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Final Draft, 7.1 and Syd Fields Screenwriting workshop CD Programs

Both programs on CD-Rom and available from Final Draft, Inc., 26707 W. Agoura Rd., Suite 205, Building B, 2nd floor, Calabasas, CA 91302; Tel: 818-995-8995 or 800-231-4055; www.finaldraft.com (Age 16 and up)

Student/Faculty Price: $169 for Final Draft 7.1; Syd Fields’ Screenwriting workshop, $29.

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In the homeschooling world, it is common knowledge that many of us strive to teach subjects by making some practical application or other beyond simply using book learning. For instance, we might teach math by having our children balance a checkbook or help with the grocery shopping. Homeschoolers excel at finding novel ways to supplement merely book-based learning. So, my premise for discussing these two fine products will not surprise some of you experienced, eclectic homeschoolers: Teach creative writing through the medium of screenwriting! Yes, through screenwriting, for either film or television. These two media touch nearly everyone’s life. Even those families that do not watch television per se usually have a T.V. screen and a video or CD player for watching movies and educational CDs. Even the most academic of educational CDs has a written script to follow and someone trained in such a form must produce it. So, these two closely-related forms of writing are actually "familiar" to virtually every family with electricity!

Though not specifically intended for youthful students, if your 16 year-old is mature enough to be taking college classes, the actual writing CD, Syd Fields’ Screenwriting Workshop, should be acceptable. A 25-year veteran teacher of screenwriting, Mr. Fields (also a veteran actor and screenwriter himself) only taught his legendary writing workshops in person, to a limit of 12 students per class, a few times per year in the Los Angeles area. Now, through Final Draft, Inc., his one-of-a-kind course is available on video/CD to be viewed and re-viewed in your own home -- no matter how far from Hollywood you might be!

Mr. Fields says that "Screenwriting is a craft that sometimes rises to the level of art." The craft of writing, in all of its forms, is a mystery that is explored by nearly everyone sooner or later (especially since the new SAT exam requires more writing than before!). Even for natural-born writers, the task of placing thoughts on paper -- or computer screen -- can be very daunting. Writing is not simply a matter of being able to speak one’s native language... we are not all born writers. But we all can learn how to follow the steps to think like writers. If your teenage son or daughter does not ever wish to pursue earning a living by crafting scripts, learning Mr. Fields’ techniques that apply to such writing will carry over into other types of organization of one’s thoughts. Using his workshop CD is a very enjoyable way to accomplish such a task!

Since a movie script is much less "dense" than other literary forms, it is easier to focus on the required tasks in small "bites" of information. Syd Fields walks the student through a short, preliminary explanation of the differences between screenplays and other forms of creative writing. Then he discusses and explains his step-by-step process to achieve each of the important points of taking a raw idea and creating a completed script for submission to Hollywood studios. Assignments are given to the student along the way, each of which is clear and easy to understand. After about four of the assignments, the mystery of screenplay writing is being solved and one sees that by following the Fields’ technique, the story almost "writes itself" into a script. . . but not quite.

This brings us to the other CD being reviewed -- that of Final Draft itself. This script word-processing-formatting program is the number one choice of professional screenwriters throughout all phases of the industries of film and television. It has many features that pro writers have to use in submitting their scripts to Hollywood studios for consideration, including many interface functions with very sophisticated professional studio software programs that aid in budgeting, prop planning, location choice, and many other esoteric functions involved in creating the massive creative work that is a modern motion picture.

But you do not have to concern yourselves with these more unique features. Your student merely has to learn to use the beautifully-designed professional formatting tools of Final Draft version 7.1. Industry professionals advise that if a prospective screenwriter submits a piece that is not in the industry-accepted format, they will not even take the time to read it. In the professional world of writing -- all writing -- the person who needs to read your piece has his/her time and attention at a premium. These professional readers cannot afford to struggle through an improperly formatted work, whether it be for the film industry or a literary submission.

Final Draft takes all of the guesswork out of formatting for motion picture and television scripts. The program includes several different formats to use, depending upon your target use -- BBC, sitcom, T.V. drama, motion picture, etc. Final Draft provides the specific formatting for such script variables as "Setting," "Characters," "Action directions," "Voice Overs," "Split Screens," etc. All you have to do is acclimate yourself to the simple commands -- mostly "Tab" and "Return" -- and let the Tutorial guide you through these variables until, after a few hours, they become second nature.

If your child is an older teen and needs an exciting, unusual way to develop writing/thinking skills, Syd Fields’ Screenwriting Workshop and Final Draft 7.1 might be just what you need to capture his/her attention. Who knows, as a result of your farsightedness, maybe he or she will sell a script for a million dollars! Please visit finaldraft.com for a wealth of information about screenwriting and other products. MJL