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Write On

Archive for March, 2014

Interview: Joe Mefford on Final Draft 9, April 2 Training Session

final-draft-9-box-writers-store_mediumOn Wednesday, April 2, the Writers Guild of America, East  will hold a training session for the recently released Final Draft 9 with Joe Mefford, Final Draft’s Vice President of Ecommerce. At the training, Joe will be demonstrating the all-new Final Draft 9 for Mac and Windows along with the Final Draft Writer for iPad and the Final Draft Reader for iPhone.

Members can RSVP to the April 2 training session here.

The WGAE Write On Blog spoke with Final Draft’s Vice Presidnet of Ecommerce, Joe Mefford, about Final Draft Version 9 and what members can expect to learn at our upcoming training session.

Why would someone who already has, and is happy with, Final Draft want to upgrade to Final Draft Version 9? Can you tell us what’s been updated and what’s new in it?

There are three reasons why someone should upgrade to Final Draft 9.

First, we have a whole new suite of Navigator tools – ScriptNotes, Scene, and Character – that make it easy to outline and develop a script at anytime in the writing process.

Second, FD 9 has been upgraded to work natively with the latest versions of Windows and Mac OS.

Third, new production tools such as color coding pages and revision tools have been updated to make Final Draft easier to use on location.

Let’s say I’m new to screenwriting and don’t quite know all the lingo, would you recommend I use FDV9 and what would be the best way to learn how to put together a professional script?

A vast majority of our users are new to screenwriting and we always design Final Draft with the new screenwriter in mind. Having said that, a beginning screenwriter should seek out all the free and inexpensive resources to learn how to write and format a screenplay. These include the book The Screenwriter’s Bible, online classes, and many online blogs and resources.

What can people expect to walk away with learning if they attend the Final Draft Version 9 Training on April 2nd?

People should walk away with an understanding of how to really use the more advanced writing features in Final Draft 9 such as the Navigator tools and some of the newer outlining features.  We’ll also spend some time examining the iOs apps such as the Reader and the Writer.

Can you tell me a simple trick that can enhance users experiences on Final Draft that most people don’t seem to know about?

A simple trick that many people don’t use is the Split Panel option. We’ll examine this in the workshop.

Are there plans for Final Draft to incorporate cloud computing features, online collaboration, or the ability to sync with mobile device?

Yes. We are looking at ways to incorporate with Dropbox and other cloud solutions. We are also looking at allowing users to run Final Draft from the cloud. That is in the future.

If you could personally could write a scene for any fictional television or film character throughout history, who would it be?

I would like to write for the characters in the No Texting announcements and I would insist that anyone texting in a movie is immediately vaporized.

(WATCH) Jeff Baron on screenwriters writing books and plays

On March 11th, Writers Guild of America, East held a talk with Jeff Baron about screenwriters branching out into writing plays and books.

Jeff has had four original screenplays  optioned by major Hollywood studios and his TV credits include “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “Sisters, Almost Grown (David Chase),” “A Year in the Life” and multiple projects for Nickelodeon.

His play “Visiting Mr. Green” is one of the most produced plays in the past 15 years, with over 500 productions in 42 countries, and his plays “When I Was Five,” “Mothers Day” and “Mr. & Mrs. God” have international lives as well.

His first novel “I Represent Sean Rosen” was published by HarperCollins last March, and is now in its second printing. His follow-up novel “Sean Rosen Is Not for Sale” will be published in March 2014.

Using examples from his work, Jeff apoke about the differences among the forms in terms of the role of the writer, the ownership of the project, the craft, the collaborative process, the contract and ownership of one’s work, how to get your work seen, and how and how much writers are paid.

Here are two video highlights from the talk:

Jeff Baron Discusses Branching Out Into Theater

Jeff Baron Discusses Branching Out Into Books

A look at the new Low Budget Agreement

By Jeremy Pikser, Vice President, Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE)

Newsflash: it’s hard and getting harder for most writers to work in films.

I won’t bore you with the reasons. You know them all. If you’re like me you fall to sleep (or fail to fall asleep) many nights listing them in your head.

The last thing anyone needs or wants is Guild rules to make it even harder.  And as financing and technology have made lower and lower budgets both possible and necessary that has increasingly seemed to be the case.

The Minimum Basic Agreement, that thing that gives us our most basic protections regarding minimum payments, health and pension benefits, residuals, everything that makes a middle class life for professional screenwriters a possibility was designed to work in the context of the studio system.

Truly independent films and truly low budget films have never worked very well with the rules and requirements the Guild has managed to negotiate with the studios.

For many of us this has been a drag; a sad fact that has made making a living and writing what we want to write often at odds.

Several years ago the Guild pioneered a new “Low Budget Agreement” that made it much easier for producers to make lower budget films from scripts by guild writers, with initial compensation deferred and lower minimums. But it was only for sales of scripts written on spec.

Now. the new Low Budget Agreement makes it possible for independent, low budget films, to HIRE a writer to work, which, unlike the sales agreement, includes health and pension contributions. But more than that (and that’s a lot) it allows for much more freedom for writers.


On more than a couple of occasions, I’ve been approached by producers with a book or an idea that really appeals to me, one that I would love to write. But it’s obviously going to be a small, independent production by the very nature of the material. And there’s no way the budget can sustain the 85k or so required for a guild screenplay. You can’t really write it on spec—it’s not an original idea, the producer has to have some stake it in. Not legally, under guild rules, anyway. And how many of us have been put in the position of being forced into this kind of agreement where you work for nothing on script you don’t even own. Sucks, right?

Now, under the new Low Budget Agreement, a low budget, work for hire deal becomes possible.

The Guild’s new Low Budget Agreement includes:

  • Lower budget breaks, including reduced minimums for projects under $200k.
  • Opportunities for writers to receive health and pension contributions for their work on low budget films (unavailable under the previous low budget agreement).
  • Option of work for hire or screenplay purchase contract.
  • Option of upfront or deferred payments.
  • Residuals and creative rights as established in the Guild’s Major Basic Agreement.

These new contract provisions are open to anyone working on a Guild covered, low budget project. Moreover, writers who live east of the Mississippi River and are not yet members of the WGAE can join the Guild on any project covered under the new Low Budget Agreement.

We at the WGAE don’t want to be in a different creative universe from the fantastic independent film community in NY and throughout the east. We have been and continue to find flexible, realistic ways to to work together making sure that filmmakers working at all levels of production have basic rights and protections.

Likewise, producers who want to work with WGA writers should not find the cost of doing so prohibitive for a small production. Writers, directors, producers of small budget, mini-budget, hell, even micro-budget films, the WGA wants to work with you to make Guild coverage work wherever possible.

For more information on using the Guild’s Low Budget Agreement please contact Ursula Lawrence at or 212-767-7836.

Win Tickets to the 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference

TSCTo enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference, tweet at @WGAEast with the number of years of protection writers get when they submit a script to WGAE Script Registration.

Don’t tweet? Don’t worry! Simply email your answer to with the subject “Toronto Screenwriting Conference Contest” for a chance to win.

The deadline to enter is Monday March 17, 2014, at 4pm ET. A winner will be notified on March 18th.

The 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference (TSC) is a two-day weekend event taking place on April 5-6, 2014, which gathers together the best creative talent, authors and speakers in writing for film, television and media in Canada and the United States. The TSC offers screen-based industry professionals an advanced level of education and skills development unparalleled by any other screenwriting event on the continent. Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) and David Webb Peoples (12 Monkeys, Unforgiven, Bladerunner) have already been announced as speakers for this years’ conference.

Visit the TSC website for more details:

CONTEST: One randomly selected winner will each get TWO (2) tickets to attend the 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference. The winner must be a WGAE member. The winner and their guest are responsible for all additional expenses, including hotel and travel.

Video Highlights From WGAE’s Panel On Portraying Obamacare in TV & Film

Hollywood, Health & Society collaborated with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), in presenting “The Affordable Care Act: Comedy, Drama & Reality,” a panel on portraying Obamacare in TV and film, at the WGAE headquarters in New York.

Panel members were Julie Green Bataille, director of the Office of Communications, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS); Wendell Potter, former head of communications for the giant health insurance company CIGNA and author of Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans; and Trudy Lieberman, a veteran journalist who has written extensively about health and health-care coverage.

Marty Kaplan, director of The Norman Lear Center, and Michael Winship, president of the WGAE, served as co-moderators.

Hollywood, Health & Society is a program of the USC Annenberg Lear Center that connects TV writers/producers and filmmakers with health and climate change experts on questions dealing with storylines in scripts. HH&S’ resources and services are free.

Here are some video highlights from the event:

Julie Green Bataille, director of the Office of Communications for the CMS, discusses the importance of getting the right information to people about the Affordable Care Act.

Wendell Potter and Trudy Lieberman discuss the use of language in promoting and disparage the Affordable Care Act.

Wendell Potter discusses why he left CIGNA to become an outspoken critic of the health insurance industry.

Journalist Trudy Lieberman talks about widespread hunger among the elderly in America.

The Importance Social Media and Cloud Computing to Screenwriters

Justin SamuelsBy Justin Samuels

Hollywood four decades ago was a very different place.  How a screenwriter worked was also very different.  In those days scripts were typed up on typewriters.  It was a painstaking process, scripts went through their multiple drafts and then had to be typed up to checked for errors.  There was no backspace or delete in those days.

A simple flood or fire could destroy your spec scripts.  Making copies of scripts was comparatively expensive.  As was postage.  To make or expand on connections in the film industry, you had to be on the ground in Los Angeles itself.  Even to get a call, you had to be near a landline phone.  Or otherwise you’d miss the call.  But today’s there’s a whole new way of doing things.  Laptops and other computing devices, along with internet service make it possible to store screenplays digitally and safely.  One can e-mail a screenplay to others in the industry from anywhere in the world.  And various forms of social media make it extremely easy to stay in touch.

As for as writing screenplays, the typewriter became obsolete awhile ago.  As computers became standard, Final Draft became the standard way of writing screenplays on a pc.  It certainly saved screenwriters on paper costs and made revising and editing scripts much easier.  And one was able to e-mail files in either fdr or pdf format to others in the industry.  Purchasing final draft was expensive, and your copies of the script were stored on your pc.  Should your pc be damaged you were out of look.  And Final Draft was only available in for Windows and Mac machines.  Still, it was a big improvement.   But technology has far surpassed the Final Draft era.  Celtx, an open source program, was created to have Windows, Max, and Linux versions.  It was an open source program, and free.  Celtx eventually offered a cloud service program allowing one to write screenplays from any browser on any device, whether Android, Iphone, Ipad, Linux, ChromeOs, Windows, or whatever else might be out there.  It’s free, but to get full functionality one must pay $50 a year.  Still, anything typed in your browser is automatically saved in Celtx’s cloud, provided that your computer is online.  The downloadable version of Celtx can be used for offline service (as back up should your connection go temporarily down).  It saved screenwriters from having to worry about what happens to scripts should a computer get damaged.  And as Gmail, Yahoo!, and Outlook all have many gigabytes of storage, one can use one’s web based e-mail as additional storage/back up.

In terms of getting read and staying in touch, the internet offers many options.  Screenwriter Kraig Wenmen broke into the industry by submitting to Inktip.  E-mail queries certainly save writers on postage.  While going to industry events in Los Angeles and New York are still extremely important, today one doesn’t have to hold on to cards or just lock contacts away into a rolodex that is rarely used.

New contacts in the film industry can be friended on Facebook or added on twitter.  Frequently using social media is essential to writers and other artists.  Via social media one can notify others en masse of new projects that you’re undertaking or looking for.  Also, if you regularly chat with friends in the industry on social media, you make it much more likely that they’ll want to work with you and vice versa.

And as many of us have residences and lives outside of LA and NYC, social media enables us to keep in touch with what’s on the ground in the business while we’re doing things outside of Los Angeles or New York.  Also, internet records are permanent.  A quick google on an artist will show work that the artist is done.  This creates a free resume of sort for the artists.  Prolific writers can use this to build up a name for themselves as writers.   It’s also a good way to let a writer’s fans keep in touch with what the writer is doing in between film projects or book projects.  The fact the internet allows a screenwriter to create and manage their own buzz is a huge plus.

The more of a presence one has online, the greater interest is generated in one’s work from producers, agents, and editors (depending on what type of writing the writer does).

Overall, new forms of technology have made it much easier to find ways around traditional barriers in the industry.  As technology continues to evolve, the industry and a screenwriters job will change with it.