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Academy News
January 03, 2014

Keeping Writers on the Cutting Edge

Final Draft previews its latest screenwriting software.

Libby Slate

Television Academy members got a sneak peek at Final Draft 9, the latest update of the top-selling scriptwriting software, just weeks after the industry standard was honored at the Academy's Engineering Awards.

In a session at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Zack Gutin, director of retail and studio relations for Final Draft, reviewed some of the familiar features of the software and unveiled some of the updates coming in version 9, to be released in early 2014.

Familiar elements include proper formatting of character names, dialogue, scene locations, transitions and parentheticals such as voiceover indication, all geared to the one-screen-minute-per-script-page standard.

"Script formatting is rigid — there's little flexibility," Gutin noted of what the software terms the standard U.S. screenplay format. "People involved in the production, from script coordinators to costumers, need to be able to see a script and instantly know what's going on."

Final Draft comes pre-loaded with numerous templates, with updated templates online. The templates are provided by showrunners and producers, so that aspiring writers can see the particulars of various shows. In a multi-camera show, for instance, dialogue is double-spaced and action is written in capital letters. An existing script can be converted and saved in any of the template formats.

The Index Cards feature, the digital version of the hard-copy standby for script outlining and plotting, allows users to see the beginnings of a scene or a scene summary, and to shift scene order or make other structural revisions. Colors can be assigned to the cards, such as one color for comic scenes and another for drama, which might indicate upon viewing, for instance, too much of one element and not enough of the other. The cards can be shown on a split screen alongside the script, or enlarged for display on a widescreen in a writers' room.

Script Notes — boxes in which thoughts and ideas can be saved and called up — can also be color-coded according to who has read and commented on the script. And just as hard-copy script revisions are color-coded, so are their digital counterparts.

Some not-so-basic features: Writers Guild script registration directly from Final Draft; a partnership with Toon Boom Animation for storyboarding; the ability to import a script written in Microsoft Word or other formats and convert it to Final Draft; isolating the dialogue of a particular character for sides, the script excerpts used for casting auditions.

Final Draft also employs the voice recognition elements of a user's computer operating system, allowing writers to hear their scripts read aloud. And a separate program, Tagger, installs with Final Draft and tags scenes, characters, props, sets and audio cues, a helpful tool for line producers and others on a production.

The software is also available as an iPad app, Final Draft Writer. For reading and making notes, handy for actors, agents, managers and others, there is the free Final Draft Reader app for iPhone and iPad. (No Android apps are available.) The apps can eliminate the need for paper, Gutin noted.

Final Draft 9 will include some improvements. "It will be more colorful and crisp, with a new retina display," Gutin said. Outlining and search functions have been enhanced, and now, non-speaking characters won't be overlooked when it comes to various elements. Characters can be color-coded, as they already are on the iPad app. One feature, though, will have less color: revision pages will now be white, with only the margin color-coded. "Most writers don't want color pages," Gutin noted.

Those who already own Final Draft can upgrade to Final Draft 9 at a reduced rate.

Conrad Bachmann and Alex Georgiev produced the seminar, which was presented by the Academy's activities committee.

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