Join Roger S.H. Schulman for an in-depth discussion in this video A brief history of screenwriting, part of Learning Screenwriting with Final Draft 9.
- Next to an income tax form, a screenplay just may be the most strangely formatted document you've ever had to deal with. How did it get this way? Knowing the answer just may make the process go down a little easier. The first motion pictures were silent, just a few second long and comprised a single shot. They didn't need scripts of any kind, just a title and a description. When movies began to tell stories using a sequence of shots, a script became necessary to keep track of things. But, it was just a simple list.
Producer, director and studio mogul Thomas Ince helped turn motion pictures from a possibly profitable novelty into big business. He took a page from Henry Ford's book of Model T manufacture and turned movie-making into an assembly line. At that point scripts had to do more than list shots. They had to indicate whether a scene was taking place indoors or outdoors, which members of the cast appeared in it, what happened in the scene, especially if it would cost more money, and so on. These continuity scripts became intricately formatted documents that, like a recipe from a master chef, indicated every ingredient needed and how to bake them into a movie.
Using continuity scripts Ince's studio could have multiple camera units shooting different sections of the movie simultaneously and have several movies going on at once. They churned out movies the way Ford turned out cars. And, by the way, both Ince and Ford got really rich. This system worked for decades, but then studies fell from power, around 1955. A studio could no longer just green light a movie. Financial backers had to be found first, and to attract those deep pockets maybe a star had to be attached or a powerful director.
The job of a script went from telling a story to selling a story. Afterall, what was the point of a detailed script if all it was going to do was sit in a drawer? Thus, the modern screenplay, sometimes called a master scene script, was born. It focused more on telling the story in an entertaining way than on listing every ingredient. If the screenplay sold and the movie went into production, the master scene script would be converted into a shooting script, closer in appearance to the continuity scripts used by Ince and his colleagues.
The master scene script is essentially what we'll be learning to create with Final Draft. Today, the screenplay is still essentially a specialized list and one pretty odd-looking document. It's up to you to make your characters and story so compelling that the reader will forget all about the formatting and get lost in your story.
Screenwriting with Final Draft 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, this Final Draft training course offers an overview of 80% of the tools a writer needs to go from outline to, well, final draft. 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
- Customizing the Final Draft toolbar
- Choosing a Final Draft template
- Finding and replacing words
- Creating macros to speed up formatting
- Working with the Format Assistant
- Making revisions
- Comparing two drafts
- Importing and exporting scripts from Final Draft
- Working with Final Draft Writer for iOS