Writing that 'Final Draft'
Screenwriting software designer discusses the road to success and
sponsoring the showcase.
The Scriptwriter's Showcase is a three-day conference from April
7 to 9 where students can interact with successful writers and industry
executives, pose questions and enroll in panel discussions regarding
moviemaking in Hollywood. Sponsored by Final Draft and scr(i)pt
magazine, this year's keynote speakers include recent Oscar winners
Diana Ossana for "Brokeback Mountain," Robert Moresco
for "Crash" and nominee Josh Olson for "A History
There is an obvious disclaimer that needs to be attached to this
article. Marc Madnick is both the subject of this story as well
as the founder of screenwriting software Final Draft. The danger
is in turning a piece of journalism into a sales pitch for the software
program. Instead of reading this as a not-so-sly advertisement,
consider it a glimpse into the mind of one man - a man with an idea.
Madnick has an accent. Perhaps an Eastern twang. He sounds like
a computer nerd, the kind of guy who spends his days ruthlessly
pent up in some steel box slaving over circuit boards. If not this,
certainly some other equally as cliché and trite imagery
will justify the passionate yet hotly restrained voice fluttering
through the telephone receiver. The interview began with Madnick
energetically explaining the basics of his little creation, a program
known as Final Draft. For the slightly less pretentious and noncinema
oriented students who are unfamiliar with this product, Final Draft
is, as Madnick puts it, "a specialized word processor to fit
the format regulations of a screenplay." It allows the user
to focus on the content instead of the anal retentive formal structure
of a script. In short, Final Draft was the first program of its
kind and quickly became a godsend for writers who, pre-Final Draft,
were forced to meticulously navigate the rules of spacing and format
within Microsoft Word or - heaven forbid - a typewriter.
Although Final Draft arguably has the stronghold on the market,
competitors such as DramaticaPro and arch nemesis Movie Magic Screenwriter
threaten Madnick and his product.
When asked about Movie Magic, he simply evokes a verbal shoulder
shrug, "I don't consider them competition."
The Dramatica line, however, does not get off as easily. Madnick
said he doesn't really like the software because one becomes a writer
"by one, writing; and two, by taking classes." Screenwriting
is a craft, and a computer program cannot teach you how to be a
writer. It would appear that perhaps this mysterious voice in the
phone is not a computer nerd.
A self-professed opponent of computers and all things technology,
Final Draft was the product of Madnick's own frustration with the
tools available to him as a writer.
"I'm anal retentive," he said, explaining that screenwriting
with such limited resources made the process much more difficult.
Madnick was always so entangled with the format that it distracted
from the content of his scripts. One mentor, a handful of business
kids and absolutely no investors later, Madnick unveiled Final Draft
to the public in 1991.
"We are a small business with a big presence in Hollywood,"
he said. Despite the presence of the teal and white box on nearly
any office supply shelf or college bookstore, Final Draft the company
is rather small with a staff of around 30 employees and a modest
Los Angeles office. "Go to Oklahoma and people are not sure
who we are."
With 15 years in the history books, Final Draft now finds itself
paired up with other sponsors to host the Screenwriters Showcase,
just one of the many ways in which Final Draft is trying to foster
new talent. Madnick's company also hosts the "Final Draft Big Break" screenwriting competition, helping to link promising
young screenwriters up with agents and Hollywood contacts. "We
are not just a software company," he said. "I really like
what we are trying to do."
Madnick and his Final Draft creation are surprisingly uncomplicated.
It's a Hollywood success story that did not include triple mortgages,
repeat failure or loss of a vital organ. The voice through the phone
(reminiscent of "Charlie's Angels") does not belong to
a scheming eccentric attempting to dominate the Hollywood scene.
On the contrary, the voice belongs to an everyday man who just wanted
"Writing that 'Final Draft'" is the first in a two-part
series on the Scriptwriter's Showcase. The series concludes Wednesday,