Update: Final Draft has removed the “preferred file format” line from their site.
The market leader and the preferred file format of the Writers Guild of America West Online Script Registration.
That surprised me. Here is the actual wording on the WGAw Registry website:
Preferred file formats are ASCII, XML, PDF (Adobe Acrobat), Word, Final Draft , and Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000; however, all file formats will be accepted.
In addition, other screenplay software and standard computer file formats are acceptable.
So according to the WGA Registry itself, Final Draft is a preferred file format, not the preferred file format. Which doesn’t seem to be a claim worth trumpeting that loudly, considering the other options include “all file formats.”
Final Draft does get a small logo on the WGAw Registry site, though. Final Draft put out a press release about that. So Final Draft has some special relationship with the WGA. Perhaps it’s the most preferred of all the preferred formats, which include basically anything capable of rendering text.
And speaking of text, ASCII! Younger readers might not even recognize this term. It’s the plainest of plain text, just 128 characters. Do you have a dot-matrix printer? Feed it some ASCII.
Since you can register basically any type of file, can you register scripts written in Fountain? Yes.
Fountain is just text. So if you’re writing a script in Highland or Slugline or Scrivener or Fade In or the growing number of apps that use Fountain, the WGA Registry is happy to take it. PDFs are also a good choice, because they look like a printed screenplay.
While we’re at it, should you register your script with the WGA?
I have no strong opinion. For legal purposes, it can be useful to show you wrote something before a certain date. It’s no substitute for copyright registration, but then again, in many cases the screenwriter and the studio will be engaging in the mutually-beneficial practice of claiming something was a work-for-hire. So I don’t have an all-purpose answer.
All I know is that if you choose to register your script with the WGA, it doesn’t have to be Final Draft.