Final Draft makes you do your title page wrong!

***[A YEAR AFTER POSTING THIS, A READER POINTED OUT THAT I WAS MISTAKEN. I CHECKED MY SCRIPT COLLECTION. YEP. HALF THE OLD SCRIPTS I OWN, THE TITLES ARE UNDERLINED. AND, AS HE ALSO POINTED OUT, IF THE STORY'S GREAT, NOBODY CARES ABOUT FORMAT ANYWAY.]***

I have spoken to my friends at Final Draft and they were unaware that the program did this. It does. It causes you to make three mistakes on your title page.

1.) MOVIE TITLES ARE IN CAPS. They are not underlined. Underlining was what your fifth grade teacher told you to do (if you’re my age) because underlining (long, long ago) told the typesetter that this stuff was meant to be in italics. Book Titles are italicized. MOVIE TITLES are in caps. Do not underline the title on your title page. My Final Draft friend said, “But titles are supposed to be underlined.” I said, “Get an old screenplay. Get Chinatown.” He did. To his surprise, hey, I was right. Just CAPS.

2.) “written by” should not have an capital W. For some reason they think it should. It shouldn’t. And it’s really hard to change in the Final Draft title page. You have to write “Wwritten by” and then erase the capital W to get “written by”. Then it’s right.

3.) Your contact information goes in the lower right corner, not lower left. If the script has brads, it’s very hard to read anything that far over to the left. My friend said, “They can put it in the lower right if they want to.” I said, “You’re the screenwriting program. They’re going to do whatever you tell them. And you tell them to put it in the lower left.”

Whoopsie! Wrong.

Final Draft title page

Naturally, no one on the planet Earth had mentioned this to them besides me.
So, do what I say.
Not what they tell you to do.

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26 Comments

Filed under Details, Screenwriting, Writing Process

26 responses to “Final Draft makes you do your title page wrong!

  1. Melody Lopez

    Movie Magic Does it right then. Was gonna buy Final Draft for my Imac…but now I’ll stick to my stand alone copy of Movie Magic on my laptop!

  2. Ian

    I’m really surprised to read that considering so many people use Final Draft. I actually use Celtix because it was free and it does the title page right.

  3. I’m just flamboozled and disgruntled over the chicken-pecking mentality of all this in the first place. one paid screenwriter tells me to underline it and another paid writer tells me this, and frankly, who gives a shit one way or the other about little details concerning a title page. can you read the title? that should be good enough for a piece of paper only used to sell an idea. and there is so much verbiage about extraneous crap, well, then why the ‘written by’. of course it is written by so and so. what else is could it be? why the’ written by’…

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      “written by” is a technical phrase that is recognized by the Writers Guild — it means “I made this whole thing up myself.” “screenplay by” means “I based it on something else.” If you have “written by” credit instead of “story by” you get more money if the checks ever start rolling in. That’s why it matters.

      Picky details are picky, but picky for a reason. If there is a recognized way of doing things and you are not doing it that way, enough times, people will notice and begin to think you may not know what you’re doing.

      That said, if you make formate mistakes, etc., and the story is fantastic and the dialogue is killer and the characters make you cry or laugh, no one will care much. Unless they stopped reading because you got the format wrong and it scared them.

  4. blah, blah, blah. the more i read on how to properly format a script, the less i know. hollywood needs to have a meeting and make every single detail official and writ in stone, then so much time could be saved by millions who are never going to see a dime or dollar in the first place, except if they write a book on how to write a script. maybe that is the deal with all these rules, if the rules were codified, there would be only one way, and then, no need for so many damned books. then we could all just read your script sucks and not worry about all the other dross out there.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      There just happens to be a book, conveniently published by my publisher, The Hollywood Standard. Written by Christopher Riley. Very well done. Answers format questions I didn’t know existed.

  5. I wondered a lot about this since switching from Celtx but didn’t query “because it’s Final Draft, the industry standard”. They really should email their users a software update to correct it.

  6. L

    I use the Final Draft defaults. It’s never stopped me from getting a script optioned or produced.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I would hope not. Since no one but me (at least that’s how I feel) has ever noticed that it’s wrong, this stuff hardly matters. It’s just incorrect form, and, given the choice between correct and not, I’d rather go with what’s correct. Though, in this new era of no-hard-copies, where scripts are being read on iPads, putting the address in the lower left corner doesn’t matter at all. Congratulations on getting your scripts optioned and produced!

  7. Mark Maddson

    Hmmm, this is probably why I ditched Final Draft years ago. Flakey with a capital “F.” I’ve use Montage and though not perfect, it is less flakey.

    https://www.marinersoftware.com/products/montageapp/

    Mark

  8. Steve

    I’m new to FD and regret it. The program is a memory hog. After 40 pages, everything slows down, and I have a good computer that does not slow down for anything else. Their tech support is archaic.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I’ve never had a slow down problem with FD. That may be just me. If it slows down, and you’re writing fast, it’d be awfully frustrating. Back in the Word Perfect days, I could not use Word because I typed faster than it could handle and it would choke. It was horrible. Of course, before Word Perfect, was the IBM typewriter. It NEVER slowed down. Those were the days. Check out Write Brothers Scriptwriter. I think that’s the name. It may be better.

  9. GR

    The following comment should be prefaced: I’m on this site because I recommend your book to people all the time, along with the Denny Martin Flinn one. I find that books of the “WHAT NOT TO DO” ilk are more helpful.
    I’ve had unnecessary arguments with other screenwriting types (people) who love to chide others regarding formatting techniques, only to discover later this is all they’re good at: formatting. Truth is, beyond the industry-standard formatting of margins and type (Scene Heading, Action, etc), the rest depends on the type of story; the writer’s voice can come to the fore via use of say, how a montage is laid out on the page; it only becomes an albatross if the story leaves the rails. I’ve read so many different working writers’ approaches that I just don’t think the niggling ones matter, as long as the reader can follow, is excited by, the tale.
    As for this whole Title Page nitpicking, I decided to open several SCANNED versions of professionally-produced scripts, meaning not a re-typed script — a honest-to-goodness old-school scanned image of the original script.
    Almost ALL had their titles in CAP and UNDERLINED. Well known writers. Tony Gilroy. Kurt Leudtke, Steve Zaillian, Brian Helgeland, the Nolans, Darabont, Melissa Mathison, Jeff Nathanson, etc.
    If Steven Spielberg and Sydney Pollack and Ridley Scott can deal with your title page being CAPPED and UNDERLINED, I’m sure the rest of the industry isn’t sweating this.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Many thanks for coming to visit, and especially for recommending the book. Much appreciated. Yeah, the title page thing is nitpicky. And you’re totally right, little dinky stuff like a title that’s underlined or not makes no real difference. My guess, though, is that Final Draft underlines it for you, so people go with that. Look at old screenplays and see what you find. CHINATOWN, for instance. Hold on. Let me go back to my store room.

      Sounds of chair scooting back. Footsteps on carpet. Door opening. Grumbling.

      Waiting.

      Footsteps coming back. More grumbling.

      Hell, half of them didn’t have title pages! REDS, TENDER MERCIES. A bunch more.

      Half of the scripts with title pages, were underlined. Much to my surprise and chagrin. ORSON WELLES #4 was underlined. UNTITLED by James L. Brooks (BROADCAST NEWS) was underlined. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, RAMBLING ROSE, RICH AND FAMOUS, were not. COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, MEN DON’T LEAVE, and HARD TIMES are underlined. Surprise surprise surprise. THE GRIFTERS is not.

      So, I’m, at best, half right. Interesting. Must do more research before pontificating!

      And now you know how long ago I started writing, as those are the scripts I started with.

      And, no kidding, typos and teeny little format junk matter not if the story is hauling the reader right along. That’s the ONLY thing that matters.

  10. christopher phillips

    Great post, but looking at my collection of scripts, everyone is doing something different. Some are underlined. Some say “by”, not “written by”, some say “screenplay by”. Some have the contact to the lower left, some to the right. I guess everyone is at the mercy of editing software misbehavior.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I went through my collection of scripts. Some TITLES are underlined. Some are not. I don’t. “written by” generally means a story that you created yourself… “screenplay by” may mean the script is based on something else… contact info goes on the lower right. When scripts are printed with brads holding the pages together, you can’t read the contact info when it’s lower left.

  11. Nancy

    Thank-you for the article. I was getting so frustrated with Final Draft capitalizing things I didn’t want capitalized on the Title Page and elsewhere! I just want to smack Final Draft at times….

    I have learned that preferences and approaches to writing for the screen change over time as well. That’s something that I noticed wasn’t mentioned yet. There are techniques that I learned twenty years ago that have just fallen by the wayside and are no longer used. People even get into heated debates over the use of MORES and CONTINUEDS. Some might argue that character continueds are redundant while others say “it’s the standard”. It’s crazy how we sweat the small stuff! I understand the importance of presenting professionally but there does seem to be more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to the minor details and nobody seems to get terribly upset when you opt for one instead of the other.

    For example, with title pages…I have two scripts from two different T.V. series that are currently in production (2013). Both are popular series that have been around for several years. They both have contact details on the LEFT side of the page that are well clear of the brads. They are production scripts so they both have images for the titles and the right lower side of the page is where the script revisions are listed for one. The other has script revisions listed in the middle of the page directly under the name of the author! One script has a copyright smack in the middle of the page at the very bottom – I’ve never seen that before. The other one has no copyright listed. They both have “Written by” with a capital “W”. One has a production company’s logo in the lower right and the production company’s contact information in the UPPER left – again something I’ve never seen. This makes me wonder if everybody just takes a “Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” approach to title pages these days. Just get the information on there in any way you possibly can! :) We were more rigid with formatting twenty years ago. The rules seem to be a little more relaxed now.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Nancy! Thank you for your articulate comment. Yay. The rules seem a little more relaxed now. But, the story inside had still better knock them out of their chair. If the story is great and it’s got typos, what, they’re not going to buy it? I’m a typo freak because I have met producers who are too. And the title page is the first place you get to give them the frighteners…

      • Nancy

        I absolutely agree on typos. They are completely unprofessional in my opinion. I ended up on your page because I sweat the small stuff as well! I was trying to figure out how to get the damned “W” in “Written by” to not be capitalized in the Final Draft title page! That’s why I’m here! :) I know that most people would consider that to be small potatoes. I still think it’s important. I guess I can’t help but cling to the old lessons.
        Sadly, I think that Final Draft is changing the way we do title pages. I’m willing to bet that those two title pages that I described above were done in Final Draft. They just couldn’t figure out how to make the “W” a “w” among other things!

      • yourscreenplaysucks

        To get the W out of Written by…

        write it like this

        Wwritten by

        Then erase the Big W*

        *just like in IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD!!

      • Nancy

        I did, indeed, try your trick and it works like a charm :)

        Thank-you so much. They should have that trick in the Final Draft tutorials!

      • GR

        Again, if you’re obsessing over these kinds of things, then your mind is occupied with the wrong stuff. Having many friends in either development or executive positions now, I know they see so many scripts that: As long as it looks vaguely like any other professional title page — and they’re all different in the fine particulars — you shouldn’t sweat it. Typos within the script are unacceptable. Bad grammar, unacceptable. All the tenants of proper writing still apply. But as long as your prose flows effortlessly, one image into another, one line of dialogue into another, don’t over-worry about whether your formatting is utterly, perfectly correct. Frankly, spending so much time on this issue signals “follower” to me, rather than “leader”, which a storyteller should be, even on the page. Read a lot more scripts, pay attention to how they play with and evolve format. You’ll be surprised how many professionals change the basic rules for their own use, then once they’ve got their style down, move on to real writing and never look back.
        Darabont loves fully formed, mellifluous sentences. Gilroy loves snatches of images, elliptical impressions that aren’t necessarily film-able (see? the whole “write only what you can see” is bullshit, because a poetic thought here and there can influence the actors/crew with a FEELING), Milius writes bold, beautiful paragraphs (not recommended unless you’re him), Goldman does casual-thought description, Zaillian and Sargent craft serious, detached description, old Walter Hill used to cut out almost all verb usage: There’s no one way. It comes down to talent–knowing how to elucidate with precision and brevity, how to produce original connections between ideas, and how NOT to repeat the same idea twice, whether scriptwide or within a paragraph …but also the ability to move on to the next script.
        And be aware, most professional screenwriters I’ve spoken with in the industry, never went to a seminar or read a book on How to Write a Screenplay. They just read scripts, and followed those examples… the feeling from them being, if you need a lecture and/or a book to tell you how to do it, you’re not ready.

      • yourscreenplaysucks

        Totally true.
        And beautifully put.

        One small caveat, though.
        When an executive picks up a script by Tony Gilroy, she’s probably predisposed to like it.
        When an executive picks up a script by Nolan Haverman, maybe not so much.

        But, yes, make the format guidelines work for you. Be creative. Have fun.
        In the end, none of it matters but the writer’s ability to tell a story.

      • GR

        Yeah I meant to address that, of course you have to be ‘perfect’ to be taken as seriously as Tony Gilroy… just don’t be perfect to the point of calcification.

  12. James S.

    It was standard all the way up to the 1950s to underline the title on the title page. Get All About Eve. And to your surprise, hey, I was right. Not only is it underlined, it’s double underlined. And not only is it double underlined, it’s in quotation marks. Point is, nobody cares what the title looks like, so long as people can read it and it doesn’t take up half the page.

    Also for that matter, nobody cares whether it’s “written by” “Written by” “by” “Screenplay by” “screenplay by”. Nobody cares. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone worth knowing from Hollywood. The same goes with where you put contact information or the draft date.

    There are no rules to formatting. It’s called consistency. As long as you’re consistent with it, nobody will care. Trying to follow all the rules thinking people believe in you and your work is great, is the epitome of naivety and shows a complete lack of confidence because you worry so much whether or not it “looks” right. Let’s hope its worth reading is usually my first reaction.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      “Let’s hope it’s worth reading” is far and away the correct first reaction.

      If the stuff is fantastic, the script can be in Times New Roman (THE SIXTH SENSE). No one will care. However, some things matter. “Written By” or “written by” is not just a convention, it has a different legal meaning than “Screenplay by.” The contact information location is also convention, in that until the past five years, before everything started being emailed as .pdfs, scripts had brads and if you put the info on the left, it wasn’t as easy to see because of the “binding.”

      You are correct that consistent formatting is crucial. How you write a slug line is less important than doing it the same way every time.

      When I talked to the people at the software company, they agreed that they’d got it wrong. Now, when the next version comes out, we’ll see if they changed it… or were just agreeing to make me feel good.

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