Many times over the years, professional clients have called me in a panic because the Final Draft version of a document has either gotten inexplicably too short or too long when going to MM Screenwriter.
In one case, a close friend, rewriting a script for Ivan Reitman, panicked when the Screenwriter script version imported from Final Draft was 10 pages longer. I spent hours looking at both scripts, printing and holding pages up to the light, and measuring with precise (but sadly, not metric) rulers.
Most recently, a very experienced producer (whom I dated 25 years ago) emailed our company support mailbox in a panic -- she was in Romania, days from going into production, and she had just imported the final production script into Screenwriter -- which is the only program she trusts for production. She was preparing the breakdown, schedule, and budget, and saw that the FD script once imported into MM Screenwriter was 112 pages, while in the original FD it was 103 pages. She knew MM Screenwriter was correct in its page count, but a 11 page increase is gigantic for any project, let alone for the low budget film she was producing and production managing. She needed to understand EXACTLY why so she could berate the stubborn writers and reassure the panicked director -- in an early morning meeting that was only six hours away.
My call waking her up at 3:30 am Romania time was jarring, not the least because she didn't expect to hear directly from me. But it was quick and easy to determine the cause, as well as which side the fault was on.
Standard US script format (which Chris Huntley and I helped establish with our 1983 Scriptor program, for which we received a 1994 Academy Technical Achievement Award for our pioneering work), is usually 54-55 printed lines (including page number) per page. That is measured at a vertical 6 lines-per-inch and horizontal 10 characters-per-inch, which are the usual metrics of Courier 12 on an IBM Selectric typewriter.
A simple way to see these metrics in action is to print an entire page of lines with characters going across the page. In a true 8.5" wide by 11" tall US Letter piece of paper, you'll get 85 letters across by 66 lines down, ASSUMING you could actually print from the top-left edge of the paper to the bottom-right of the paper with NO MARGINS. That's a feat few printers can achieve. So you have to try that with a half-inch margin all around, and get a total of 75 characters across and 60 lines down.
Of course, Final Draft was actually measuring at 58 lines-per-page. My producer friend said she had contacted Final Draft about this several times over the past two decades -- and their response was always "we don't care."
Much of this difference gets traced back to FD's leading setting. What's "normal" for FD is not standard for the industry, and certainly not for the "page-a-minute" guesstimation.
Note that Screenwriter's wrapping feature (in the Element Styles dialog):
"allow words that are five or more letters long to extend 1 or 2 letters beyond the normal right-hand margin"
…can also create minor differences in line wrapping; so can the subtle differences between Courier Final Draft and Courier MM Screenwriter.
Write Brothers, Inc.