Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Enbracing Inclusivity, via Final Draft

Have you ever tried to write a screenplay on a typewriter? I have, and the results weren’t pretty. As anyone who’s ever seen a movie script knows, it relies on an elaborate network of indented sections, with special margins for dialogue passages and for the key indications of time and place informally known as “slug lines.” The rationale is that a completed screenplay can be used by a film‘s cast and crew as a  practical blueprint for what the movie itself should look and sound like. There was a time when movie scripts were indeed tapped out on typewriters, but it requires a master typist to get the basic formatting right. And, of course, a computerized script is extremely helpful when it comes to inputting those tiny changes that filmmaking so often requires.

Which is why most of my screenwriting students use computer software designed to help with the hassles of formatting. The industry leader, year after year, has been Final Draft. It may not be cheap ($249.99, though with many discount options), but Final Draft understands what screenwriters are trying to accomplish. It can’t exactly help you write a good screenplay—that’s largely a matter of your own creative skills—but it can certainly assist you in turning out a screenplay that’s good-looking. And a good-looking script is an absolute necessity when you’re trying to impress the professional readers who quickly reject anything that strikes them as amateurish.

I bring all this up because Final Draft, always trying to serve the needs of the screenwriting community, has just devised a nifty new tool to analyze a screenplay in terms of the extent to which it promotes diversity of gender, race, and ethnicity within its pages. Aware of the growing focus on inclusion within the film industry, Final Draft has now developed—and offered for free with any purchase of Final Draft 11—its so-called Inclusivity Analysis feature. The Inclusivity Analysis allows a writer (or a director or film exec) to easily measure such matters as the number of dialogue lines assigned to women, or to members of the LGBTQ community. If you choose, you can analyze your screenplay in terms of the so-called Bechdel Test, making sure there’s at least one scene in which two women speak about something other than a man. You can see your resulting metrics in an elaborate chart, or by way of some very colorful pie graphs.

Final Draft is not the only software company that provides such a measurement of inclusivity. A recent article in Forbes touts Highland, a competing software program, as both cheaper and easier to use. (It ONLY screens for gender diversity, I'm told.) Final Draft has the advantage of being the industry standard, heavily relied upon throughout Hollywood. It offers great flexibility on what it measures. And it can boast that it was developed in partnership with the respected  Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, founded by the Oscar-winning actress. As Davis told the New York Times, the new tool “will make it easier for readers, writers and creative execs to more easily use a gender and intersectionality lens when evaluating scripts prior to greenlight, casting and production.”

The question is: will there ever come a day when writers are required to submit their scripts to an inclusivity analysis before they receive the all-important green light? No one believes that movie scripts should be cookie-cutter versions of one another. (Well, maybe in the Marvel Universe, cloning last year’s big hit is considered quite the right thing to do.) But I have too much respect for originality to demand that every story pass a standardized test. 

Here's the company promo, along with what the New York Times has to say. Learn more (about discounts, upgrades, etc.) at www.finaldraft.com/contact

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