File names

How do you label your drafts?

And by that, I don’t really mean ‘What do you put on your title page?’ (although that’s an extension of it) but more ‘How do you name your files?’

Do you have a system? Do you stick to it? Do you vary it from job to job?

I’ve found Producers, Directors and First ADs all tend to have their own preference and if a project is for a specific person or once it moves into pre-production it’s best to check with them and use their system; but what do you do on spec scripts or for those people who just don’t care?

Personally, I’ve experimented with several different versions and still haven’t quite made up my mind.

I used to put the date in the file name; but fairly quickly opted not to. Mainly because it just seems completely unnecessary; but also partly because it looks a bit messy to my eye. When I was working on PERSONA+, some writers would send in drafts with the date in the file name; but since the dates had no hyphens, dots, slashes or dashes in them it took me a while to work out what the numbers meant.

And by ‘a while’, I mean seconds (okay, maybe minutes) not hours or days. I’m not that stupid, I just come across that way.

At first I thought it was some kind of version/draft identification number akin to the Dewey Decimal System … but quickly realised I was being a fucking idiot. It all became a little more confusing when some writers would submit drafts with 17102012 in the title page, others would put it backwards 20121017 and the odd American writer puts 10172012.

Okay, so I’m organised and I separate out each draft into sub-folders by writer, story and season, which means the latest draft will probably be the bottom one (for I order them chronologically^); but not everyone’s like that. Some people dump them all in one folder. Others seem to dump everything on their desktop (or whatever the Mac version is called. Probably something cool* like ‘scorpion laser’ or ‘knife claw tiger’ or ‘launch view orgasmatron’ or something).

Anyone having to scroll through a list of randomly ordered dates to find the correct draft(s) is going to have a huge problem working out what’s what and which system the writer is using. Having said that, if they’re that disorganised they can’t keep files in neat folders, then fuck them anyway – it’s their own fault.

So I don’t put dates in file names, it’s simpler. Also, if it’s a spec script, the producer usually would rather there’s no date anywhere on the script or file – a dated script can seem … well, dated. If it takes 2 to 7 years to get a script into the production, anyone receiving the script in the seventh year with a seven year old date on the front may be a bit put off – if it’s such a good script, why has no one wanted to make it earlier?

Stupid question, but it gets asked.

Some writers like to put their own name in the file name. I don’t think that’s relevant either unless it’s a sketch show perhaps, where the production team receive hundreds of submissions – maybe it’s useful then … but maybe not. I’ve seen some scripts where the writer puts his name before the script’s … I find that weird and egotistical; but maybe you don’t?

Then there’s versions vs drafts. Some people use the two terms as if they’re interchangeable. Maybe they are? I don’t know. I tend to think of a new version as being a completely different story to the last draft. Usually accompanied by a change of writer. To me, a new version is what you get when the notes on the last draft go:

Change all the men to women, set it in the fourteenth Century instead of Present Day, make it about dogs instead of people and change the location from a newsagents to a florists. On the moon.

Right. That’ll be a completely different script then?

No, you can keep the same title.



Phillip Barron

(Version 5 Draft 2 - 22/10/12)

I never, ever put Draft 1 on anything. Not ever. Not even when it’s the first draft of Version 7. Don’t know why.

At the opposite end of the scale, when the notes are so minor they’re not really changes at all but just tweaks (like changing a character name or fiddling with the odd word here and there) then calling it a new draft seems wrong. In these cases, I tend to go decimal – Draft 7.3 – It’s a neat way of keeping these drafts separate, without actually calling them different drafts, because sometimes people get nervous at the word ‘draft’ and assume you’re going to demand a new set of payments.#

So that’s kind of the system I settled on – PROJECT NAME (Draft #)  or sometimes PROJECT NAME (Version # Draft #)

Or rather, I haven’t quite settled yet.

Because I’ve noticed a small problem with that – if the PROJECT NAME is particularly long, then the draft number is sometimes hidden by email or file browsing apps. Again, that’s not always a problem if the receiver’s folder (or file list) is organised alphabetically or by date … but if it’s ordered in some odd way, it means that person has to hover over or right click on every draft to find out which one is the correct one. So sometimes I write:


But then I think the client probably doesn’t understand why and just thinks it’s fucking odd behaviour.

I know this is a long post obsessing over a detail which probably doesn’t really matter and has no effect on the quality of the script … but I like details. I like obsessing over them and I like to make every aspect of the script, from the content to the file name seem presentable.

Sadly, the truth is whichever system you use, there are some clients who will lose every draft of the script every single time; because no matter what you put in a file name, it doesn’t cure absent-minded idiocy at the other end.


+ Other helpful practices included calling the submitted script file PERSONA – something which probably makes perfect sense on their computer, because it’s the only script they’re writing for the show. When you get four a month in with no identifying data beyond the title of the show … it makes a little less sense. Particularly when you have to email all four scripts to the casting director.

^ This in itself is stupid. Why don’t I sort them so the newest one is at the top and needs the least amount of scrolling/reading to find? Don’t know, that’s why.

* Wanky

# If your contract specifies a fee per draft and you go calling every tweak a draft, clients can get a bit wary of asking you to change the things which need changing – this is not a good situation to be in.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

Post navigation

6 thoughts on “File names

  1. I tend to use “[TITLE] v# – [optional random note]”, with the note reserved for times where there’s been a large overhaul. So, some examples are “chronological” when I had previously told a story out of order or “new ending”. This helps me find bits I liked better in previous drafts and sometimes bring them forward again.

    As for dates, I figure I can always put the folder in date order or check the date on the file draft. And sometimes, if I’m sending someone an “old” script, I resale the PDF so the date updates and makes the recipient more inclined to feel it’s “hot off the press”.

  2. I like the ‘random note’ option – I wonder if there’s some way to include that info in a mouse-over?

  3. Pingback: 2012 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

  4. Appreciating the commitment you put into your website and detailed information you present.
    It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material.

    Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds
    to my Google account.

  5. This is visibly such a fantastic powerful supply which you are philanthropic and too you create the idea absent used for no cost. I in the vein of as web-sites that abundant understand the satisfactorily value of offering a quality of use supply for absolutely free.

  6. Pingback: 2012 | The Jobbing Scriptwriter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: