How to Convert a Screenplay Between Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter

Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter are the heavy hitters of screenplay formatting software. Each has major league screenwriters and production companies that swear by it. And they rather infamously refuse to save to each others native formats. Sooner or later you'll have to convert a script from one program to the other in order to send it to someone else. It's a tedious bit of work, and it shouldn't be, but it can be done.

Try a Copy and Paste. IF you have BOTH applications, AND you're going from Final Draft to Movie Magic, you're in luck. You can simply select the entire script in Final Draft, copy it, and paste it directly into a blank Movie Magic script. Movie Magic will give you its standard text import dialog box. The default values are to import the text as a script and to use its "most aggressive interpretation of the source text." Go ahead and hit OK. Movie Magic's aggressive interpretation is usually very good. You'll have to double check it, of course, but you shouldn't find too many mistakes, if any.

Unfortunately, if you're going to Final Draft, this won't work. If you paste text into Final Draft, the program simply applies the currently selected element formatting to the entire thing. If you've just opened up Final Draft to try this, it will be set up for Scene Heading, and so it will treat the entire pasted script as a long (very long) sequence of Scene Headings. Not good.

Export to .rtf. If copying and pasting isn't an option, you're going to have to export your script into another file format. Under "Save As..." both applications will give you a lengthy list of possible formats. But ignore them. Most of these are legacy formats that have probably just been picked up from previous versions of the programs dating back to the early '90s and they're no use to you. Final Draft will even offer you what it claims is a Movie Magic format called .sex. (Really?) Don't bother. Movie Magic has no idea what to do with a .sex file if it ever did. The best bridge between the two is a simple .rtf file. Go ahead and export your script as .rtf.

Make a .pdf for reference. If you're sending your script to someone else, save a .pdf version and send it along. Or, if you're receiving a script from someone else, ask them to do this and send it along with the .rtf. Both Final Draft and Movie Magic can save in .pdf format. Even though it won't be editable on the other end, this will give the person importing the .rtf file a picture of what the original script looked like in the original application. This can easily save your life later on.

Import the .rtf version into your application. (From here on, we'll assume you're receiving someone else's script and trying to convert it to your software.) You'lI need to select .rft as the file type in the File Open dialog in order to see it, but you should be used to this. In Movie Magic you'll get the same text import dialog box we mentioned in Step 1. Again, just click OK. Final Draft will give you a simpler dialog box that just asks if you want to import the file as Script or Text. Click Script.

Double check the program's interpretation. Go through the script quickly and make sure the element types have translated correctly. In other words be sure the character names are still formatted as character names, that dialog still looks like dialog, etc. Fortunately, it's unlikely you'll find too many problems here as both applications are pretty good at recognizing existing formatting. If the original script did something tricky with shots inside a scene, though, it's still possible to confuse the program. So you should still check it.

Check the pagination. Open the .pdf file you requested from the sender, and you'll see why you wanted it. The page breaks are probably very different between it and the version you just imported. One is likely to be several pages longer than the other. Nothing is more irritating than spending ten confused minutes on the phone before realizing that one person is working from a script that's 102 pages long while the other person's is 114 pages long. This may not make any difference, but it probably does. So your final task is to adjust the breaks on the editable script so they match the .pdf as closely as possible.

Adjust the top margin. This is probably the biggest single factor in throwing off pagination. By "top margin," Final Draft and Movie Magic mean entirely different things. In Final Draft, the top margin is the distance from the top edge of the paper to the top (not the baseline, the top) of the first line of actual script. It will then put the header with the page numbering roughly in the middle of that space. But Movie Magic means the distance from the edge of the paper to the top of the header. It will then place the first line a half inch or so under that.

You'll need to adjust your top margin to match whatever the original script did. Both programs let you do this under "Page Layout..." In Movie Magic, "Page Layout..." is under the "File" menu. In Final Draft, it's under the "Document" menu. The trick is figuring out how to change it. If you're in Movie Magic, remember you're setting the distance to the header, not the copy. A value of .6 is generally a good match for Final Draft's one inch default. It may be trickier if you're in Final Draft. Movie Magic defaults to a top margin (to the page number) of only a tenth of an inch and it looks weird, so most users change it. The quickest way to find the right value is just to print a page from the .pdf and measure from the edge to the top of the first script line. Then you can just enter that value directly into Final Draft.

Check the element formatting. If there are still some weird page breaks you can't match up, you'll need to check the formatting for specific elements. Both programs let you customize pretty much everything, which is a two-edged sword. In Movie Magic, you want "Edit Script Formats..." under the "Format" Menu. In Final Draft, you want "Elements..." also under the "Format" Menu.

One of the first things to check is the lines the script includes after a Scene Heading. Final Draft defaults to two lines, and changing this to one line will often fix most of your remaining problems.

Cite this Article