The new Final Draft 10 is here!

October 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

fdYes, it’s finally here—Final Draft 10. After graduating from film school, my first and only screenwriting software purchase was Final Draft and I’ve used it and loved it ever since. I can remember writing my fourth spec screenplay using Final Draft 1. Now ten versions later, I’ve written twenty-six of my thirty feature screenplays and all of my TV pilots using Final Draft. It’s the only screenwriting software that I use.

When I consult on screenplays, my biggest pet peeve is dealing with aspirants who don’t want to invest the money in professional screenwriting software recognized by the film industry. This is a blatant disrespect of the craft and immediately shows me they’re not serious about their career. Never use something that you formatted yourself.

Some of the cool new features of Final Draft 10 deal with outlining and structuring your screenplay. The new STORY MAPTM feature is a story-planning tool that offers you a high-levestory-mapsl view of your story and allows you to easily preview and navigate to scenes. It’s displayed at the top of your script in a long strip and shows the page numbers and the length of your scenes in an easy view. I’m a huge advocate of screenplay structure and my producers never allow me to start my assignments until we have locked to story.

Another cool new feature is THE BEAT BOARDTM and it’s like having your own corkboard on the screen where you have to freedom to brainstorm and organize your ideas beatcompletely within your script file. You can write down ideas, story beats, or whatever you want in boxes and color code each one to your preferences. If you drag a beat box up top into the story map and release it, the feature will link to that page number. This is useful when you know you want to hit that beat at a certain page in your screenplay.

Another new feature is the ALTERNATIVE DIALOUGE element. If you write a line of dialogue, there will be a small “plus” sign at the end. If you click on it you can enter another version of the dialogue and it saves it in a box dialoguefor easy reference later. You can toggle between the various lines and choose the one you like the best.

If you are working with a screenwriting partner, another useful new feature is called COLLABORATION. This allows you to work on your script remotely in real time with your writing partner(s). You can host or join a session, enter your name, the script’s title, and work in real time with your partner.

And with the STRUCTURE POINTS feature, you can create your screenplay’s structure within your .fdx file. They’ve also added new SCENE NUMBERING OPTIONS in line with industry standards, improved the HEADER and FOOTER allowing you to add file names to them automatically, and added the ability to bold your REVISION sets.

Overall, Final Draft 10 is a solid new version with strong features to help with your screenplay’s structure and collaboration. Check it out at the FINAL DRAFT website. As I always say, regardless of your methods, keep screenwriting because if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

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“Writers, like most human beings, are adaptable creatures. They can learn to accept subordination without growing fond of it. No writer can forever stand in the wings and watch other people take the curtain calls while his own contributions get lost in the shuffle.”—Rod Serling

“The well is where your “juice” is. Nobody knows what it is made of, least of all yourself. What you know is if you have it, or you have to wait for it to come back.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Dramatic economy, which includes the ability of a writer to cut what at one point he might have considered to be his best work ever, is one of the most important skills a writer can have. It is learned only through much experience, combined with a ruthless attitude and utter lack of sentimentality.”—Alexander MacKendrick, “Sweet Smell of Success”



The ten warning signs you’re still a screenwriting aspirant…

January 1, 2016 § 1 Comment

The_EndOkay, it’s one thing to finish a screenplay and another to understand the complexities of how it fits into forging a career or what I call “the bigger picture.” Sure, a completed screenplay is an accomplishment to be celebrated, but you have to realize it’s only the beginning of a long journey. If you’ve completed a few screenplays, congratulations. Now get back to work because it’s always going to be about the work. Writing the perfect screenplay is elusive at best, but we can still try, right? Every time out is a chance to get better and learn while you build your screenwriting arsenal.

If also you lack humility on this adventure and think it’s an easy road, the film business will humble you and fast. According to the 2016 Scoggins Report, only 70 spec screenplays sold in Hollywood. Also there are approximately 50,000 scripts bouncing around Hollywood every year and half of the Writers Guild doesn’t report any income and those are writers with professional credits.

Consider your first screenplay as a training tool and one of many that you’ll have to write badly to get to a place where you’re writing at a professional level to compete. Specs usually end up being your calling card instead of a million dollar sale. Also realize now that everything you write is not going to sell. It might take ten scripts and four drafts of each to have one open the door for a job.

hollywood boulevardThe pursuit of a Hollywood screenwriting career, especially in today’s film business, is not for the thin of skin or for anyone looking to achieve easy fame and fortune. I wish you the best of luck if that’s your intention. There are better careers that pay more on a regular basis instead of going from script to script with many never getting produced or you paid. Honestly, no one cares who wrote the screenplay when they see a film at the multiplex. They’re going to see the stars or the story and hopefully your name is still on the end product and you haven’t been fired or have to share credit.

If you’re calling yourself a screenwriter but without credits, do you have four or five solid screenplays written, other pitches, one sheets, or treatments and have you done the training necessary to compete? Professionalism is an attitude, work ethic and discipline that shows you are serious about your screenwriting even if you haven’t sold anything yet.

Time to check the list…


1 . You don’t spend the time necessary to become a better screenwriter because you still believe it’s easy to establish a career.

2.  You’re writing beyond your ability at this point in your screenwriting journey because you want to sell a Hollywood tent-pole before you’re ready.

3. Your writing is only a rehash of what you’ve seen before in movies and on television and not something unique to your voice.

4. You lack the patience to master your craft and want success to come fast without sacrifice.

5. You’re not open to notes, you’re defensive about criticism on your screenplay and bristle at the suggestion of cutting anything. You have not learned how to be a collaborator and team player with professionals.

6. You haven’t accepted it’s a long haul journey to reach any level of success in the film business and believe it’s going to be different for you because you are the “chosen one”– it’s just that Hollywood hasn’t chosen you yet.

7. You don’t learn from your mistakes and you’re doomed to repeat them.

8. You constantly bemoan, “The producers, executives and agents don’t know what they’re talking about. I see the movies out there and I can do better.” If so, why haven’t you sold anything?

9. You feel entitled to success just because you’ve completed a script and expect Hollywood to grant you a big sale and a career.

10. You do more talking about your “writing” than actually writing.

If you’re guilty of any of the signs on this list, consider making immediate changes to your attitude and game plan. Hollywood is filled with screenwriters and the odds of establishing a career and being paid regularly are horrible, but it does happen. Respect the craft and the journey because that’s what professionals do and you don’t want to be stuck aspiring for success.

Scriptcat out!

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“Don’t focus on where you’re not (famous or A-list writer)—focus on where you’re at—hopefully screenwriting. Regardless of success or experience, we’re all equals in front of that blank page channeling the muse.”—Scriptcat

“‘I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”—William Faulkner

“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed.  It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.  Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work.  In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”—Aristotle


Lack of professionalism will sink an aspiring screenwriter every time…

August 24, 2013 § 4 Comments

pitchLet’s call this a cautionary tale. I had an interesting discussion with a producer this week. She is producing a web series that I wrote and lamented to me about a screenwriter she is working with on a feature screenplay that is a total mess. The script received professional coverage and it didn’t have much good to report about the characters, story, execution or chances in the marketplace. The producer had also given this screenwriter notes as part of the development process, but the writer has been unable or unwilling to execute the notes to make the script worthy of moving forward.  Hearing familiar tales like these make me angry.  It’s also the reason Hollywood has created such a high wall and gates as one method to filter and weed out the crap from the good stuff. Do aspiring screenwriters really believe that everyone gives a shit about their precious screenplay? Trust me—they don’t.  Plenty of aspirants fill warehouses full of screenplays in the film business.

If you’re blessed to find a producer who does care like in this situation, you’ll do everything you can to push the project forward as a team player and collaborator. It’s shortsighted to do anything less and it will sink your chance at a successful career every time. thWhen the producer presented the aspirant her own detailed notes, the screenwriter told her to go and see a recently successful horror movie at the theater as an example of what she is trying to do with her script. Obviously, it was not on the page but the aspirant wasn’t open to hearing constructive criticism from professionals. Only an amateur would have this attitude. The odds are not in your favor as tens of thousands of screenplays bounce around Hollywood every year looking to get produced. The odds of getting anyone truly interested in spending their precious development time on your project is rare at best.

So, when you do find a producer or company who wants to work with you—work with them! Otherwise they will move on with another project and another screenwriter—NEXT!  Remember this always—you are not that special. Sorry. You’ll have to fight, claw and create just like everyone else does and even more once you do start working professionally. As my producer continued with her story, I could sense that she was ready to drop this aspirant and move on. This aspirant’s unprofessional attitude and denial will sink her chances no matter where she goes with her screenplay. I asked my producer if her writer had written a solid treatment before she went into pages and her reply was exactly as I suspected: “No, she just wrote script as she went along.”  It obviously showed. A screenplay can live or die from a thousand important details and you’ll need to spend about seventy-five percent of your time on the story of the movie.

This is a perfect example of how important a solid story treatment is before you start into pages. Unfortunately, this aspirant doesn’t know she is blowing her chances with moving her career forward. She already has achieved one of the most difficult aspects of a screenwriter’s journey—finding a producer who is interested—but she’s not willing or able to see the value of her situation. She also is unable to execute the producer’s notes and that doesn’t bode well for staying on any project. This is how original screenwriters of projects get fired and why producers hire someone who can execute notes. I have been a script doctor on several projects because the original writer was not experienced enough to bring the script to a place that moved it closer to production.

There is zero time in the development process for a screenwriter who can’t execute notes. No producer is going to show a half-assed script to investors, directors or actors and that means the project stalls and will not move forward. You’ll hamper your career if you can’t properly execute screenplay notes. It was obvious to me from listening to my producer’s story that this aspirant wasn’t really passionate about her screenplay or respects the craft of screenwriting. I asked if horror was this aspirant’s particular genre. She told me the aspirant’s reasoning for writing horror was because the aspirant told her, “Horror sells.” I laughed out loud. Yes, every year there are successful horror films, but this will definitely not be one of them. These successful movies went into development and then production up to two years ago, so the moment you follow the “trend” of the current box office, by the time they produce your film the audience and the industry is on to something else.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t pay attention to what fails and what is successful. The film THE LONE RANGER did not do well at the box office so you might not want to spend a lot of time writing a Western (a genre that I love!) unless you want to try and sell it as a TV movie with a very narrow choice of networks that might be interested. This film had a budget of $ 215 million and only made back $ 260 million worldwide. A budget of that size needs to make about three times its budget to break even and go into profits. It should have grossed over $ 700 million to make profits. Going forward, the Western genre is a hard sell because the studios are not going to revisit it anytime soon. Sure, Kevin Costner or Clint Eastwood could still get a Western made, but a spec script from an uncredited, untested and unknown first time screenwriter doesn’t bode well for success. You have to consider if your idea fits the Hollywood business model and maybe there isn’t a better use of your spec time.

smash head in wallI would not consider this defensive and hard-headed aspirant a “screenwriter” just because she slapped scenes together and created a screenplay that according to the coverage: “Had unnecessary long pages of exposition and characters that no one cared about even if they lived or died.” The writer continued to defend her poorly written script. It’s like the aspirant believed somehow the producer didn’t quite see the genius of her work. This delusional thinking will lead to a rejected screenplay and a “screenwriter” wasting precious time blaming others for not seeing the value of their screenplay. Yes, ideas are where stories and scripts begin, but it’s the execution of the idea that will get it sold and produced.Here is the formula: Great idea + horribly executed script = failure of screenwriter and the script. It’s rare that someone these days will buy a script just for the idea.

The truth is that Hollywood has no shortage of good ideas—it’s the lack of execution that’s the problem. Hollywood is also filled with thousands of excellent screenwriters—but only 4,899 of those professionals in the WGAw reported any income last year. These are the tremendous odds that aspirants face every time up to the plate with a project. I’m not saying that every producer is an expert at giving effective notes or being able to communicate their needs to screenwriters.  I also don’t believe that screenwriters should just roll over and change the script with every suggestion given. It’s a delicate balance and the script’s best interests must be put forward always. How best can we make changes to the script to attract investors, talent, and ultimately attract a paying audience? The best situation is when it’s an equal partnership of collaboration and each artist allows the other to do what they do best.

Again, if you are lucky, you will end up with a visionary producer who has the experience and talent who pushes screenwriters to do their best work—all for the benefit of the movie. This aspirant didn’t have any respect for the genre she attempted to write. Her reasoning for writing a horror film was because she thought that she could sell her idea for big money. She also showed a woeful lack of respect for the professional work ethic needed to survive in Hollywood.  Trust me, producers will go out of their way to work with a screenwriter who is a team player and goes above and beyond every time.  But what about the temperamental divas with undeveloped talent who believe their scripts are masterworks? Their lack of professionalism and ego will sink their chances of any success and the business will quickly humble them. Keep the faith—but also keep filling your blank pages!

@Scriptcat out!

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Success does not happen with one script or one meeting—it’s a long process of many steps and many meetings—and a solid body of work will show professionals that you have something unique to offer.”—Scriptcat

“A lot of young writers fail because they aren’t putting in the hours. I had a great, great editor, Hiram Haydn, who had many children and was a novelist. Toward the last years of his career, the only time he could write was Sunday morning. He would write four hours every Sunday morning. And he would get books done. It would take him years, but I think it’s crucial that we have some kind of rhythm. Whether you can write all day every day, or whether you can write four hours on Sundays, whatever it is, you have to protect that time.”—William Goldman

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

Dramatic economy, which includes the ability of a writer to cut what at one point he might have considered to be his best work ever, is one of the most important skills a writer can have. It is learned only through much experience, combined with a ruthless attitude and utter lack of sentimentality.”—Alexander MacKendrick, “Sweet Smell of Success”

“Everything must serve the idea—I must say this again and again. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and the most direct and clear. I don’t believe in overdressing anything. Just what is required. No extra words, no extra images, no extra music. But it seems to me that this is a universal principle of art. To say as much as possible with a minimum of means. And to be always clear about what you are trying to say. That means, of course, that you must know what you are trying to say. So I guess my first principle is to understand myself, and then to find the simplest way to make others understand it, too.”—John Huston, Film Quarterly, Vol.19, No. 1, Autumn, 1965.


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