Denny Schnulo began his writing career at age eleven with the release of his first collection of poems to the kids on the school playground. Believing that first hand reports are always best, he spent his early adult years living and working throughout the world. His writing today is informed by people he met and things they did together. Follow Denny on Twitter: @DennySchnulo
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
A silver anniversary is a big deal anywhere it happens. In the fast evolving, forever changing, what-have-you-done-lately film world it's a true milestone. Maintaining the position of industry standard for twenty five years, Final Draft currently holds an estimated 95% market share, is truly something worth talking about.
Recently I had a spirited conversation with Final Draft's enthusiastic founder and CEO, Marc Madnick, to discuss Final Draft's success, the future and the surprise sale of the company to Cast & Crew Entertainment Services:
Script:Congratulations on twenty five years.
Marc Madnick: Thank you, it's been a great ride.
Script: I'm sure your schedule is packed with events so why don't we get straight to talking about the product.
Madnick: Absolutely, go ahead.
Script: What percentage of Final Draft features does the typical writer use?
Madnick: I don't have a statistic, but it's true, we have a lot, a lot of features that don't get used by everybody. If you're script is not in production, you’re not utilizing a lot of the professional production features we have. Everyone uses the same fifty or so features when writing a script, but there are a hundred or more other features that don't get utilized if you don't go into production.
Script: A lot of major software packages suffer from some sort of work-around that spreads across the user base even when the software is capable of the task. Is there a common work around out there that doesn't need to be worked around?
Madnick: The reason to use Final Draft is to eliminate the need for workarounds. If they don't use Final Draft then they will use some inferior tool to try and make the script look right. I know Microsoft Word would be very difficult to write a script in, always was. That's why we built Final Draft so they don't have to do any work arounds.
Script: Any features that may be faded out?
Madnick:There may be a few features that are no longer unique to Final Draft, like the names database where you could look up names by genre, religion, by background so you could come up with a cute name. You can do that on the Internet now so you really don't need us to do that. But we still have it in there because it's free.
Script: Are there any new features in development you'd like to talk about?
Madnick: The biggest requested feature we are putting in version 10 are a lot more pre-writing activities. There's a lot of outlining and organization features that will soon be a part of version 10, really expanding on our navigator tool.
Obviously we are getting requests all the time from our customers, and we listen to every one of them, and most of the time they are good ideas. So we analyze them to find which ones will be used the most. As developers you take the most requested stuff that’s going to be utilized most often. A lot of people ask if we ever thought about doing this, that, or the other thing and a lot of times we eventually engineer for it.
Script: Who do you consider as your main competitors?
Madnick: It changes every five or ten years, it really does. We don't really have competitors in the professional market. We really believe we have about 95% of all television shows and movies in English speaking countries. I like to say we are concerned about our competition, but we are not consumed by it. We don't wake up every day worrying about it.
We believe, and I believe, if we pay attention to our customers, and we engineer the product for what they want, and we give the service we have always given, then nobody is going to overtake Final Draft. That's why we have been number one, because we've had a commitment to those things. The only competitor we really have is ourselves, only we could do something wrong to us. That's our motto around here, and that's why we have been the leader for twenty five years.
Script: What's the best way for a new user to engage with Final Draft?
Madnick: We have online videos, we have a complete manual online, and you can ask us questions. There's a dozen How-To videos we produced. It's a pretty intuitive software so you really don't have to worry, but we have all those tools available on our website. They come to our website and they go into the support section.
Script: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing about the past twenty five years and the future?
Madnick: Well, we just sold the company so that's the biggest news. We are now part of the Cast & Crew family and they have plans, our visions and their visions are the same. What they want to do is create all the tools necessary for all filmmakers. Of course it all starts with the script and that's why we were their first acquisition. Together we are going to build everything for the whole process and it's going to be quite exciting, I'm really looking forward to it.
They are really, really smart, they're really, really good people and they've been around for forty years and they give great service, so it's a perfect marriage. They're known for their service, and they're going to expand into this digital world, and we're going to be very much a part of it, so we are looking forward to it.
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