Review: Final Draft
Manufacturer: BCSoftware, Inc.
Sugg. Retail Price: $299
As regular readers of my column, Macman to the Rescue!, already know, I'm putting together a movie package. Part of that package is my screenplay, "Diamond in the Rough." I thought it was time to use a full blown 'screenplay processor' application. I received my review copy of Final Draft on the same day I received an entry form for Chicago's 'Cinestory' contest. I took this as an omen.
So, I did the first thing I do whenever I receive a new piece of software. I opened the box.
Installation was a snap. Two disks contain the software proper; the third disk is a Hard Disk Key Authorizer, BCSoftware's version of copy protection. The Key Authorizer allows you to install Final Draft on two different computers (e.g., home and office, desktop and laptop, or yours and a partner's). A warning is attached to the key disk: Be sure to uninstall the authorization before you optimize or reformat your hard drive.
After installation, I imported my script, which was previously formatted as a Microsoft Word file, into Final Draft. Ok, so it wasn't that simple. First I had to convert the scrio Rich Text Format (RTF) in Word. After that adjustment, Final Draft performed like a champ on the import. However, I apparently imported the wrong version of my script, because, after opening the file in Final Draft, the scene and page numbers were in the wrong places. It took only a quick five minutes to correct the problem.
The manual is extremely well written. However, as with most Mac software, I simply didn't need it. Menu selections are simple and straightforward. Everything you expect to find in a normal word processor is available in Final Draft, such as: Cut and Paste, a Spell Checker, and an excellent Thesaurus (which is a word for which I'm still trying to find a synonym).
What makes Final Draft special are the 'ups and extras.' If you want to place a "Post-it[TM]" type sticky note at a particular place in your script, "Script notes" let's you do it. "Smart Type" is a feature every word processor should have. Final Draft's version keeps character names and sluglines in a special list that you can call up at any time and modify by adding to, delete from, or editing text. For example, if I have a character named Rumplestilskin, the most I'd probably need to type is "Ru," and Final Draft will supply the rest. This saves me twelve keystrokes and much wrist strain if he's a main character in my opus. Another fine feature is "Select Current Scene" found in the edit menu. If you decide to put scene A after scene B, simply click anywhere within scene A, goto Select Current Scene, and bingo, the whole thing is highlighted. A simple "Drag and Drop" later, and the order of scenes is changed.
Formatting your work as a proper screenplay is simple. Hold down the Command key and the toolbar provides styles of Slugline, Action, Character, Dialogue, Parenthetical, and Transition. Selecting a style, type your description or dialogue, and Final Draft puts it in screenplay format automatically. I also like the assumptions that the software makes. After a slugline, it converts to action style. Tabbing from there brings up a Character name input, after which the format drops into dialogue. After a transition, a slugline appears. Transitions have their own preselected choices, including Cut To:, Dissolve To:, Wipe To:, etc. You can also create your own. Of course, screenplay writing for the spec market of late has dropped its tradition of providing the explicit transitions. We're supposed to leave it to the director (as if he or she knows anything).
If you're planning to write "The Great American Screenplay," "Sitcom," or "Stage Play" (Final Draft provides special sitcom and stage play formats, too.), I highly recommend Final Draft 4.1 for Macintosh. A Windows[TM] version is also available. About the only thing I found lacking was a grammar check, which I missed since Hollywood seems to be allergic to passive voice these days. Although I chose not to enter the Cinestory competition, after an afternoon with Final Draft, my screenplay, "Diamond in the Rough," is ready for Sandra Bullock.