I got this question recently:
I use Final Draft to write my scripts. When I read produced screenplays none of them seem to have the same format as my scripts do in Final Draft. I have been told that Final Draft was the standard that all screenwriters use. I have read several of William Goldman’s screenplays and he is not even in the ballpark. What’s the deal?
No need to worry, Final Draft is the industry standard for writing screenplays. If you let Final Draft format your scripts using the default settings you should be fine.
Screenplay formatting isn’t a science. There is no governing body that determines what is “right” and what is “wrong” when it comes to screenplay formatting. So it’s not surprising that you’ve found many produced screenplays where the exact format differs some.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you want your script to be a “quick” and “easy” read. Don’t let the formatting get in the way of reading it. In general Final Draft does a pretty good job formatting screenplays but there is still quite a bit of style that the writer has to use to make his screenplay easily readable. Try to minimize camera angles and camera direction and let the story flow naturally. Try and use as few slug lines as you can get away with as these are hard to constantly read. As long as your script flows easily and the reader can “see” the movie as they read it you should be find.
It’s good that you’re reading lots of scripts because this is the best way to get a feel for different writer’s styles and how a good script can really flow and be read easily.