Roger takes us through the major formatting styles, or "elements," of a typical Hollywood screenplay, from sluglines to action description to character names to dialog. It turns out that this formatting produces a printed page roughly equivalent to a minute of finished screen time. Final Draft automates nearly all of this formatting.
- Your screenplay will utilize six regimented formats called Elements to build where your screen story takes place, what characters are in it, what they do, and what they say. Let's take a quick look at each element in the order you're most likely to use them. Scene Heading. This is commonly referred to as a slug line. The scene heading comprises three segments. The first tells the reader whether the upcoming scene takes place in an interior such as a room, or an exterior such as a street.
Interior is abbreviated INT period, while an exterior is abbreviated EXT period. As soon as you type an I or an E in a scene heading element in Final Draft, the program will format it correctly and type the remainder of the abbreviation for you. Following the interior or exterior is the location name such as farm or bedroom. After a single dash, you type the time, usually expressed as day or night. You can also type relative times such as later or that night, to indicated the temporal connection between this scene and the previous one.
Once you've completed a slug line, Final Draft will automatically remember it and remind you of it next time you start a scene heading in case you want to use it again. See, we're already saving time in keystrokes. A scene heading is always followed by action description usually just called Action. Description of the setting focusing on the actions the characters in the scene take. Character Name is our next element and it's perhaps the most distinctive looking. It's the the name of the character speaking all in capitals close to the center line of the page.
Final Draft will remember a character name. All you have to do is type it once. Then next time you hit the first letter, Final Draft will suggest filling in the rest. Dialogue immediate follows a character name. It's what the character says, typed like prose, roughly centered under the character name and justified. That means the right-hand margin is parallel to the left-hand margin, not ragged. A note about dialogue. In a movie screenplay, it's always single-spaced. But in certain TV shows, the ones that are shot like a stage play with a live audience, dialogue is double-spaced.
Final Draft offers templates that will preset your margins in spacing for virtually any type of production. We'll talk more about templates later. I said that dialogue immediately follows a character name and that's true, almost always. There are times a speech may legitimately be acted more than one way, but you want to make sure your intention as the author is clear. That's when you use a parenthetical, sometimes called a Reader or Wrylie. It sits between the character name and the dialogue and is set inside parentheses.
It describes in a very few words, one word is best, the attitude of the speaker such as angrily or wryly. Finally, we come to the transition. Unlike every other element, the transition describes a post production process. How the scene visually transitions to the following scene. The simplest and most obvious transition is the simple Cut To, and in the olden days, every Cut To was indicated with a transition. But in the modern era, we assume there's a Cut To between scenes unless we specify a different transition such as dissolve to, white to, or even fade out.
As always, the emphasis is on flow for the reader. So, the fewer the transitions, the better. Well, why are the different margins? Well, formatted in this way, a page of your screenplay will roughly equal a minute of screen time in your finished movie. Isn't that handy? Now everyone on your moviemaking team will know about how long each scene is, each page, even your entire movie. That's why you want to shoot for around 120 pages. Many more and you're asking for an epic. Many fewer, and your fans will still have popcorn leftover.
There are a few other miscellaneous elements in a screenplay such as the title, and that wonderful spot where you type, "The End." Final Draft offers an element called General for these odds and ends. Screenplay elements are the basic building blocks of your screenplay. Get to know them as well you do the alphabet. Once you do, Final Draft will help you to apply them quickly, easily, and often automatically.
This course is a step-by-step, interactive journey that takes the aspiring screenwriter—or the pro who hasn't yet used Final Draft—from zero to sixty. While it doesn't cover every feature of this powerhouse software, it offers an overview of 80% of the tools a writer needs to go from outline to, well, final draft. Highlighted are the latest cutting-edge features in version 10 that enable brainstorming, alternate versions of dialog, and more. Your guide, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Roger S.H. Schulman, also offers insider tips and tricks to save time and improve the quality of scripts, and a bonus chapter on using Final Draft Writer on the iPad or iPhone—to take scripts wherever inspiration strikes.
- The history of screenwriting
- Basic script elements
- Reviewing the Final Draft user interface
- Customizing the Final Draft toolbar
- Using the new Beat Board
- Using index cards
- Creating your own macros
- Working with the Format Assistant
- Using the new Story Map
- Making revisions
- Importing and exporting scripts from Final Draft
- Working with Final Draft Writer for iOS