplay template. Under OO, it would be styles and formatting. I can set indents, before and after, line spacing, before and after, fonts, etc. Anything you can do for paragraph, character, page, etc, you can do with OO and I'm sure Word as well. I'll still recommend FadeIn first. It's not nearly as expensive and you can test drive it first. It will pop up a reminder to buy if your screenplay exceeds 10 pages and it'll put a watermark on each page, but otherwise it's fully functional so you can put it through the paces.

Matt Pacini

I use Final Draft and love it. But I've never submitted anything in native Final Draft format, nor ever heard of anyone insisting on it. PDF's are fine and universally accepted. Just make sure your format LOOKS LIKE it was created using Final Draft - meaning, use proper formatting (which obviously didn't originate with Final Draft, but you get the point).

CJ Walley

You're only recreating basic typewriter settings, Word can do that in its stride. There's even a screenplay format template you can download and use. BUT. It won't automatically put in (cont) and (more) where the page breaks. It won't autocomplete character names. You will have to manually select the format for every element change. It won't auto fill your (VO)'s and (OS)'s when you go to use them and it will grind to a near halt as the page count increases. It will also leave you with something you can't directly import into any screenwriting software. Worse still, the frustration of trying to use it for screenwriting will stifle your creativity. I say this because I've done it, I've written a screenplay in it, and rewriting it all in actual screenplay writing software, with the ease of simply hitting tab and enter, and the speed of auto completing scene headings and character names was a very welcome breath of fresh air. It's just not worth the effort when software like Celtx is available for free.

Laurie Ashbourne

Robert - CJ, Matt and Danny (and some of the others' comments) sum it up just right. I'm telling you as someone who reads about 600 scripts a year, you can tell the difference when it is not up to snuff -- and I'll say it again: if you want to do this for a living then it should be up to snuff.

James David Sullivan

Once again, there are at least two free scriptwriting packages on the "market" (readily available for download). I know at least one of them permits exporting as either Final Draft files or PDF files. The one I am most familiar with is extremely intuitive and can be learned in a matter of minutes. That being said, how is it that this thread has gone on for so long?

Michelle J Kenoyer

lol, no kidding. I really, REALLY appreciate everyone's input, but my email inbox is getting quite full with Stage 32 post updates. :p

Tony McFadden

Scrivner has a good scrennplay formatting default, then I export to word and print to PDF. Sending anything other than pdf is not a good idea. Final draft is great software - but it's not the be all and end all...

Michelle J Kenoyer

I am very proficient in MS Word and have been relying on Script Frenzy to assist with formatting guidance, because IMO Word's screenplay template is crap. I also have the book How Not to Write a Screenplay (among others) and it too includes notes on what to avoid when formatting (as well as writing) reading scripts, which as we all know are formatted much differently. I am an editor by trade so take special care to make sure my work is 100% clean before submitting it even to a fellow writer for a peer review/critique. I'm going to have to check out that Movie Magic; it sounds like a less expensive alternative to FD, but also hope to someday get FD so I can at least be proficient in the "gold standard" software.

CJ Walley

Tony, out of interest, and as a fellow Scrivener user, how come you don't export to pdf directly from Scrivener and go through Word?

CJ Walley

Michelle, keep in mind most screenplay writing software has a demo version you can download and try for free :)

Tony McFadden

CJ, only the first half a dozen drafts are in Sriv. I do the final edits, structure cleaning, etc. in Word. Same for my novels. Final round of edits are in Word. Scrivener is fantastic for plotting and building the story, but I slide back to my old habits and polish in Word.

CJ Walley

Interesting. I'm expecting to follow a similar procedure of drafting in Scrivener and polishing in Final Draft.

Tony McFadden

I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy of FD one of these days...

CJ Walley

Nice of you to step in an offer that Raffaele :)

Eoin O'Sullivan

The answer is, it depends! It's all relative. A a writer and being pretty IT literate, Celtx is easy for me to use. It enables me to layout a script in the correct format, print in PDF and export to any other software. I have come across people who are adamant that Final Draft is THE industry standard. It probably is the most widely used software in the industry, giving it a monopoly and a preference among industry professionals, but 'standard' is harder to argue. I had a producer on a forum tell me that if I didn't use Final Draft, I was a rank amateur. I politely pointed out that my writing would indicate where I was as a writer, not the software it was written with. Her counter argument was that if the file wasn't Final Draft, she couldn't run budgeting and scheduling etc on it. This feature is also available in other packages including Celtx. In short, it pointed to a lack of understanding on how to import into Final Draft on her behalf or a willingness to accept anything other than Final Draft. It's worth bearing in mine that not every software package user is fully aware of all the features it has, or aware that most software packages can import other formats. In some cases they don't want the hassle and will just specify what's convenient for them, which is okay. Just be prepared to give people what they need and be fully aware of all of the features and import/export issues in what you use. Kind Regards, Eoin

CJ Walley

I do agree the term industry standard can be misleading. The producer story is an interesting one because that goes to show how Final Draft is perceived by non-writers.

Jeff Rosenberg

I love Final Draft, but they don't care how you write it, just as long as it conforms to industry standards

James David Sullivan

@Raffaele: Are those three scripts on your IMDB page (for which you received writing credits) theatrical releases? I don't believe I've ever heard of them. And is the director of these three movies, Kevin, your brother? http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3049708/?ref_=tt_ov_wr

James David Sullivan

@Eoin - The key phrase in your post, at least as far as I am concerned, is "Just be prepared to give people what they need". I don't I want to debate a producer, who may be in a position to option or purchase a script I am pitching him or her. Not my idea of good business. A producer may be only familiar with Final Draft and not wanting to spend time, energy, or money on anything else. So, why not give them what they want? It's all too easy for a producer to find another script. PS: Lose the "O" and you will have an excellent last name! ;-)

Kindari O'Connor

You might check out Fade In Pro, maybe. It's $50, has a trial, and you can import and export Final Draft 8/9 (.fdx) files as well as several others including Fountain, so you could still work with people using FD if you needed to. http://www.fadeinpro.com. Trelby will also import/export .fdx and is free and open source. I haven't personally used it because I own Final Draft, but it's probably worth a try if you're on $0 budget. http://www.trelby.org/ Also, I agree you should send screenplays in non-editable PDF format. The ability to use FDX is if you are hired and need to collaborate back and forth with someone. Otherwise, whatever makes the proper formatting is fine. There is also Adobe Story (free or paid versions, kind of slow interface, https://story.adobe.com/). I don't know if it imports or exports .fdx but it has some project management capabilities and also does two column scripting, which FD dropped in FD8 sadly. Hope this helps!

Mark Souza

And now for a dose of reality. Use whatever software will produce properly formatted screenplays easily. For now, it's the format that's important (so you look like you know what you're doing) and your writing and storytelling ability. There are free programs that do this. You will be sending the PDF output from your screenwriting software to peddle to producers, production companies and agents. That PDF will be what generates a sale. It really doesn't matter which program you used to get to that PDF because every script sold is rewritten at least once. After your script is sold, whoever bought it will tell you what format they want. And guess what, after the sale or option you'll have some money in your pocket to buy whatever software they say. Don't let all this keep you up at night. Make a decision and get on with writing, because it's the writing that sells scripts, not the software.

Scott J. Smith

The format is what is important. You can use a word processor, but you'll be more than willing to plop down the $100 a few pages in, since word processors don't have the formatting. OpenOffice.org has a basic screenplay template that can be used. Celtx is a free screenplay software that is widely used in independent filmmaking circles, and a new entry into the foray, Adobe Story...starts free, and has paid tiers through Creative Cloud.

Charles Hummel II

I don't know if this would help, but I use a script writing program called celtx. (celtx.com)

James David Sullivan

I have used Trelby for over a year. Easy to use, extremely user-friendy, and exports to FD. Imports from FD8. Lots of impressive features, especially considering that it's free. I don't know if they are working on an FD9 compatible version. Prior to purchasing FD9, I used it exclusively, except for a brief time trying to use MS-Word for scripts. It was a real pain importing from MS-Word to Trelby, so I think anyone using MS-Word (or a compatible system, like OO) is asking for headaches in the long run.

Scott J. Smith

Oh, and at one point, I had a need to write using my tablet. Came across www.muaki.com/myscreenplays . Very basic, but much better than any tablet based word processor. Imports and exports Celtx and FD. Though it never happened to me, a few complaints of lost data using older versions on the Google Store. So, backup, backup, backup...which is what we do, anyway, isn't it?

Dan Goforth

PDF is the generally accepted currency. Final Draft and Movie Magic are the two generally accepted software apps. But NO ONE is going to refuse a great script because it wasn't done in one of the two above...

CJ Walley

Up until recently I'd 100% agree with the above, but in my last peer review the writer made the following comment: "Another reoccurring issue I noticed was that a line of dialogue would be cut off at the end of a page and appear at the top of the next. This shouldn't happen. Either bring that whole chunk of dialogue down to the second page or add another character heading to the next line of dialogue. This is one of those things that shouldn't matter, but it does. If a pro reader sees these kinds of mistakes, they'll flag you as an amateur and you don't want that." I hadn't even realised this was an issue until it was pointed out. For those that don't know, it's a problem with Scrivener, it doesn't format dialogue correctly over a page break. Now the solution is simple, move it across to different software and all is fixed. In fact the developers themselves advise this. Do I think something like that could pose a problem with a reader? Well I don't know, I don't think anybody could say. But the fact is I've been submitting scripts exported to pdf from Scrivener for about 18 months now while blissfully unaware of this.

Robert Sprawls

CJ, yeah, that is something that a WP or Scrivener can't fix. It would have to be done manually. Even my copy of FadeIn cut a line of dialog in half, with a (MORE) and CONTINUE. However, since the script is not complete and I'm not writing beginning to end, it'll change. FD9's spacing is different, so instead of that line getting cut in 1/2, it got moved to the center of a page.

CJ Walley

Yes that's how I felt when I first read the comment D Marcus. I heed a lot of the insight actual working readers post on forums and it's remarkable how much it contrasts with what writers claim happens. However my second thought was, how far is this peer from becoming a reader? This wasn't a review swap, this was a charitable review on Amazon Studios, of which I'm most grateful for. So I worry slightly about others out there, perhaps in their early days of reading who may think the same. This is a pattern I'm seeing over and over in advice and criticisms from peers, "You broke rule x/y/z so you'll look like an amateur and the reader will throw your script in the trash."

CJ Walley

Robert, I exported the script out of Scrivener as text and imported it into Celtx. I had to go through it all and rejig all the elements but it was only half a day's work. Celtx formats it fine, tries to move dialogue blocks onto a single page like you mention and actually offers a tiny bit more room in the action and dialogue lines. But then the free offline version wont export to FD and Scrivener will :-/ So it's working for me as a free interim pdf solution until I pay my Final Shaft Tax. Neil Cross who writes Luther in the UK does what you do and I intend to do, draft in Scrivener and then submits in FD.

Laurie Ashbourne

Hey CJ, part of the unfortunate side of the cottage industry around screenwriting is that most of the less established entities give readers (for $10 a script) very stringent guidelines and page/paragraph counts so they fill it with grammatical and formatting notes rather than a cohesive paragraph on story notes. A lot of this is because they are green and don't know any better (why else would they take the crappy reading job to begin with). Regardless, the unfortunate effect is that these mandates seep into the mainstream of peer reviews etc. and becomes a norm in the aspiring writer's world. What to do? Be cautious of how much weight you give reviews but do provide a clean script to start.

Robert Sprawls

I'm on Zoetrope.com for reading and submitting screenplays. I critique on three aspects: SPaG and clarity. Screenplay format Story SPaG is an easy one to fix, but it helps the writer to clean up issues. Clarity starts to get a bit muddy. I'm learning to accept sentence fragments, but I will gig a sentence that doesn't have a subject or verb because you still don't know who's doing what. Screenplay formatting: I've read four scripts and of those four, only one read like a story in script format, the other three read like scripts they shoehorned a story into. Lots of CAPITAL LETTERS for sounds and objects. When I say lots, I mean in every paragraph of action. They did camera angles, sluglined things they want the camera to focus on, etc. A lot of BACK TO SCENES. These were supposed to be spec scripts and they were such a chore to read. Story: Most issues come in the form of logic of human behavior. In one, the scientist of a top secret project is telling his home maker wife a lot of the details of his top secret project. In addition, the wife brings up critical family issues as an aside. A child suffered an extreme allergic reaction and ended up in the hospital and it doesn't come up until almost 2 pages into the coming home scene. The other female character is treacherous and a spy. So two females: one vapid and aloof and the other treacherous. Not a good showing for women. I still like being part of zoetrope, but it's difficult to read some scripts because to many of the writers aren't writing stories, they're writing scripts.

CJ Walley

Thanks for that explanation Laurie. About six months into my writing I paid for a bunch of reviews on the BlackList and that gave me a lot of insight into the behaviour of readers (both good and bad - mainly bad) and since then I've taken all feedback with a pinch of salt.

Doug Nelson

Like so much in screenwriting – there are no hard and fast rules. When you approach a reader, an agent or enter a contest; they all do fine with a .pdf file. The .rtf file is native to Final Draft. FD creates an .rtf file that WS word can read but the .rtf file created by MS word becomes jumbled when fed back to FD. (Would you ever have a writing partner? If so, you need to write in the same format.) If you’re serious about screenwriting, you really need to go with FD (although CeltX is okay.)

Norm Thomas

Just to add a note of interest: I used FinalDraft's script evaluation/coverage service and submitted my script to them in PDF (because I don't use FinalDraft). The topic of the file format never arose; PDF was perfectly acceptable, even to the folks at FinalDraft.

James David Sullivan

Only pay attention to readers in one or more of these three instances: 1. The note makes sense to you and you believe it will help your script. 2. You receive the same (or a very similar) note from several readers. OR 3. The person giving the note can get your script produced AND you can live with yourself in the morning.

Simon King

Early on in this thread a comment was made that you should never send a script to anyone in an editable format. We presume this means FD, Word, etc. However keep in mind that .PDFs are editable if you have the proper tools (not just Adobe Reader). Having said this tech weenie piece I must add that I completely agree. Send .PDFs to anyone but FD files to no one.

Stacey Stefano

Illuminating

Dave Eisenstark

Don't forget Movie Magic Screenwriter. It's always been my favorite. But these days, alas, you have to be able to work in all of them, including the next flavor-of-the-month. Is this progress?

Uz Ni

Maybe you can put a watermark diagonally saying "FINAL DRAFT" that will appear on each page (search WORD help to find out how to do it) of your script and then see what happens.

Simon King

If I was reading that script with that watermark I would be under the impression that what you had written was YOUR final draft and not that it was written USING Final Draft. Sadly no producer sees a screenplay as a "final draft".

Tom Rooney

Hi Michelle, I think every writer goes through the same dilemma at some point in their career, trying to second-guess what software to use. My advice is not to worry about it until you have definite interest. Just make sure you have a good story and consistent formatting which most people can easily read and the rest will fall in to place. Regards, Tom

Elaine Haygood

IF you've had a chance to speak to an agent or producer prior to submission, just ask, what format they'd prefer. Me, I work in MSWord and nothing else, but, when I send out script copies, I use PDF unless I'm collaborating with someone. As for the folks who tell you Final Draft or else, ignore them. I've had friends when I was stating out as a Comic Book Creator insist that if I didn't use a Cintiq, my work would suffer. I found that my $230.00 Toshiba Lifebook with a Wacom stylus allows me to do the same level of work without the expense. What I mean by that is, get the cheaper Celtxn if you absolutely have to. Too many people try to discourage new writers by insisting they buy expensive software/equipment a majority of which is unnecessary as nothing can take the place of real talent.

Dave Eisenstark

Celtx is free and works fine, and I'd recommend you try it, Elaine. For screenplays, using Word or a Word template is fine, too, until you actually want to change something or rewrite. Then you can spend a lot of time chasing words around the page instead of writing, in my experience.

Doug Nelson

Like so many of these threads, this one has gone on far too long and wondered off track. The poster’s question was whether Final Draft is the only acceptable script format – and the simple answer is no. You can write your script in crayon on wrapping paper. You can argue that one software is better than another all you want but in the end, the profession has settled on a few script formatting software packages that it relies on. My advice is that if you want to become a professional screenwriter – just go with the flow. Put your time into your story, not what color crayon you need to write it.

Neil Vanides

Amen!

James David Sullivan

Does that mean the sermon is over? ;-)

James David Sullivan

@Dave E. No, but it is reality! ;-)

James David Sullivan

@Simon King - every producer thinks your final draft is your first draft. I personally wish they would simply shut up and write the check! ;-)

James David Sullivan

Anyone know a rule-of-thumb for just how long dead horses should be beaten?

Simon King

I am a member of another specialized forum where ONE SINGLE THREAD has EXCEEDED 28,700 posts! Is Stage32 censoring its members? Are we being told this represents our final draft even if... oh hell. Never mind. I lost interest.

Lynn Wilkinson

I use Final Draft and I would not even try to fool with margins and all that in word. If you have managed that, I admire you. Final Draft does so many things for you it leaves your mind free to just write. Watch the Writers Store for a good buy on Final Draft. I got mine for a good discount. Good Writing

Shane M Wheeler

If Celtx is still free, no reason not to get it. It saves time wasted on formatting, providing more time to create content.

Pup Che

I like MM better too.

Scot Byrd

Final Draft is not a format, it's a screenwriting software. You can select a format template from the many included with the program, or you can set up your own. I just upgraded to FD9 and the basic screenwriting template is pretty much spot on. What's the ultimate arbiter of format? Cole-Haag covers the basics very well. Oh - and as far as which file formats will producers accept? You really don't want to send your work out in any other format than pdf. UNLESS you want someone to be able to access the file and rewrite on it, like your writing partner.

Joseph Anthony Hammond

Celtx is free.

G. Leo Maselli

Michelle, to avoid any confusion and the doubt just go with the industry standard: Final Draft. Get quickly beyond this discussing of format and software. It''s about the story.

Robert Sprawls

Scot Byrd, "You really don't want to send your work out in any other format than pdf. UNLESS you want someone to be able to access the file and rewrite on it, like your writing partner." Does that really happen? Isn't that inviting an infringement suit?

Scot Byrd

I've had producers adamantly tell me they don't want me to send a script in anything but pdf for just that reason. They don't want to be liable.

Richard G Hector

Buy Final Draft or whatever and focus on the story, not the formatting. Most all these programs can output your script in pdf.

Robert Sprawls

The FD people put out a patch to FD9 and now it's not using CPU sitting idle, though it still has a problem with display at times. So now, the only problem I have with it is the cost to someone who can't afford much. FD9 is $200 from writersstore.com. I like its revamped navigator, that is a big plus. However, even that may not be enough to recommend it to someone with limited funds. FadeIn is $50 and can export FDX and PDF perfectly and does the formatting correctly. So it becomes a matter of what you can afford vs. what you need. Add to it scrivener at $40 for drafting and organizing, that's $90, still less than half the cost of FD9.

Kindari O'Connor

Hi Michelle, did you try any of the software mentioned in this thread? On your budget, checkout Celtx, Trelby, and Adobe Story, to get you going. All free (or have free versions). Try them out. If you don't like, delete and move on. I think they all save as PDF and other screenwriting formats. MS Word: It's kind of like using a flat-head screwdriver on a Philips head screw. The flat-head usually will work okay but not as well as one of the plethora of Philips screwdrivers (i.e screenwriting software) that are designed for the task. Why PDF for submissions? - PDF is good because (1) virtually all computers, tablets, and phones can view it, so it's convenient, (2) your work and its presentation are consistent on all those devices, and (3) it is not editable so others can't accidentally change something. Hope this helps!

Norm Thomas

Since we're still adding to this thread, I will too: There are only 6 text/margin formatting styles in a screenplay : SLUGLINE, DIRECTION, CHARACTER NAME, PARENTHETICAL DIRECTION, DIALOG and TRANSITION. If you set those up as 6 styles in Microsoft Word but then BE SURE TO LOCK YOURSELF OUT OF ACCIDENTALLY USING ANY OTHER STYLE, it is impossible to misformat anything in Word. I have a Word template I use for just this purpose and am happy to give you a copy...email me at normthomas@live.com.

Michelle J Kenoyer

Thanks, Norm. :) Transition meaning CUT TO:?

Robert Sprawls

Michelle, yes. Screenwriters can use them in extreme moderation, despite the "rule." I think the only rule spec writers shouldn't break is putting in camera angles and SHOTs. Write that into the action as description. Make the reader see it without telling them that is what the camera focuses on.

James David Sullivan

@Robert - Script ideas and plots get stolen frequently.

Robert Sprawls

I was under the impression that doesn't happen because it's easier to pay a writer than face an infringement case.

James David Sullivan

@Michelle - you never need "CUT TO:" - that is implied when you insert a new slugline. And Robert is correct - use transitions rarely, if at all. "DISSOLVE TO:" (for example). And you can use a slugline to imply focusing in on something, such as a map: MAP Michelle, there are a LOT of scripts available online (for free). You would be doing yourself a big favor looking at several to get ideas of what is and what is not acceptable.

Robert Sprawls

The only time I use a CUT TO: is for scene that are tightly related and I need to express that relation more than what action can do. Such as waking up from a dream/nightmare, a memory recall, etc. I keep it extremely minimal because of the amount of lines lost to using a transition.

James David Sullivan

@Robert - Diane Drake believes her story was "borrowed" by Paramount: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Drake

James David Sullivan

@Robert - You have two loglines listed on your profile. One of them explicitly indicates that the script has not yet been completed. Is the same thing true of your other logline?

Robert Sprawls

Yes, it's 1/2 complete first draft. It's intended to incite interest in a story concept. If this offends you, I can take them down. I have zero issue with that. Tell you what, I'll delete them anyway. I'm just a tyro, so it's better to not cause issues.

James David Sullivan

When I see a logline, I presume someone has at least a first draft completed. Whether you keep them up or take them down is up to you. But when I see someone comment in a discussion, I like to know how credible the person is. When you are giving advice, don't you think that's important to those who read the advice?

James David Sullivan

CeltX used to be free and exports to FD; I believe it is still free, but I'm not 100% sure about that. There is at least one other free piece of software that works great (I used it for over a year before I bought a copy of FD), is completely free, and exports fine to FD and PDF.

CJ Walley

The desktop version of Celtx is free but doesn't export to FD, you have to export as RTF and then tell FD to import in some special way. If you use the paid online version I believe it imports and exports from FD. Had a weird coincidence yesterday, guy asked me to read his script and sent it in pdf and fdx!

James David Sullivan

He may be hoping that you make corrections in FD and send it back to him! Trelby is free, very easy to use, and exports to FD. It has a feature to import from both FD and CeltX, although I have never used those features. I presume the import is FD8, if that feature works. I have tested the export to FD, and that works fine.

CJ Walley

I did think that James, or perhaps he's used to getting notes in Final Draft. I went to try Trelby out the other week but sadly there's not a Mac release yet.

James David Sullivan

Too bad about the Mac-Trelby. I thought Mac had a PC emulator mode. I know one thing - giving notes or corrections directly in a script writing program makes life real easy!

CJ Walley

Yeah that's another reason I want to get into using FD.

James David Sullivan

Okay, here's a one-day sale at the Writer's Store - 20% off on all software. FD9 - regularly $199.99 - with the coupon code, it's $159.99 - that's the best deal I've seen so far this year! MMSW6 - regularly $149.00 - with the coupon code, it's $119.20. Coupon code: 20SOFTDL *Offer excludes items already on sale and gift certificates. Enter code at checkout, coupon expires March 31, 2014 at 11:59 P.M. PST. This coupon only applies to software listed in this promotion. http://www.writersstore.com/

James David Sullivan

A clarification: That's for downloads only, and there are only 12 different software packages for which the coupon code can be used.

James David Sullivan

And it's for TODAY ONLY!

James David Sullivan

@CJ, you really need to get using FD quick! I have it on good authority that it's the only file format that producers will accept! ;-)

Laurie Ashbourne

If you can't do it today --Stage32 has a 10% discount under deals that's always on.

Robert Sprawls

And I've found that the PDF created by FD is like an order of magnitude smaller than the PDF created by scrivener.

Len Hart

Movie Outline outputs to PDF with no problem. Both of my screenplays on Movie Outline --no problems. The final PDF output can be attached to an email. Again --no problems.

James David Sullivan

Here is a comment from a well-known script contest manager, script consultant, pitch broker, and soon-to-be producer: "I don't want to see any more scripts submitted that is (sic) not written on Final Draft. Writing a script on anything but Final Draft will never make sense to me. An exec will open the file and immediately make a negative opinion about the professionalism of the writer if it is not written on Final Draft. " I doubt this will settle this debate, but I just thought I would pass this along. I can say that most screenwriting contests are happy with PDF files. I don't know if the above quote meant that the files had to be FD exports or at least written before export (presumably to PDF format) in FD, but I presume the former. This guy deals with some of the top players in Hollywood, and a few of you may have received the same email I did - that is, the one containing the above quote.

Simon King

I challenge your "well-known script contest manager, script consultant, pitch broker, and soon-to-be producer" to tell me which .PDF was written on FD, MM, Word, or even TextEdit.

James David Sullivan

That comment was made by someone intimately involved in the Pitchfests that go on regularly on Stage 32. Above and beyond that, I don't have his permission to comment additionally, and I don't plan to ask him.

James David Sullivan

@Simon, just so that you know: The Big Star Screenwriting Contest had less than 200 entries, so I wouldn't get too pumped up about it.

Simon King

James, James, James... I was, by no means, attempting to insult you. I was simply stating that no one, unless perhaps if they work for Adobe, can tell what program GENERATED a .PDF. And, for the record, I do not believe I was pumped up about anything regarding that contest or any of the others I have been a finalist/winner in. Jeez... I sure hope this place does not turn into FaceBook...

James David Sullivan

Okay, truce, Simon! If you look at some of the previous comments, you will see I have a few people who are insulting me. Simon, I checked in the Properties section and it shows "Trelby" for one of my old PDF script files - I don't have any FD PDF's with me right now, but I am pretty sure Adobe identifies Final Draft PDFs as well. I will check my FD PDF's later to be certain. But since most producers and studio execs probably wouldn't check that (and probably don't know how), I presume that means the guy I was talking about has had producers/execs that requested scripts be submitted in Final Draft format. That surprises me, since I used to submit to those Pitchfests PDF copies of my scripts (when script requests were generated). But maybe the studio execs and producers are wanting FD copies now. It might also mean that some writers are sending in Word documents, but I can't imagine someone doing that and having any hope of making a good impression on an exec or producer. Also, FD does a lot more than Word can (adding CONT'Ds when a character's dialogue is interrupted by an action line) that would make it obvious that FD was not being used. By the way, wasn't a copy of FD one of your prizes in the Big Star contest?

James David Sullivan

I didn't write this, a very well-known screenwriting teacher did, and I am giving you a small excerpt of it for non-profit educational purposes under the common sense doctrine of exceptions to copyright law: ===================================================================================== How do you know if the quality of your screenplay is high enough? Here's four sources that can help you gauge quality: - Compare your script to the best produced screenplays. - Enter high level contests to see how your script fares. - Script coverage. - The initial response of the market to your script. At the minimum, a producer needs to look at your script and say: "This is a professionally written script and a professional writer." =====================================================================================

Laurie Ashbourne

Trust me, when you read as many scripts as I do made into pdf's from various software, you can tell. You can choose to believe that or not, it's no offense to me (or any other mass reader) it's just a fact.

James David Sullivan

I believe, I believe, I believe! First, there are small things (such as what I mentioned above) that FD (and probably MMSW as well) do that Word doesn't. For screenwriting contests, you might be able to get away using Word or CeltX or Trelby. But not with a seasoned producer who is used to the icing on FD's cake. Also, if the producer/exec happens to be technically literate, all he has to do is to look at the Properties section of the document. I just created a PDF document from an MS-Word document. And guess what? Right there in the properties section, it tells you the origin of the document: MS-Word.

Norm Thomas

Laurie, challenge accepted. I will send you a PDF and I defy you to discern what program produced it. Game on! :-) Seriously, if you just do a basic metadata cleaning and/or generate the PDF/A-compliant version of a document, no one can tell anything about the source of the document. In my opinion, this should be standard operating process for all PDFs you generate or send, much less your scripts.

Norm Thomas

For script formatting, you may as well just go get the brief, user-friendly book that all the film schools use: "The Hollywood Standard" by Christopher Riley. It's an easy, quick read and is a great reference to keep handy. i even made a PowerPoint/PDF out of it to distill just what I needed for single-camera features...happy to send it to anyone if you'd like it: normthomas@live.com

James David Sullivan

@Norm - I don't think you can get into the PDF properties section without Adobe Acrobat Pro, which costs $160 - not the retail price, a Google-search low price. for the non-academic edition. At that price, you could just as easily purchase MMSW (and save about $40) or FD (if you take advantage of the sale today at the Writers Store). PS - I don't own stock in them - just trying to share a good deal.

James David Sullivan

@Norm - I don't think that Word, CeltX, or Trelby give you any choice about the PDF file generated. The ones I have checked don't allow changes to the properties, unlike an MS-Word document. And I know FD has special features that MS-Word doesn't have, nor Trelby. And I doubt Celtx has them either. For example, if a character's dialogue is interrupted, there should be a CONT'D following the character's repeated name. That would be very tedious to do in MS-Word and Trelby won't do it. There are probably a lot of other niceties that someone who had read a lot of scripts would notice as well. If you just picked a script and didn't scour it, I am sure there would be tell-tale signs that it was not of FD origin.

Norm Thomas

@James, thanks. You're indeed correct...mostly! :-) There are many, many metadata scrubbers for PDFs, here's one for ALL your documents (including PDFs) for $45 retail: http://www.litera.com/Products/Metadact.aspx Another way is to use a Print To PDF driver which is typically downloadable for free...then you just "print" your script and it cleans your properties as well. As for the page breaks...you're absolutely right. In Word I've resorted to forcing all dialog and direction to stay together so that there's never a need for using (CONT'D)...but it ends up wasting precious space of course and sometimes I have to insert some Direction within a lengthy monologue just to paginate. I'm the first one to agree that purpose-built tools are, well, better-suited for the need and after awhile one starts to wonder why fight what's fast become the standard...which is unarguably FD. If/when I finally get a script picked up, I'll buy it. In the meantime it's Word and/or Celtx for me! Thanks again!

Michelle J Kenoyer

No, thank YOU. :) I am almost wondering, though, if you know of the BEST resource(s)/guide(s) out there for formatting scripts yourself. The script on which I'm currently working makes some (but not heavy) use of FLASHBACKs, and it seems that I run into different ways to format it so that I don't know what the "standard" is. Know of any good Web site or book that would help? (Sorry, I know this is getting off-topic!)

Robert Sprawls

"The Screenwriter's Bible" is the one I turn to for formatting and element forms. It goes over flashbacks and its variants and even adaptation to other forms. My script has good use of a similar device. It's not a flashback because the events are not of the MC's life, but other people's lives. He just has the memories, so I do: MEMORY - ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG - DAY Go through scene BACK TO NOW You could also close it out with: END MEMORY END FLASHBACK (for flashbacks of course)

James David Sullivan

@Michelle, it's your topic. You are free to change it whenever you want.

Simon King

@James... "By the way, wasn't a copy of FD one of your prizes in the Big Star contest?" Yes, but I already had it. The "big prize" was an ipPad , which was a cool thing to win. The FD version was for the iPad so I guess I could write on that. I didn't mean to stir up a hornet's nest on identifying from where a PDF was generated. But I would argue that the VAST majority of studio execs would not be bothered to check the properties of a file. I would argue that if they did they would not be doing their job. Wait... nothing new there.

Tony McFadden

157 comments in and I think, possibly, we're comparing apples and small furry rodents here. I would be extremely hesitant to submit a screenplay to a competition, producer (as a spec script), or a reading service (for what they're worth) in anything OTHER than pdf. And if you make sure you pay attention to the formatting, it should make no difference if that pdf is created with FD, Scrivener, Celtx, Word or even manual typewriter scanned to pdf. As long as you pay attention to the formatting. If, however, you are being paid to produce something - screenplay, tv script, whatever - and your work is part of a production, it makes huge sense to deliver files that are editable. And given that the majority of screenwriters use FD, it would make sense to follow their lead.

Norm Thomas

From The Hollywood Standard (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hollywood-Standard-Complete-Authoritative/dp/1...) to do a Flashback or a Dream Sequence: Just preface your slugline with "FLASHBACK" (or "DREAM SEQUENCE")...but UNDERLINED...followed by the usual EXT. or INT. etc. When it's done you can either: (1) just use a regular slugline (2) just use a regular slugline followed by "(BACK TO PRESENT)" (3) use the Transition formatting/spacing to say "END FLASHBACK." - with the period and UNDERLINED.

James David Sullivan

@Michelle - The two most widely used books are Trottier's "Bible" and Riley's "Standard". Trottier's book is supposed to be easier to read and use. They both have other books that cover essentially the same material. You might try a used book store, although both of these books are only about $25, and often discounts are available. The Page Awards recommends Trottier's book: http://pageawards.com/the-contest/the-rules/ There's another screenwriting contest that recommends both Riley and Trottier, but I don't remember what it is right now. The Nicholl Fellowship is as neutral as Richard Blaine; in fact, they provide a sample script and state that there is no absolute standard: http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/resources.html Trottier answers questions on this "blog" - http://www.screenplay.com/t-dr_format.aspx I would highly recommend that you be extremely careful with the use of flashbacks. Contest readers will flag you as an amateur no matter how skillfully you use them. There are exceptionally well-done movies that use flashbacks extensively ("Memento" for example). It's simply one of those knee-jerk reactions whenever a contest reader (and a lot of coverage readers) do when they see a lot of flashbacks.

James David Sullivan

By the way, there is a comment above (not one of mine) that has several flaws in it. Since I am tired of debating with people who don't know their facts, I am not going to mention which one it is.

James David Sullivan

@Norm - thanks for being open-minded enough to review your information and be willing to admit some mistakes. And I agree with you - there are cheaper alternatives to buying Adobe Acrobat Pro. In addition to the "CONT'D" when dialogue spills over to the next page, here's another instance where "CONT'D" is used: JOE We really need to go now. Joe looks at Sue nervously. JOE (CONT'D) We can discuss this somewhere else. (The indentations are very rough.) I know Trelby wouldn't put the (CONT'D) in, and I suspect CeltX wouldn't either. But script format requires it. And there are a lot of other barely-noticeable-to-the-average-eye niceties that FD does for you (and I suspect MMSW as well). But I will bet an experienced producer/studio exec would notice it instantly. If you still think that Laurie won't notice, ask her again. My money's on her!

James David Sullivan

@Simon - there are more and more studio execs/producers who have quite a bit of experience with computers and software. You might be surprised at their knowledge.

James David Sullivan

@Simon - especially if one of them noticed certain formatting issues about a script and wanted to verify to themselves that FD (or MMSW) was not being used.

James David Sullivan

@Tony - I think that's an excellent summary of what most of the above comments boil down to.

James David Sullivan

@Norm - I'm glad you mentioned some of that. "BACK TO PRESENT" or "RETURN TO PRESENT" is the preferred way of doing this. Also, some script software (Trelby for one) won't let you underline arbitrary parts of your screenplay. I don't know why. I am not sure if CeltX lets you underline. If the flashback is very short, you can also use "MEMORY FLASH".

CJ Walley

James, Celtx formats the page break (more) and (cont) correctly. Scrivener doesn't, this was the issue I was referencing earlier in the thread. As Laurie mentioned near the start of the thread there are some minute differences in the PDFs generated by different software, for example Celtx uses a fraction tighter kerning than scrivener which means you get an extra character per line. I can also can believe a well seasoned reader can sense those minor differences.

CJ Walley

No underline in Celtx either James. I think it's to recreate the limitations of a typewriter, therefore the only emphasis option is to write in uppercase.

CJ Walley

James, a contest reader actually told me to add flashbacks in the feedback once lol.

James David Sullivan

@CJ - What about when a character's dialogue is interrupted by an action line? In CeltX, does the second speech get a CONT'D after the character's name? The extra space/character might be tough to see, but I suppose there are some who would pick up on that. "There's just something weird about this!"

CJ Walley

"And there are a lot of other barely-noticeable-to-the-average-eye niceties that FD does for you (and I suspect MMSW as well). But I will bet an experienced producer/studio exec would notice it instantly." James, I'd be very interested to know what these are, could you provide a list?

James David Sullivan

@CJ - that won't do you any good on a slugline! I think you're right about the typewriter. Or maybe it was just more work than they wanted to put into free software!

CJ Walley

James. Just got out of bed and tried the character break formatting in Celtx, yes it does put the cont in, it's an option in the pdf settings. Does FD embolden or underline scene headings by default then?

James David Sullivan

No. At least mine was not set up to. But you can change the defaults to italicize, bold, underscored, strikeout, change color, highlight, force to all upper-case, or even change the font type itself for each of the nine different elements (slugline, character, dialogue, etc.). And you can change the bold, italic, and underline "on the fly" similar to using MS-Word (without changing the defaults). If you wanted to really stir up a studio exec or producer, you could print out a script they'd never forget! I didn't see Old English, but they do have Wingdings! The actors would love reading a script in Wingdings!

CJ Walley

Right, I was asking because I have seen a few scripts with the slugs emboldened and underlined and wondered if there was a specific piece of software that did that by default. I know of a screenwriter on a forum who was genuinely considering using a smilie to denote sarcasm in dialogue, not sure if he went through with it. I've also seen at least one amateur script that was all in Times New Roman.

James David Sullivan

@CJ - Let me give you a few of the barely ("barely" is in the eyes of the beholder, by the way) noticeable items that come to mind: 1. Whenever a character's dialogue is split between two pages, the sentence are also split so that the last sentence on a page is complete and does not run onto the next page. Trelby just splits the sentence wherever the line ends, without regard to whether the sentence goes onto the next page. 2. When a dialogue block from the same character is split due to an action line, Trelby does not put a "CONT'D" on the second part of the dialogue. FD does. 3. FD appears to use some sort of utility when converting to a PDF file. Instead of FD, the name of this utility appears on the properties page. 4. The title page has considerably more flexibility in design than Trelby does. Trelby's more static look could be a giveaway. 5. FD actually takes up less line space than Trelby, even though dialogue sentences are not split between pages in FD. 6. There's a lot more flexibility (with FD) in page numbering and adding headers and footers. 7. I don't know how many of these items are handled better by CeltX. These are a few that I remembered off the top of my head. I will try to keep you posted as I either notice other differences or remember them.

James David Sullivan

@CJ - "Add more flashbacks!"

James David Sullivan

@CJ - the readers should unionize. One checks for a low page count. Another checks for a high page count. One checks for 3 brads instead of two in paper copies. One checks for flashbacks. One checks for voice overs. Etc. However, nobody checks the story to see if it is any good!

James David Sullivan

@CJ - I think Old English or Wingdings would be highly appreciated by the actors! Trelby bolds sluglines (scene headings) on the screen, but not in the PDF output.

James David Sullivan

@CJ - someone who wanted to could easily set the default in FD to bold and/or underline sluglines (scene headings). That would certainly make scene changes much more obvious.

CJ Walley

Celtx does the neat page splitting thing with dialogue and action, tries to keep the paragraph on one page if it can or puts the (more) and (cont) in. Also does the character break (cont)s as mentioned previous. The cover page formatting is horrific though and there's no header and footer options that I can see. Scrivener does the same as you describe for Trelby, pages breaks just cuts through content like a normal word processor. Both Scrivener and Celtx pdf's show as coming through a converter in properties; Scrivener generated pdf's show as having been created by the OS print engine (this is actually why Scrivener can't do anything with the page break formatting) while the Celtx pfd says pdfTeX which is a bit of a give-a-way as to its origin.

Tony McFadden

@CJ, looking at the pdf properties there is also a field "Application" (right below the "modified date") which clearly states Scrivener (2.5) That said, it's not extremely difficult to ensure the (CONT'D)'s are inserted where necessary. Scrivener doesn't do it, which is one of the reasons I pop it to Word for the final polish. Other formatting necessities can be done with any tool, if enough care is taken. FD is nice and makes it easy, but the end result is what counts the most. And yes, JDS, the story seems to have been forgotten here...

CJ Walley

Indeed, Acrobat Pro doesn't show that for some reason Tony, but yeah I see it now via file properties via the OS. Exporting from Scrivener to Celtx is working well for me at the moment, all that polishing is effectively automatic. However even that is starting to feel like a bottleneck.

Norm Thomas

I was told by a coverage expert at FD that adding (CONT'D) after a character's resumed dialog following direction is old school and no longer done. Use (CONT'D) only to begin a new page that continues a characters dialog...but don't split the sentence. 'just passing along what I was told.

CJ Walley

Glad to hear it Norm, I'm not a fan of it personally.

Robert Sprawls

Norm, I'm hearing that too. I guess it should be obvious that a character is resuming just by looking at it and no need to point it out.

Michelle J Kenoyer

Thanks :) That's actually the most definitive direction I've read on handling flashbacks and dream sequences as well. I've seen a few variations of the above, which is why I wanted to double-check to be safe. :)

Robert Sprawls

@CJ. "Right, I was asking because I have seen a few scripts with the slugs emboldened and underlined and wondered if there was a specific piece of software that did that by default." I do that internally, for my own use. I like to see scene changes clearly. I would remove it before submission though.

Simon King

Something tells me I need another box of popcorn...

James David Sullivan

@Norm - That doesn't make sense to me. Why would the latest edition of FD put that CONT'D there (and I don't think there is an option to omit it) when a character's dialogue is split by an action line? Wouldn't it make more sense to omit it if that was an out-of-date formatting rule?

Robert Sprawls

They can be removed. Goto Document>Mores and continueds, uncheck the box for "Automatic character continueds."

James David Sullivan

@Alle - You're in Sydney aren't you? And most of your productions are shorts, aren't they?

James David Sullivan

Rather than rely on someone I don't know, I checked with someone who has some writing credentials, John August: http://johnaugust.com/about And here's what he has to say about CONT'D: http://johnaugust.com/2010/contd-vs-continuous

James David Sullivan

@Robert - You are correct, and I tested it out on one of my scripts. I had looked under "Options" and didn't see it there. However, I don't plan to use that option. As I pointed out in another post, John August doesn't recommend it (and I have seen others who recommend against it as well).

Robert Sprawls

I'm on the fence about it. I heard from a few sources it's out of date, but since screenplay software have it on by default, I can't see pros gigging it as amateur or hackish. It's something that simply hasn't past into ancient history yet.

James David Sullivan

@CJ I took one of my scripts that had 123 pages in Trelby. I have been hesitating on importing it to FD because it's a lot easier to set up cover pages in Trelby. It's now 137 pages! I'm sticking with Trelby for contests and until I have a contract for this script! I think the big problem is the ability FD has to split the last sentence on a page. Nice, but highly inflationary on the number of pages. (I guess I was confused when I checked this out on a very short script yesterday.)

James David Sullivan

@CJ - but if I have a short script that I want to appear longer...

James David Sullivan

@CJ - also, FD's spell checker caught a couple of things that the Trelby spell checker didn't.

CJ Walley

I think I'm going to keep character break (cont)s in on John August's recommendation. Don't start me on Scriveners spell checker, it's a nightmare.

James David Sullivan

CJ - If anyone asks me about not having the CONT'Ds in a Trelby PDF I'm just going to tell them the truth - that having them in is SO yesterday!

Laurie Ashbourne

If the script is longer in FD it points to something being off with the other software's formatting. When a script is broken down into a shooting script the pre production team will most likely do it in FD and if it comes in that much longer there are going to be problems with budget, shots, etc. that will call for rewrites so it's just better business all the way around to understand what happens to your script after it's written and how it affects the rest of the team's work.

CJ Walley

That's how I feel Laurie and why I compare FD to MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite, AutoDesk 3dsMax etc it's a piece of software any professionally successful screenwriter is likely to find themselves having to use and understand, not because it's necessarily better, but simply because so many non-writers see it as an essential part of their production process. That's why I want to get it it, that's why I want to learn it, because I want to be able to slot into a teams common working practice seamlessly.

Tony McFadden

When you get right down to it, though, if the reader is noticing the (CONT'D)'s - or lack - that means he/she isn't noticing the story. Make sure you have a HELL of a good story first, then work out the formatting (with your software tool of choice) as best you can.

Robert Sprawls

@Laurie Ashbourne, I have four types of courier on my machine. Courier New, Courier Final Draft, Courier Screenplay and Courier Prime. In FD8/9 if I use Courier FD, the current script is 60 pages long. If I use Courier Prime, it's 76 pages, Courier Screenplay 68 pages and Courier New it's 72 pages. In FadeIn, trying the different fonts, the page length never changes, lines never move. I think the problem is with Final Draft. This is one of the reasons I'm starting to get away from Final Draft to work more and more with FadeIn.

Laurie Ashbourne

Courier, Courier New, Courier Std. et al are fonts that come std. with OS systems and just like fonts behave differently on pc vs. mac. they are going do behave differently in software. I like Fade In but I work in FD (using Courier FD) because that's what I need to use as a script supervisor. When I write I like Prime but not everyone has it so the default becomes Courier FD. My point is, you don't want page count to trip you up down the road -- especially if you are already over 120 pages. Understanding what the written script goes through to become a produced script is something every writer should strive to do -- it not only helps you defend your choices it also helps you become a better screenwriter.

Robert Sprawls

Laurie, they should not. I can understand a change going from Courier to Times New Roman because of different leadings, descendings, spacing, etc, but different Couriers should not change line spacing, which is what is happening. To go from 60 pages to 76 in FD and no change at all in FadeIn? Something is wrong with FD. I have Trelby installed and I think I have Celtx installed as well. I'll test them out there as well and get back. Back, it seem none of the other script writing software I have allows font changes. Trelby, Celtx and Screenwriting Pro. All nogos. Well, I really only use FD and FadeIn. Thankfully, moving from one to the other is cake, but FadeIn behaves better.

Mark Souza

Exactly, it isn't that FD is superior for writing scripts, it's the reports it generates for budgeting, setting up a shooting schedule, and so on that makes it preferred by so many producers. For a writer, any software that creates proper format is fine. It's all that happens afterward to make a script a movie that drives the decision of software.

Tom Rooney

I tried Celtix for a short while but it never allowed for a lot of word processor functions like "changing names, replacing words etc" but I did find it very easy to use. I gave it up when I couldn't save to PDF, had to copy and paste from Celtix to Word so I could do changes, but found that from 60 pages in Celtix it went to 23 in Word, as well as all the formatting went out the window. Whenever ssomeone sends something from anything other than Word, it's a nightmare trying to reformat. So, I have continued to use Word and have very few problems.

Robert Sprawls

@Tom 1. You can save PDFs in Celtx. It's not the typical File>export PDF operation. Instead, there is a tab at the bottom of the editing screen where it will convert to PDF and you save. 2. You generally won't be able to preserve format with a simple copy/paste operation. Even C&Ping from Scrivener to FD loses the format. Also, Word is not oriented toward screenwriting. It's a general purpose word processor. You'd have to customize it for margins and spacing. If you need a low cost alternative to Final Draft, I like FadeIn. It's $50. Scrivener is $40, but lacks page breaking and analysis tools. The two together are less than half the price of Final Draft and make a nice screenwriting duo. Both can import/export FDX and RTF, so that makes moving back and forth simple. Scrivener is a wonderful drafting tool. You can separate scenes, break the script down into segments for manageability, outline, index card, etc, etc, etc. Great drafting tool.

Stavros Georgiadis

FD can be saved as PDF. FD is standard in the industry. But FD it is not the only software.

Norm Thomas

@Stavros: I think this very thread proves FinalDraft is NOT "the standard"...but thanks for trying! Even if it were the most commonly-used (and that's not necessarily the case) doesn't make it a standard.

Stavros Georgiadis

It is shifting slowly but in percentages.... more use it than other packages. I am not saying that others are not usable, I do support the comment that it doesn't matter what package you use so long as it conforms to the formatting standard.

Denise Violante

i have been using the free version of celtx and theres versions that u can pay for and its really cheap and u can download an app for your phone that links to ur desktop..... go check it out because theres alot to look at and worth it compared to final draft....

James David Sullivan

@Robert - You are not using that feature to your advantage. If your script is less than 80 or 85 pages, depending on the contest, switching fonts could move you up to the minimum for contest qualification.

James David Sullivan

@Robert - if the fonts are different, even if they are in the same family, they could well change. How do you know the shoe is not on the other font? That is, how do you know that FadeIn is not artificially condensing the fonts so they fit on the same line?

James David Sullivan

@Laurie - I sent what FD is doing, and in my case, it has nothing to do with font size. And there's an easy fix to it.

James David Sullivan

@Mark - well said!

James David Sullivan

@Tom Rooney - Trelby has a very easy to use "find" and "find and replace" function, much like Word. Trelby is free, although there is not yet a Mac version. By going from 60 to 23 pages, I presume you mean using all of the "white space" normally used by a screenplay program. Readers, in general, love that white space because it makes the script much easier to read.

James David Sullivan

@Norm - are you defining "standard" by what the contributors to this thread use or by what working screenwriters use? I think if we could obtain free copies of FD, everyone here would take a copy - and probably use it!

James David Sullivan

@Stavros - If someone's purpose is simply to write a script or enter a contest, I think most of the contributors to this thread would agree. I can say that one contest I entered and ordered notes from let me know that I shouldn't be splitting a character's dialogue sentences between pages. I don't know if that cost me any points or not, because I still placed in the contest. However, I think if you are submitting to any of the mainstream mid-level or larger production houses, they are probably going to want something from FD - and possibly not a PDF. I base that on one of the tips sent out recently by the key player in the PitchFests that are available on Stage 32: "2. I don't want to see any more scripts submitted that is not written on Final Draft. Writing a script on anything but Final Draft will never make sense to me. An exec will open the file and immediately make a negative opinion about the professionalism of the writer if it is not written on Final Draft. " Another quote in that same email: ========================================================================================================== "Do you know when somebody says something to you that sits with you for so long that you think about it almost every day? I wanted to share with you an almost off the cuff remark that an executive said to me during a pitch session OVER A YEAR AGO that struck a chord with me and something I wanted to share with you. I won't say who said it to protect the innocent, but the quote was: 'I can tell when writers are doing this as a hobby or doing this as a career. Whether they know it yet or not.' At first, I thought the remark was cold, but I see the execs making the same judgements over and over again. They can tell the amount of professionalism in a writer in the first 30 seconds. And the good thing is that writers can avoid being categorized as 'hobby writers'. They just have to get into the mindset that this IS their career. Don't be lazy about it." ========================================================================================================== I'm just the messenger. You don't have to listen. But you're just making it easier on those who do listen!

CJ Walley

Norm, I would say this thread goes some way to demonstrate why FD is the industry standard :-/

James David Sullivan

Okay, let's think outside the (software) box? How about a copy of FD 7? http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/131148557331?lpid=82 $76.00

James David Sullivan

And if you want to pay during the next six months: http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-Final-Draft-9-Screenwriter-Software-PC-MAC-N... $149.99 plus FREE shipping!

Tom Rooney

I know this thread has been done to death but even so there has been lots of useful info coming out of it. My thanks to all who have contributed. I'm sure I speak on behalf of everyone. Tom

Simon King

I never considered myself wealthy but for those complaining about the cost of FD perhaps try cutting back on the twice daily mocha light vente drinks and slash your appetite for fags and you can afford to go with the best!

Robert Sprawls

@James David Sullivan, I tested in Scrivener (forgot about that one) and switched between the four fonts. The lines don't move. The fonts will raise/lower in the line, but length of the text on the page doesn't change. So, two programs faulty and FD is still right? Also, on your comment about using the length change. I personally would prefer reliable behavior than to fudge the system.

Norm Thomas

In case this helps anyone at all (from The Hollywood standard, 2nd Edition by Christopher Riley): Shot Headings and Direction line length is 57 characters (both 1.7" left margin and 1.1" right), Dialog is 34 characters (2.7" left margin, 2.4" right) and Parenthetical direction is 19 characters (3.4" left margin, 3.1" right). There are a maximum of 57 lines per page but line 1 hold just a page number (except for the underlined, centered, capitalized title on page 1) and line 2 is blank....all Courier (or equivalent font) at 12 pitch. ERGO: Changing software really SHOULDN'T change page counts. Let's hope we can all agree on at least THAT! :-)

Allen Johnson

The only REAL software is either Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter. CeltX has issues and limitations and Word is a nightmare to format. Using FD or MMS will free you up tremendously to just write. Always submit scripts in PDF unless it's being produced and you are working from the original source file on changes with the producers and/or director.

Leanne Campbell

I use Celtx and I love it! It let's you save your draft as a PDF file. It also automatically gives you scene breakdowns, add notes etc. and there is a storyboard section. I haven't used Final cut but Celtex ticks a lot of boxes and is available on pc and mac and is free. :-)

James David Sullivan

@ Mr. Sprawls - I have taken the advice from the person I have quoted twice above seriously. As a result, I sent a requested script out earlier tonight in an FD-generated format. What software you use is entirely up to you. That's the beauty of living in a free country. The idea that I alluded to for correcting the FD problem I encountered is not a "fudge". It's just an idea that came to me that corrects the problem.

James David Sullivan

@Norm, your analysis is fine up to a point. What you are not considering, for one thing, is that FD splits action and dialogue lines so that they end on the first page. The rest of the next sentence goes on the following page. So some space is lost. That has nothing to do with margins, etc.; it's simply a result of how different software handles the ending of sentences.

CJ Walley

As James says, if you move to FD and it shows a higher page count that's most likely because the page breaks are being handled differently/better.

James David Sullivan

@CJ - You speak with the voice of reason, a somewhat rare commodity.

James David Sullivan

@Dan - participate in a Pitchfest on Stage 32. If you get a read request for your script, send your script in and see what happens. I posted part of what the person in charge of that program provided in an email message about his feedback from the producers. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you received an email just like the one I did - hopefully, prior to your pitch time.

James David Sullivan

If you are not trying to sell your scripts, then your software is not a major consideration. I am curious. You said you have submitted hundreds of scripts. Have you written hundreds of scripts, or are you saying that you have made hundreds of submissions? Writing hundreds of scripts would make you extremely prolific. Over the ten years you mentioned, that would be an average of 100 scripts per year. I am not sure whether the pitch fest head honcho meant a PDF that was generated through FD or a FD file. I made quite a few pitches last year through that system, but none so far this year. It's very expensive ($45 per pitch), but the execs and managers are key players in the business. By the way, you don't have to sign up for a pitch to look at the list of producers and managers. If one of them wants to read your script, and he or she likes what is read, I am sure that they will want an FD copy at that point. Having a PDF that is clearly derived from FD is sure to put them at ease and mark you as someone willing to invest in the tools of the trade.

Laurie Ashbourne

I'm sure it was pdf generated through software that properly formats to industry standards, that comment was followed up with as much from the same person with the statement -- anything but WORD. Compared to the cost of festivals and contest submissions that lead to nowhere, $45 for direct access that can change the trajectory of your life is very reasonable -- especially if you do your research and target the pitch to the appropriate person, but that should be another thread.

Robert Sprawls

I wouldn't give it to them in FD format until they purchased it. No editable format until they buy.

James David Sullivan

Do we need to review your industry credentials again, Robert?

James David Sullivan

@Laurie, I agree if the proper research was done. Unfortunately, I relied on someone else's advice, a person who financially benefited from my reliance on him. It's not going to happen again.

James David Sullivan

@Laurie, as a result of my contest placements, I now have several read requests. With any luck, at least one of the producers will move forward on the scripts. Even when I was paying $45 for pitches, I am sure the list of contest placements helped. I got a few read requests, but I probably could have had a better read request to pitch ratio had I relied on my own research.

Robert Sprawls

James, I don't give a shit what you think. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you always raise the bar to keep yourself above. I stopped caring what you thought when I saw you go on a witch hunt to uncover people who are still working toward an end you achieved and act coy to someone who has gone further. I respect people of good nature. You're not one of them.

James David Sullivan

Why don't you spend your time completing your scripts and then moving forward with them? You sound like a pre-med student who thinks he can perform brain surgery. I would debate you on the merits of your propositions, but I know how that would go. The only to deal with someone like you is to show where you are in your career. I respect people farther along in their careers than I am. That's not being coy. Everything I say I can back up. It's not my opinions, it's the opinions of industry experts.

James David Sullivan

@Robert - I just sent in two scripts at the request of one production company, and a pair of loglines and synopses at the request of another. You don't have a completed script at the present time, as I understand it.

Robert Sprawls

True, it's still a WIP, as all work starts off, yes? But you don't see it that way. I don't have a completed work, so I'm what in your eyes? A loser? A pretender? There was a time when you were all that, when you were starting off or did you get pushed out of the womb waving a completed draft?

Laurie Ashbourne

Take it outside, gentlemen. That's what direct messages are for -- certainly not this thread.

Robert Sprawls

Sorry Laurie and all. I got a little butthurt and went defensive.I should have let him talk to the air, but I felt a need to defend other new writers besides myself. It won't happen again, though I wish this site had an ignore/block feature.

James David Sullivan

@Robert, you are a beginner in my eyes, nothing more and nothing less. My comments are in regard to statements you make like "I wouldn't give it to them in FD format until they purchased it. No editable format until they buy." You are not ready to submit to 95%+ of contests, since you don't have a completed script yet. You are not ready to submit to 100% of producers, since you don't have a completed script yet. So what's the purpose of making such statements? And why do you get so upset when someone points out where you are in your career? There is a huge discrepancy between the type of statements you make and where you are as a writer. You don't have any idea of what is it like to receive a set of feedback notes from a contest judge or a professional in the business. How could you? You don't have a completed script. But still you are dispensing advice as if you were an oracle of screenwriting. You don't know what it is like to pitch to a producer, an agent, or a manager. How could you? You don't have a completed script. You don't know what it is like to rewrite your work time after time until it starts making solid placements in competitions. How could you? You don't have a completed script. Years ago, I tried to tell something to some people who were not aware of some basic facts about gravity. For example, when wind resistance is disregarded, all things fall at the same rate. Common logic tells us that is wrong; heavier things should fall faster than lighter things. So, I took two books, one small and light and the other large and heavy. I dropped them from the same height. They both hit the ground at the same time. Most were convinced. A few wanted to continue to argue. You remind me of those who wanted to argue, whose egos wouldn't let them listen. I don't have any books to drop, but I can point out the credentials of people. If they have solid credentials and are saying things I know to be factual, I don't argue. If I disagree, I do my homework before I post. I could debate with you things I am convinced are facts, not because I dreamed up, but because they were told me by industry professionals or because I found them out through reputable sources. I tested them out myself, without confronting those professionals. And in almost every case, I found out they were right. That's the scientific method in action. Take ego out and replace it with testable truth.

James David Sullivan

@Robert, I hope it doesn't surprise you, but you are not the only one who wishes there was an ignore/block feature on Stage 32.

James David Sullivan

@Dan, I am both confused and baffled by your comments. First of all, if you are sending a script electronically to someone who doesn't have either FD or MM, PDF is a perfectly logical way to send it. That goes without saying. So, what's that got to do with a producer who might want to see the script in FD or MM format?

James David Sullivan

@Dan, you are 100% wrong. In fact, your comment that someone couldn't tell if a PDF was written in FD or MM or some other writing software has already been discussed in detail earlier in this thread. The fact of the matter is that MS-Word (and its clones, such as Open Office and Corel), Scrivener, CeltX, Trelby, MM, and FD all indicate something on the properties page which distinguish it from other PDF originators. Trelby PDFs indicate they are from Trelby. Microsoft Word PDFs tell you that they are from MS-Word. Open Office lets you know that it is from OO. FD uses Amyuni to convert to PDF and that shows up on the properties page (first tab); and on the font tab, you will probably see that CourierFinalDraft was used. None of the Word processors (Word, OO, Corel) has any way , short of writing a macro, to break dialogue and action lines so that the break occurs at a period. Trelby doesn't either. In one contest I entered, the judge's feedback indicated that it was not correct format to allow either action or dialogue sentences to start on one page and end on another. The judge didn't say I needed better software, but that would have solved the problem. I converted a script once from Word to Trelby. I will never do it again. It took hours and hours of tedious work. Anyone who knows what they are doing can easily check the properties page. And it may not even take something like that. If the action and/or dialogue sentences start on one page and end on another, the file clearly is not from FD. I don't have a copy of MM, but I presume it properly splits sentences between pages. And I think someone else (above) said that CeltX does not split sentences properly either. And that's just one method. Someone using Trelby or a word-processor would have to check every page to make sure that the sentences were properly split. And so much as one miss would be obvious. A well-known scriptwriting teacher provided an estimate (in a course I took) of how many scripts a typical producer reads a week. It's about 15-20. Over a year, that would be about 780 to 1,024 scripts. After reading that many scripts, don't you think someone would be able to easily notice the minor differences that most people don't even know about? FD has its own version of Courier. There must be some noticeable difference between it and standard Courier or Courier New. And I wouldn't be surprised if that difference didn't stick out to anyone who reads hundreds of scripts a year. Dan, you can continue to debate this matter, but facts are facts. Test it out yourself. Then I hope you can man-up and admit you were wrong about this.

James David Sullivan

@Dan - the "head honcho" of the Pitchfests is not Richard Botto, the originator of Stage 32. The head honcho of Pitchfest is male, runs his own well-respected, mid-sized annual script contest, has a script consulting business, and recently set up his own production company. Here are his company execs for this weekend: Company Executives Jennifer Au Jennifer Au - Manager - Caliber Media Jennifer is a literary manager at Caliber Media representing writers and directors for film and television, and across all genres. Prior to starting at Caliber, she spent four years at Untitled Entertainment, first as an assistant and then as a junior literary manager. Jennifer began her career working at an independent production company followed by time at The Firm and CAA. She is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Lee Stobby Lee Stobby - Silent R Management A graduate of the University of Michigan, Lee Stobby began his Hollywood career working at Misher Films and Double Feature Films before working for talent manager Sandra Chang, and then going on to be a manager at Caliber Media. He is now a literary manager at Silent R Management with Jewerl Ross representing writers, directors and personalities across all platforms. Lee's clients include: Lindsay Stidham who wrote Sundance hits DOUCHEBAG and SPOONER for director Drake Doremus; Kate Trefry whose script PURE O just won the first annual Tracking Board Launch Pad contest and made the Black List 2013; Emil Stern (LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE); Rodney Ascher whose documentary ROOM 237 was the talk of Sundance and Cannes last year and was released to thunderous reception; and a slew of other hot up and coming writers and filmmakers. Silent R Management represents writers and directors for film and television including Brad Buecker (AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Matt Aldrich (Pixar's DIA DE LOS MUERTOS), David H. Steinberg (PUSS IN BOOTS), Evan Endicott (BETAS) and Black List-approved scribe Jack Stanley, among others. Jairo Alvarado Jairo Alvarado - Circle of Confusion Jairo Alvarado was a Creative Executive at Warner Bros. in 2009 and is credited for spotting Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez and his short PANIC ATTACK! In 2011, while building a reputation for identifying up-and-coming talent, he joined 3 Arts Entertainment as a manager. A couple of years later he joined Circle of Confusion. At Circle, he reps writer Brian Miller (ALL OUR YESTERDAYS); photographer/filmmaker Greg Williams, who co-wrote and is attached to direct SAMARKAND, which has Tom Hardy attached to star; AMERICAN DAD writer Jordan Blum; writer/ director Kealan O'Rourke (EMILY THE STRANGE); and Josh C. Waller, of horror label SpectreVision. Alvarado's eye to develop high concepts and genre work is what led him to Circle, which produces THE WALKING DEAD. The show is coming off an amazing mid-winter debut that saw the show, which drew 15.8 million viewers, outperform the Olympics in the 19-49 demo. Matt Horwitz Matt Horwitz - Echo Lake Entertainment Matt Horwitz got his start at literary management company Sleeping Giant Entertainment in 2006. At Sleeping Giant, Matt began working closely with award-winning writers and directors such as James Manos Jr. (Creator of DEXTER), Jon Amiel (ENTRAPMENT, THE CORE, THE SINGING DETECTIVE) and Victor Salva (JEEPERS CREEPERS I & II, POWDER), while serving as the executive assistant to President Dave Brown. Concurrently, Matt assisted the CEO of Night & Day Pictures (WAITRESS), allowing him to participate in both the representation and physical production side of filmmaking. Upon moving to Artist International in 2010, Matt was promoted to manager and started building his client roster, which includes LaToya Morgan (SHAMELESS, TURN), John Hyams (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER IV), Guy Moshe (BUNRAKU, HOLLY), David Regal (ZEKE AND LUTHER, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND), Mike Teverbaugh (BETTER OFF TED, LAST MAN STANDING), Brenda Hsueh (HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, SULLIVAN & SON), as well as the Zenescope Entertainment comic book company. In 2013, Matt moved with all of his clients to Echo Lake Entertainment (NEBRASKA, ROMEO & JULIET, THE JONESES, WATER) where he continues to focus on film and television writers and directors. Originally from the Washington DC area, Matt graduated from Indiana University with dual-degrees in Telecommunications and English. Pete Letz Pete Letz - Cousin Pete Productions and Management Pete Letz founded Cousin Pete Productions and Management in January 2012 as a platform to manage clients and produce projects in high-quality, character-driven 'genre' fare - Action, Thriller, Horror, Fantasy and Sci-Fi - with a particular emphasis on material that appeals to a global market, is flexible enough to be done either inside or outside the studio system, and allows for a transmedia approach, building expansive worlds that can translate across TV, Film, Web, Comics and Video Games. Before forming Cousin Pete Productions and Management, Pete Letz was a development executive for director Steve Carr (PAUL BLART: MALL COP, DADDY DAY CARE) packaging and developing comedy projects in Film and TV. Prior to his work with Steve, Pete cut his teeth at RKO Pictures where he assisted in the creation of a horror-thriller slate of both original projects and those based on the historic RKO library. Pete received his Bachelor's Degree in Film from Wesleyan.

James David Sullivan

@Dan - almost every weekend, he runs those Pitchfests. He's had people from Disney, William Morris, and a lot of other "big dogs". If you think he's wrong, you are welcome to that opinion. I have had an insight, which should have been obvious, but sometimes "you can't see the forest for the trees". In the email that I have quoted twice above, he said that as soon as the file was opened, the execs could tell the difference. A FD file could be distinguished without even opening the file, due to its file suffix (file type). So, he must have been taking about PDFs derived from FD scripts. Consider an exec who liked a script. He or she then realizes that the script has been written using software below the professional level (i.e., something other than FD or MM). The exec knows there is going to be a lot of revisions until the script is right for final production (e.g., a shooting script). The fact that someone is not using FD (or MM) has already told that exec that the writer is not used to the process that goes on during movie development and production. Why not just find another script from someone else? After all, there are between 25,000 and 100,000 scripts out there every year.

James David Sullivan

@Robert - I will give you credit for one thing. You seem to have used FD enough to know some of its facilities. Those comments you made about how to do certain things in FD are worthwhile. But knowledge of software and level of writing skill are not directly related.

James David Sullivan

@Dan - the purpose of software such as FD and MM is to make sure that the script is written in compliance with generally accepted standards. That takes an unnecessary burden off the writer, just as a spell-checker is very helpful in detecting many forms of spelling and grammatical errors. That way, a writer can concentrate on writing and not wasting time trying to make another piece of software emulate professional software. Incidentally, the Academy Nicholl Fellowships (the Oscars contest), states this about standards: "There is no absolute 'standard' format used by all professional screenwriters working in the American film industry. Slight variations abound in scripts written by professionals. That said, professional scripts will invariably resemble the formatting guide that follows. Nuances may vary – margins slightly different, a dash here or there, parentheticals used this way or that – but overall, professional screenplays fit these guidelines." http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/resources.html

James David Sullivan

@All - I , too, am tired of these extremely wasteful expenditures of time and screen space. However, I think if Stage 32 gains a reputation for misinformation, it will not do any of us any good. That said, I hope before reading any comments that follow, individuals will peruse the entire thread and make an informed decision as to which comments have merit and which don't. And that includes checking credentials, such as IMDB credits, scriptwriting contest placements, LinkedIn, etc. When dealing with anyone you don't know, you owe it to yourself to do your due diligence.

Elijah Eskin

I use Adobe Story and it works great

James David Sullivan

@Elijah, Let's see - on your Web site it says: "Hey I am a 13 year old Amateur Film maker. I've made about 6 short films and written 4 scripts." Have you sold or optioned any of them? Have you placed in any contests with any of them? Have you entered them in any contests? Oh, by the way, the Web link to your YouTube video is not working.

CJ Walley

I'm of the understanding the Lounge is a place for dialogue and discussion and not debate. Therefore we're all simply offering our opinions, experiences and viewpoints to a topic. I think it's also prudent to keep in mind the world of filmmaking is far from black and white so applying any firm rules may be fruitless. So while I do respect the effort to form a conclusion, establish fact and gauge integrity, I don't think it's worth doing so at the result of personal clashes. Personally I like to read everyone's insight from self confessed newb to working professional. I know that's a little kumbaya, but that's me. And on a more positive note, and before another straw man argument is born, here's NASA dropping a hammer and a feather on the Moon to prove Galileo's theory that in zero atmosphere, objects of different mass fall at the same speed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C5_dOEyAfk

James David Sullivan

@CJ, perhaps we should change the name of this system to Wiki-Opinion?

Simon King

@James... I think you crossed the line. When young Elijah offered his opinion of what works for him, rather than welcome the young person with open arms it seems you decided to go jugular on him writing, "@Elijah, Let's see - on your Web site it says: "Hey I am a 13 year old Amateur Film maker. I've made about 6 short films and written 4 scripts." Have you sold or optioned any of them? Have you placed in any contests with any of them? Have you entered them in any contests? Oh, by the way, the Web link to your YouTube video is not working." I hope this young man takes your criticisms lightly and continues to practice his crafts. Did you happen to notice that, while he did not claim to have sold any scripts he has, "sold 5 songs and written one song for a student film my sisters friend is doing." Furthermore he makes it clear that he is, "only 13 years old but I've been writing lyrics for 6 years. Making films and scripts is new for me and I think music and writing is what will get me in the industry. Most people who I know who do films tell me things like from 1 to 10 in music I am a 7.5 and in film I'm still something like 1.5." Those of us who have been around the globe for a while can take direct criticism and brush the dirt off our shoulders but attacking a child seems... mean.

Simon King

@dan "Selling a screenplay is a good thing but that doesn't mean the person that wrote it is more knowledgeable than someone that hasn't sold one" It also is quite clear that selling a screenplay does not make you a civil human being.

James David Sullivan

@Dan, I don't really have an argument. I'm just telling you what happened to be sent to me in an email (and to all those who have participated in the Pitchfests) - that producers are telling the "broker" of those sessions they are looking for FD PDF files, and that they can tell the difference as soon as they open the files. The fact that there is not one standard makes it that much easier to tell what comes from FD and what doesn't, since whatever standards FD believes to be "the standard" is what defines FD files and makes them unique to FD, unless some other software company makes exactly the same choices. As I understand it, you are already working on some writing assignments (or have done so in the past), so that's not really going to be a problem for you. But for someone who doesn't have that level of credibility, it could make quite a bit of difference. If a producer doesn't already know you and you don't have the "merit badges", that's going to put big question marks in a producer's head. And you also have both FD and MM, so nobody that knows how to tell the difference is going to quarrel with a PDF file from those two software packages. Even if a producer prefers an FD file, I would like to believe he or she recognizes that MM is pro-level software. In fact, it has its own budgeting package. For an indie producer, that probably is not a serious consideration. But those producers on the S32 Pitchfests work at either mid-level production companies or studios. They don't play with small budgets, and they don't take many chances. They can't afford to.

James David Sullivan

@Dan - you are right. I try to keep my own opinions off the table. I watch the professionals in the business, listen to what they say, read what they write, and then form my own opinions. However, I do have some opinions that are based upon my own experiences, and most of the time, I see articles or watch videos from professionals that back up what I learned on my own. Contests are one of four ways of building credibility. I learned that from several people, including a former producer and teacher of screenwriting. His students have 250 documented deals: options, sales, writing gigs from studios and production companies, and representation agreements that came as a result of his training and the hard work of his students. But there are a lot of contests that are worthless; I have learned that the hard way. But I have also found a few, that at least for a while have provided me with solid judge's feedback and notes, not to mention contest placements. It's taken almost two years, but some of my scripts are in pretty good shape as a result of dozens of rewrites and polishes, and I think the payoff is in the near future. And it is a lot easier now to get read requests now than it was even a few months ago. Of course, when a producer tells you that a decision won't be made for 2 or 3 months, it's still time to keep dropping hooks and fish some more. And, if I end up with more than one "yes", that's okay with me. I am not sure what you mean by "management companies" - if you're talking about companies like WME and similar ones, they have a lot of clout. If you are talking about something else, I am not sure what you might mean. I am not saying that every manager is capable and connected; that's up to a writer to find out how good the manager is. "Due Diligence". Some writers do well simply with an agent. However, agents have their drawbacks as well. They don't spend as much time on your projects as a manager will, simply by the way they play the game. On the other hand, an agent is likely to know more places to sell your scripts. Finally, if you're producing your own material, all you have to please is yourself, any investors, and your audience. And clearly none of these entities care which software you use to write your material.

James David Sullivan

@Simon, sorry but I think a child who gets into a grown-up conversation needs to learn a little manners. Like reading the thread first before making comments and understanding the "context".

Tony McFadden

Yup. I can see that, JD. "I use Adobe Story and it works great" is offensive in the extreme. Such poor manners. I think you may be taking life a bit too seriously. Lighten up. Smile. Embrace civil discussion. Be well. Well, be.

James David Sullivan

@Simon - There's an old saying that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. In a recent post, you used the word "fags". I understood what you meant, and I tried to let you know diplomatically and privately that that term could be offensive to the LGBT community in the US. You responded by brushing off my comment, indicating that you have been in the US for 53 years and that you believe you have always used in a context that made it clear what you meant. So, let me follow your example and post this publicly. There are many people on this network whose English is not that good, even though they are far superior to us in their native languages. They may not be able to determine context well, and may not understand what you meant. In these last 53 years, the LGBT community has been terribly discriminated against in the US. The recent movie "Dallas Buyers' Club" gives numerous examples of what it was like in the US during the 1980s. I don't pretend to be a spokesperson for the LGBT community, but I find it outrageous for you to start making such accusations as that I "crossed the line". Gay people have been tortured and killed simply because of the way they were born. Maybe that means nothing to you, but it does to me. You may see me get upset at people who post things that things that are either patently wrong or come from someone who really has little room to be making statements of a particular sort. But I try my best to not make things worse for people because of something they have no control over, their inherited DNA. For most of your 53 years in this country, you have no idea of how many people you offended and hurt, people who felt they could do nothing about your comments without outing themselves and inviting much more discrimination. I doubt they would even feel comfortable in asking you to clarify your comments. And anyone that heard part of a conversation in which you used "fag" at a social event would probably have no context at all. I seriously doubt the majority of Americans know that "fag" means cigarette in UK slang. And if you have been here in the US for 53 years, and I don't doubt it, don't you think it would make more sense to stop using a word that requires an understanding of context to make it acceptable socially and use the American equivalent ("cigs" or "cigarettes")?

James David Sullivan

When a 13 year-old injects his teenage opinions into a discussion about whether the use of non-professional software is appropriate to send producers, without bothering to read and understand the context of the discussion, that is somewhat offensive to me.

James David Sullivan

@Mr. McFadden - "Such poor manners. I think you may be taking life a bit too seriously. Lighten up. Smile. Embrace civil discussion." Is that how you would characterize the profanities you hurled at me in private because you didn't want people to know what you had said? Your offer to make your comments public only came after you knew I would have done so. Now, I'm sorry I didn't do it first.

Robert Sprawls

@Sullivan, keep in mind, the very people you're trying to sell your script to may peruse this site and if they take offense at your putting the beat down on a kid for his inexperience and his dream, your scripts may end up in the trash along with your career if you get a rep as being "difficult." And it only depends on two conditions, truly: they view this site and they take offense. Just sayin'.

Simon King

This has now officially turned into a complete cock-up. Oh sorry JDS! Did I say cock? You have become a nosey Parker whose naff comments are nothing short of pikey. It would be fine if I believed you were taking the piss but you seem more concerned with the plight of uphill farmers who spend every free moment cottaging at Stage32 Meetups. As I was at ground zero when the gay cancer struck and lost plenty of very close friends to it I know first hand (i.e. I did not have to read it from a professional or watch a video) that my many poofter friends, regardless of where they were born, understand the difference between a fag and a fag. Now, have a nice day and enjoy your vinegar strokes.

Robert Sprawls

@Simon, you've given me a lot of British words to look up. I'll probably never use them as I'm American, but it's a diversion from work. You have my thanks.

Mark Souza

You know, I thought the very same thing. As I read it, I thought to myself, I wish I knew what he was saying because it sounds juicy.

Robert Sprawls

@Mark, I think the word is "randy." Simon, do they still use the word "randy" in England? Could you fly back real quick and find out for me? Appreciate it. :D

Simon King

Randy and ready! Yes, they do.

CJ Walley

You bunch of wallys.

Michael L. Burris

Mark, Simon and Robert you guys should get a hold of Seth Meyer's. This so reminds me of one of his Late Night bits. The dang "Brits" they just come off arrogant because we can't understand them as if my brain needs diminished anymore. They need a British humor interpreter to translate at the end of the show because that's about how long it would take me to figure exactly what it is that they said much like Simon's saying and probably find out it was just dumb anyway. Ahh, the Facade of the British humor unveiled. LOL!

Simon King

Facade! What facade? The only true humor is British humor. Everything else is a joke.

Michael L. Burris

Humour me. British Good Humour is like a melted American Good Humor Ice Cream bar where all that is left is a flat stick. LOL! Really no disrespect Simon. I rather enjoy the banter. I won't keep it going just seeing if I could follow a lead with an item of interest. I actually like comedy I just don't use it in these discussions much. Maybe we should suggest a comedy section to "RB" to banter and let things fly if for nothing else practice and comic relief. As a writer I need a good laugh from time to time myself.

Simon King

Worry not MNHMLB (that's a mouthful) I always write with tongue firmly lodged in cheek.I saw no disrespect in what you said. I only write what I write because someone has to give this place a little light as the darkness can be numbing at times.

Chris Keaton

You'll be submitting PDF files. No need for the the source file unless someone bought the screenplay and then they can put it in whatever format they want.

Shea Christian Reinke

Me? send all 5 versions you have as attachments. Megabytes are cheap :-) eh?

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