Yes, we all know the rehearsed phrase by now, “Final Draft is the industry standard!”, an axiom it seems many screenwriters feel obliged to screech at anyone who dares ask what the best piece of software is to turn our day-dreaming into a full fleshed out, Hollywood ready, screenplay. However, as artists always looking to improve our craft, we owe it to ourselves to explore the other options out there.
I’m presenting this as alternatives to Final Draft and dismissing the notion that it’s an essential purchase to aspiring screenwriters but I want to establish the context here. Final Draft is an industry standard, that’s undeniable. You will find it in the writers room. You will find most producers use it. You will find most industry members assume you use it. But the industry standard side of Final Draft only really applies to the file format, the revision work-flow, and the various bits of software related to production that plug-in to it. When it comes to composing a screenplay (i.e just writing), there is no industry standard other than being able to output a correctly formatted pdf. Therefore, you should use what brings out the best in you as a writer just like a painter finding the right brushes or a musician selecting the right instrument. When it comes to collaboration however, you have little choice but to fall in line much like the average office worker needs to know how to use Microsoft Office or a graphic designer needs to be familiar with the Adobe Creative Suite. It’s important we separate composition from collaboration.
So, given that Final Draft itself is designed for composing screenplays and is so commonly used within the industry, why not just roll over and use it by default? Well, beside the hefty $250 price tag for what’s essentially a glorified text editor, it’s arguably a clunky composition tool with an ugly interface that lacks many useful story-writing features. Those that argue it’s the best screenwriting software option out there often do so because they simply haven’t tried the modern alternatives and feel a sense of exclusivity in using the same tools as their heroes. They want you to join the cult so the cult grows stronger. I’ve yet to see a single Final Draft advocate come up with a list of objective reasons why it’s better than the competition.
To be frank, if you aren’t at least having a casual look around at the alternatives to the most critical piece of software you’ll use as a…