Talking Draft

Director Howard Hawks (right) going over Faulkner’s pages with actors Ridgely, Bogart and Bacall. (1946)

The Talking Draft Method is the fastest way for playwrights or screenwriters to create scenes. A writer records audio of themselves improvising all the dialogue and action, the audio is transcribed, then the text is reformatted into a script. This is not new, it is actually one of old Hollywood’s best-kept secrets.

How it Started

The story goes that in 1934, novelist William Faulkner’s Hollywood career was circling the drain. His friend, film director Howard Hawks came to the rescue. Hawks bought the rights to two of Faulkner’s short stories and then Hawks borrowed an audio recorder from the BBC and brought this massive reel-to-reel “Marconi machine” to an office at MGM. Then, Hawks and Faulkner sat down and wrote two screenplays in one weekend.

the BBC's Marconi Machine - a "portable" audio recorder in 1936

Howard Hawks came armed with the stories already annotated. He had underlined the most vital bits of narrative action in Faulkner’s prose and reordered sections to keep the stories to a tight Hollywood structure. Using this as his outline, Hawks began dictating these “action” sentences into the microphone to set up the scene…


As the voice recorder rolled, Faulkner then improvised new dialogue to flesh out the moment from his concise short stories. Faulkner spoke as all the characters in each scene. Soon, he was doing both — dictating the action lines and creating and acting-out new dialogue, even donning the voices of the different characters in his mind’s eye.


Hawks kept Faulkner to his Hollywood outline, and the two acted / worked their way through both stories. They wrapped the weekend with two scripts on the reels.


Legend has it that on Monday, a stenographer typed up all the audio tapes. Then those pages were reformatted by script assistants. Satisfied with the drafts, Hawks’ producers at the studio cut a check to Faulkner, thus keeping him afloat. From 1934 to 1954 Faulkner went on to work on around 50 films.

How It's Going Today

Over the years, many writers in Hollywood have used some version of this trick to crank out a fast first draft. Billy Wilder and Iz Diamond used to tape-record their jokey banter around the office — some of which made its way into their witty masterpieces.


For decades, writers for stage and screen often used the Talking Draft Method to capture the rhythms of stylized speech when doing a dialogue pass. Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller did it for the stage. Rod Serling famously did it for TV in the 50s and 60s using his beloved Dictaphone machine.

Rod Serling doing a “Talking Draft” for The Twilight Zone (1959)

When Aaron Sorkin started his habit of driving around town with an audio recorder as he barreled through dialogue, the whole process was still manual, as it had been since the days of Howard Hawks.

Enter the 21st Century

The time-tested and proven writing method that came out of Howard Hawks’ technological experimentation is finally getting updated to the 21st Century. As seen with the use of CGI, and VR today, Hollywood has always been a dance of new technology getting harnessed by storytellers. 


But ever since 1936, the problems with a Talking Draft have always been transcribing and reformatting


Not everyone can afford a stenographer, a personal assistant, or has the time to tediously go through your transcribed text and manually mark “who-says-what” (a process called ‘diarization’) and lastly, reformat everything into a script format. So onerous! 


Thankfully, today we have great digital tools like speech-to-text AI with 95% accuracy, every word processor application has automatic grammar and spell-check systems, and finally, thanks to, playwrights and screenwriters have specialized software dedicated to the Talking Draft Method. 


We have invented the most screenwriter-friendly manual diarization process for creating scenes fast. Our speech-to-text technology is customized by-and-for screenwriters. Our text file output works with every major screenwriting program. Our story outliner tool guides writers to make a tight beatsheet like Howard Hawks did using the latest popular movie structure styles. 


We are tomorrow’s secret weapon…simply an update of yesterday’s secret weapon. Welcome to the future.

Join beta Today and enjoy Talking Draft for fREE.

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