Just Add Words
SCRIPTED: Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody among fans of Calabasas firm's creative software
CALABASAS - At Final Draft Inc., the company motto is "Just add words."
Diablo Cody did - going on to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the movie "Juno."
Of course, writing a screenplay is more than just a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. But getting the format right is important.
Cody initially bought a finished script at a bookstore to serve as a guide. But her agent intervened, suggesting that she buy the script-writing software developed by Final Draft - titled, appropriately, Final Draft.
"I said, `This had better be worth it.' I had no money. I'm really glad I bought it," she told Variety columnist Anne Thompson.
Marc Madnick, founder, president and CEO of the Calabasas-based Final Draft company, has heard lots of stories like Cody's. Dozens of screenwriters have penned testimonials about the software on movie posters that adorn the company's walls.
A Philadelphia native who resembles Bruce Springsteen, Madnick came to Los Angeles to get into the entertainment business.
Marc Madnick, Final Draft founder and CEO, displays copies of his software
and posters signed by screenwriters who have used it.
He did some production work before teaming up with friend Ben Cahan to found Final Draft in 1991. Madnick handled sales, while Cahan developed the software platform.
"I knew I wasn't alone. I knew that everybody in America has someone in the family who had a Hollywood dream. People would sit and watch sitcoms and say, `I could do that,"' he said.
Final Draft now sells six software products - which work on both PCs and MACs - and also owns Script magazine.
The Final Draft software has templates for movie scripts, television shows and stageplays. The version titled Final Draft AV is designed for the writers of commercials, corporate and training videos, documentaries and presentations.
Final Draft's ranks have swelled over the years to 40 employees, including Eddie Rehfeldt, the chief marketing officer, a former Microsoft executive who commutes each week from Seattle.
"It's a great atmosphere," he said. "That's part of the allure of the job. It's work hard, play hard."
Jesse Douma, owner of the Writers Store in Santa Monica, said the Final Draft brand is the most popular of the 20 or so scriptwriting products on the market.
"Not only in brand but in recognition. They are the top-selling software and easily dominate the market," Douma said. "It's a great program, it's very easy-to-use, and they always provided top-notch customer service."
Madnick's software is not confined to the computers of would-be screenwriters. It also has been approved by the California Learning Resource Network as a curriculum tool in teaching digital storytelling.
The company recently donated 100 copies of Final Draft to Camino Nuevo Charter High School in Los Angeles.
"It's very exciting," said Assistant Principal Nicole Temple. "We're really trying to provide students with access to technology. Students use technology to make films, so it was a natural fit to have a program that helps students write films, too."
Camino Nuevo senior Edwin Cordero, who is working on a screenplay about the devastating effects of global warming, is a huge fan of Final Draft.
"The software is easy to write with and understand. It's a lot easier than other software I've used," he said.
The partnership with the school is part of Final Draft's Global Voices Initiative, designed to advance literacy and bring people together through storytelling, Madnick said.
"It's basically to connect with organizations and projects working to better their communities by empowering and challenging individuals to advance their ... skills and improve their quality of life."
Final Draft also sponsors an annual screenwriting contest called The Big Break.
This year, Final Draft partnered with CineStory, a nonprofit organization that enables budding screenwriters to work with industry professionals on improving their skills. Winners of the contest, which ends June 15, will participate in CineStory's annual retreat in Idyllwild, Calif.
Although Madnick didn't fulfill his original dream of a show business career, he's found a career that's just as rewarding.
"I find running a small business is as creative as ... writing a movie," he said.