Tutorial: Final Draft – Part 1 Entering Text

If you missed the first tutorial, an Introduction to Final Draft, click here.

If you want to follow along, get the trial version of Final Draft here

When you first start Final Draft, what opens looks very much like a standard word processor with a page to display the text you type, a toolbar across the top, a tool bar containing buttons and icons and a status bar.

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There are a huge number of templates available for Final Draft for all sorts of different types of scripts. The default which loads automatically is called “Screenplay”: and is a basic template suited to general use.

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If you want a different template, say a TV template for a ½ hour sitcom, click File and then New From Template. A dialogue box opens displaying a list of template types. If there is a cross next to a template name, click it and this opens up the list for that head to display more templates.

As you can see, there are LOTS of options open to you for template types.

Now that we are ready to actually start a script. We’ll be using this script as the basis for all the tutorials going forward so make sure if you are following along that you save your work!.

With a script, the first line is known as a Scene Heading. Now, meet the SmartType Menu system built right into Final Draft

With a new blank document set to the Template of your choice – we are using 30 minute sitcom here – type the letter ‘E’. The SmartType menu opens and offers up the option for Ext. which stands for Exterior. Assuming the script starts with an outside scene, in other words, Exterior, accept this option by pressing the TAB key.

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If you wanted the scene to be inside, you could press ‘I” for Interior. If you do, you get two possible choices here, INT for Interior or I/E for Interior / Exterior. Simply choose the appropriate one and press TAB.

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Now you can enter a location, for example, ‘Busy City Street’ and this time when you press the TAB key, once again the SmartType Menu pops up asking for the time of day when this scene takes place. Use the arrow keys, select with the mouse or choose via its first letter to select the one you want we’ll choose Night.

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Notice the entries are formatted exactly as per industry recommendations with capitalisation and underlining. All these are governed by the underlying template – 30 Minute Sitcom.

Next we need an ‘Action Line’. Final Draft should have selected this automatically for you, but to make sure, in the toolbar you’ll see the Elements Menu, and Action should be selected. Have a look through now and see what other options are available, but stick with selecting ‘Action’ for now.

Once ‘Action’ has been selected, in the main body of the script, you can type the first sentence of the action. We’ll enter;

‘A yellow Ford Anglia crosses a nearby intersection at high speed causing pedestrians to leap for safety’ and then press ENTER

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By default, Final Draft will be expecting another action line, but instead, override this in the Elements Menu and choose ‘Character’. You can now enter the character’s name. We’ll call him ‘Richard’ and then press ENTER.

Once again, note the formatting.

Logically, the next piece of content should be Richard speaking and sure enough, Final Draft anticipates this and sets the Element Menu option accordingly so we can enter Richard’s dialogue for the occasion;

‘Good Lord! Who was that idiot?’

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Now lets look at possibly the most confusing Element, the parenthetical. Parantheticals are very short descriptives in lower case (except for proper nouns like names) placed inside dialogue but on their own line.

In our example, when Richard says ‘Good Lord! Who was that idiot?’ a suitable parenthetical might be written with the dialogue as

Good Lord!
Who was that idiot?

Another might be:

Good Lord!
Who was that idiot?
(notices broken tail light)

Right let’s continue.

If you now press ENTER twice, the SmartType will pop up letting you choose Character

Type the new character’s name, ‘Alison’ and press ENTER followed by Alison’s dialogue

‘Did you get the registration plate number?’

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It can now be seen that in combination, the ENTER key and TAB keys are used to select element types and you simply select or type the data required. If you make an error and apply the wrong element to some text, simply place the cursor in the offending line and select the correct element. Final Draft will fix this automatically.

In the next tutorial, we will continue developing this script and explore the various ways to navigate through scripts with Final Draft’s built in Navigation panes.


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