Questions for screenwriters about the WGA and software

Make that a few questions:

  1. What is the difference between the WGA-East and the WGA-West? Do they do exactly the same thing, or does it depend on the type of project? Is one better for a TV idea?

  2. Has anyone ever submitted an idea to one if the Guilds? If so, what level of "finish"should the submission have?

  3. As far as software, the two most popular products seem to be Final Draft and Movie Magic’s Screenwriter. The former seems to be the industry standard, but the latter seems to be making headway, which leads me to think it must have some advantages. Anyone have an opinion as to which is better? (For a Mac.)


I thought I’d give this thread a little bump. Someone here must have some knowledge of scriptwriting and the WGA. No?

WGA is essentially a union. Without being a member, my take is that WGA/w is for registering scripts and submitting discussions about how much credit a given writer gets, in the case of intellectual property disputes about movies, tv shows, etc. You don’t have to be a member to register a script, but on the other hand I don’t think you can register (or submit) an idea, either. That is, it should be a completed script. Once you’ve done that you’re good for five years, even if you substantially revise the script.

The WGA/e is, I believe, the same union, and I don’t know how their jurisidictions cross.

As for the scriptwriting software, I would suggest you go to the WGA site and follow the links. There are places where scriptwriters gather and discuss these things, for instance I have used Final Draft and a freeware program called Celtx, both had their good points and their extremely annoying points*, and what I’ve gone with is a Word template–but I don’t use a Mac so things could be very different.

*In trying to do a PDF to submit electronically, Final Draft would make a HUGE file; it looked like a PDF but was about 10 times bigger, hence hard to email or do anything else with.

I’m not sure I’m following you.

You don’t submit anything to the Guild. You submit to a studio, a production company, or an agent, usually, though it is also possible to submit to a producer, director, or even an actor.

Also, you never submit an idea. Typically, your submission will be a finished screenplay. Occasionally, a treatment or a synopsis will be accepted, but those are generally from established writers.

And you can’t just send stuff to people unless they say you can. Your first step is almost always to send a query. If they respond favorably, you will then be asked to send your screenplay. If you don’t follow this process, your screenplay will almost certainly be returned to you, unopened, with maybe a corner torn off so they can see that there’s a screenplay inside.

WGA provides a registration service for screenplays. It costs $20, I think, and can be helpful if you ever become entangled in a credit fight. It does not, however, take the place of an official copyright, which will help you if you ever find yourself in a courtroom.

The level of finish is perfection – no errors, standard format, three brads (normally).

I thought it was two brads. :dubious:

Anyways, I agree that the OP needs to get all that perfect before submitting anything anywhere.

As for WGAw and e, Mark Evanier talks about the two branches of the union at his blog sometimes, – which is generally a good read otherwise, too. The impression I’ve gotten from him is that the split is rather an artificial one, and he believes that the jurisdictional squabbles waste resources that should better be expended in fighting for good working terms with the studios.

Also agreed that the WGA is a union and you don’t submit scripts or ideas to it – you join it. You submit scripts to agents (after a favorable response to your query letter). Ideas you keep to yourself until you’ve fleshed them out enough to have something copyrightable.

Your local library probably has a half-dozen books covering the process. It’s important to be dead solid perfect on the process stuff, because studios and agents look for any excuse to reject a script they see – the volume of material demands it.


A few bits of advice I got from my scriptwriting teacher:

  1. Don’t show anyone your script before you register it with the WGA/screenwriter’s guild, not even your mother.

  2. Studios are much more likely to be receptive if you have (or say you have) at least three scripts done or nearly done.

  3. Don’t take the format rules lightly. Any decent program will keep you true with these, though. (and that perfection thing SoulFrost talked about, too.) You can submit a screenplay you typed out on a typewriter if you wanted to, as long as it’s formatted correctly.

As long as you’ve got of the above covered, you’ve got very little to lose. (My only substantial script is unsubmitted and stuck as a Word document for the moment.)

Crap! You’re right, Cliffy. I seriously need a proofreader.