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Thursday, November 10, 2005

I changed over from Final Draft to Screenwriter because everyone recommended I do it, and because Final Draft has a few glitches, and because Final Draft 7 massively mangled a file of mine.

Now I am regretting it.

Screenwriter is fine for a feature script. But I am having hideous trouble getting it to behave on the TV script I'm writing.

Here is how you start a TAG in Final Draft:

Style the line as ACT (a style found in most TV templates, or easily created where you define elements as All Caps, Centered, Page Break Before). Type "Tag."

Here is how you start a TAG in Screenwriter, so far as I know:

In "Edit User Lists", choose "Act Information" and tell Screenwriter that your show ends after Act 5.

Hit "return" in a blank line. You'll get a menu that allows you to choose End of Act. This creates a line that says END OF ACT FOUR, followed by a forced page break, followed by a line that says ACT FIVE.

Delete "Act Five." You now have a blank Action line. Type TAG. Screenwriter will recognize the word "TAG" if you have already loaded a correct TV template.

If you have not already loaded a correct TV template, you now write to tech support to try to figure out WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO TO GET A FREAKIN' TAG.

The problem is that Final Draft is programmed essentially as a word processor. You can define as many styles you like. The crucial ones are already defined: action, character name, dialog, parenthetical etc. But you can have more. I usually create elements called SHOT, ACT and ACT OUT. Sometimes I create DIALOG 2 if characters are talking in a foreign language that I want to translate on the page. So you type merrily along. Final Draft does not really know much about what you're typing. It just knows that after a slugline, the next line should be action. And so on.

Screenwriter was created by people who wrote the great and powerful Movie Magic Scheduling and Budgeting programs. So rather than working like a word processor, the guts of Screenwriter seems to be a much more rigid framework. Screenwriter keeps your scenes numbered at all times, because you need scene numbers to do a scheduling board. Screenwriter won't let you delete a character name (if, say, you wanted to merge two characters' dialog), because dialog is not allowed to exist without a character name attached.

I don't know why on Earth the Screenwriter people decided to have Screenwriter automatically number the Acts, but it does. That's where all the problems are coming from right now. I can't just type in "ACT FOUR," it knows I'm in Act Four, so if I type ACT it supplies the FOUR. That's a problem if I want to write TAG instead of ACT FIVE. I get TAG FIVE.

I guess this is supposed to save me the trouble of remember what act I'm writing. But if I can't remember that, I've got much bigger problems, don't I.

If I want to create a second Dialog element, for subtitle text, the only way I can see to do it is to hijack the Script Note element and make it the second Dialog element. This works just fine, but Heaven help me if I need subtitles AND Script Notes. Not a problem in Final Draft, because their program doesn't know that much about scripts, so it doesn't hardwire the kinds of elements. It just leaves them all loosey-goosey, user-defined. Screenwriter knows exactly what elements it thinks a script should have. If you want something that isn't one of those elements, go f*** yourself.

I have never had to refer to a user manual so often, and I have certainly never had to write tech support so often after referring to the user manual.

The Screenwriter people have told me they're going to revamp the user interface for the next release. I hope they revamp it a lot. 'Cause this is not workin' for me.

UPDATE: I was finally able to get my act title to say TAG by setting "Tag Text" to "TAG" in the User Lists, and then creating an alias to "TAG" called "TAG."


RE-UPDATE: No problems getting a TAG in a new file. Go figure. But that's not the point. The programming shouldn't make it that hard. This is quintessential Microsoft behavior: by trying to automate things that require some intelligence (little dancing paperclip says, "You seem to be typing a letter!", or adds spaces before every left parenthesis that starts a line, and so on), it makes it hard to do them yourself.

If this happens again, I'm going back to Final Draft 6.


Say it with me now:

Screenwriter is for PC's.

Final Draft is for Macs.

Sure, they both suck.

But everything in that post re-inforces just how Windoze the thinking behind Screenwriter is. Final Draft may be buggy and weird, but I don't spend that much time fighting a script to get it written.

MS Word sucks too, but I use it.

The reality is that if you work, you're going to need to use both programs from time to time. Neither's perfect -- but each does take on the zeitgeist of the platform on which it first appeared.

By Blogger DMc, at 3:01 PM  

I've used Screenwriter for years, and Script Thing before that. I only bought Final Draft 5 because all the companies I worked for seemed to be using it and I needed to be able to convert stuff. It was super buggy and always crashing (Screenwriter almost never crashes). Plus you couldn't output PDFs or interface with Scheduling, both of which Screenwriter does beautifully. I still do all my writing in Screenwriter and only convert the file to FD if someone requests it.

Caveat: I don't work in TV so I've never had to use the act templates.

By Blogger Gilman, at 3:41 PM  

I agree with dmc. For a Mac user, Final Draft is the lesser of two evils. Screenwriter seems to be geared too much toward integrating with their other programs. If you're simply a writer, then you have no need for the other crap. Let the line producers and ADs figure it out -- that's their job and they've been doing it for years with Final Draft scripts that can't be imported directly into the budgeting/scheduling software.

As previously mentioned, being forced into a structure you don't want (ala MS Word) is far more disruptive than the occasional glitch from Final Draft. Yes, I would much prefer that FD get their asses in gear and fix the obvious problems they have. But it beats the hell out of fighting your software to do what you want it to do.

By Blogger Your gracious host, at 4:53 PM  

I have FD 5 & 6 and am happy with them. Heard too many rotten things about 7.

By Blogger PJ McIlvaine, at 11:12 PM  

Ahh 7.1.1 is finally stable (imho), but the platform depedence is still a big issue. Screenwriter feels more at home on PCs, whereas Final Draft is more pure OS X. But I just find Final Draft an old friend, glitches sure, but then I've routed around them, and know them.

Screenwriter seems slotted into this film-only mode, and for the various weird customized corporate churn and other stuff that pays the bills (for off TV and off Hollywood peon-spec-monkeys like me), you kinda have to make up your own formatting. Final Draft is more fitting for that. But this is an eternal debate, and they are only tools, both have issues. I just make sure to go by Christopher Riley's book regardless of software.

I feel your pain tho, Screenwriter is too locked into pure film Hollywood. However the buggy Final Draft 7 was nearly fatal for that company. But use a macroed MS Word? Gawd, shoot me now, no way in heck. :)

By Blogger Christopher Coulter, at 11:30 AM  

Oh yeah. When I said used word, I meant for letters and stuff. It's still a fat program with a bunch of BS that doesn't work right. I hate it.

And I've found FD 7.1.1 totally stable. It's great. After switching back to 6 when I was in SA and swearing I'd never go back, 7.1.1 finally solved the problems.

By Blogger DMc, at 12:31 PM  


I wanted to know how to tag a scene from final draft (.fdr format) to the movie magic scheduler. Do respond as soon as you can.

Sushil Bhatnagar

By Blogger Sushil, at 12:29 AM  

Windows 7, Screenwriter 6: to start a tag, the only thing I need to do is type "tag" in a new line and it automatically formats in with the right settings. (In case someone else reads this post for the first time like I just did.)

By Blogger Batoru Engeru, at 4:36 PM  

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