Movie Outline Screenwriting Software: A Review

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow hubbers, I’m proud to admit that I’ve just finished my first screenplay. My third, actually, but with the others I gave up at around page 40 and dumped them in the ‘What was I thinking? ’ folder back in the darkest recesses of my laptop. So what made the difference this time? I can honestly say (and they’re not paying me) that it was Movie Outline, a new-on-the-block screenwriting software system that helps you to build your screenplay step by step.

How is Movie Outline different?

The other screenwriting software systems format your work, so that your dialogue and direction come out in the standard industry format which ensures the felling of a good number trees. Movie Outline does this too, but it does so much more besides.

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Characters

Movie Outline helps you to build in-depth profiles of your characters, from a basic bio to the character arc (the journey they make through your screenplay) to a list of revealing questions about your character’s past, present, their beliefs and opinions, likes, dislikes and self-image. You probably won’t want to go through all this with the barman who gets to see that your protagonist’s Martini is shaken, not stirred, but the process of considering your character’s upbringing, their education, what drives them and what scares the hell out of them is, in itself, extremely revealing. In fact I’d go so far as to say that I uncovered a huge plot point just by thinking about something one of my characters was ashamed of.

Steps

Movie Outline helps you to build your screenplay step by step, as opposed to scene by scene. In Outline mode you decide what happens when, and can easily add, move or delete steps as you require. This means that once you’ve got a rough outline and some fleshed-out characters, you can start writing your screenplay in small, manageable chunks, each of which you give a title. The software allows you to add whichever characters appear in each step, and there are four questions to answer, essentially checking that your character has a useful role to fulfil in that scene. You don’t have to use this, of course, but it’s like having your own personal mentor guiding you through the thought process. As your screenplay grows, you can see at a touch of a button which character appears in which steps, making life easier if you want to change your Swedish blonde assassin into a sultry French temptress.

Full Script

While you write your script in steps, Movie Outline cleverly assembles it into one script. When you click on the Full Script button you’ll see your entire screenplay, neatly laid out for you. It’s here that you’ll find your Page Count and be able to chart your progress. If I have one gripe it’s that until I discovered this, I couldn’t find Page Count in any of the instructions or help guide (as if it doesn’t matter?!), so although I knew I had 48 steps, I had no idea if I’d achieved my goal of 100 pages or was either way above or below.

Power View

Movie Outline gives you a choice of five structural templates to work on: the default is the classic three act structure, but there’s also a five act stage play, a one hour TV drama, a half hour TV sitcom and the ‘Hero’s Journey’, which is broken into twelve stages. When using Power View you can see how your screenplay fits into any of these given structures, and there’s advice on what to aim for in any of your acts and turning points.

Reference Library

The software comes with a reference library of twelve films of different genres, with a step by step outline and analysis of each one, as a structural guide for your own work. Once you’ve chosen the most similar film to your own, using Power View you can obtain a direct comparison with your own movie – the three act breakdown, mid-point, turning points and the denouement. You might not want to follow your comparison too slavishly, but it’s an interesting analysis of whether you’ve hit the right beats in your own work.

Step Cards

Traditionally, writers used index cards as a way of putting all their scenes together, and this is replicated in Movie Outline. You can see each step with your own blurb from the Outline Mode, all laid out on the screen. Additionally, in Full Script Mode you can see each scene, broken down. You can move your cards and you can select to colour code them in the structure colours. Interestingly, I haven’t used the card mode at all – moving steps around is easy in itself – but for those who are used to working in this way, it’s a powerful tool.

Notes and Story Tasks

Two different ways of keeping a ‘to do’ list going. I found I used them after I’d left my script for a while and then got a flash of inspiration while doing the washing up. In Notes you can write what you like for each step, while in Story Tasks, you create different tasks, give each a name, and then have plenty of space for the details.

FeelFactor

I had a go on this before writing this review, and, fun as it may be, it’s probably more of a luxury than a necessary working tool. It’s a graph which allows you to gauge the pace and emotional rollercoaster of your film – you attribute a number each step for a certain FeelFactor, be it action, comedy, romance, mystery, etc., and can then compare your graph with your reference film – are you hitting the right beats? How is the pace of your movie? Will your audience be engaged?

Dialogue Spotlight

This, on the other hand, is a fantastic tool. You can isolate each character and read their dialogue, to ensure that their voice is consistent. You can even go further and refine it to only when they’re talking to a particular character, or characters. It just makes life so much easier than scrolling through a hundred odd pages to find what someone has said. So much about a character is revealed by the way they say things, and the big danger, especially with lesser characters, is to make them all sound the same.

Importing Other Files

I’d been dreading importing my other files into the system, convinced that it would be an annoying and complicated process which would probably result in failure. But to my amazement it was incredibly easy – I’d had other scripts saved in PDF files on Adobe and with a click of the button they moved over – it took seconds and Movie Outline even broke them up into steps for me. It’s such an intelligent system. Yes, I do have some tidying up to do with the formatting but that’s no problem – I know my documents are all there and it will be a pleasure (I hope!) to go through them again. This means, crucially, that it’s easy to convert from one of the other movie software systems – and Movie Outline is adapted to suit both Windows and Mac.

To Summarise

Ultimately there’s a very slim chance of my screenplay ever getting anywhere beyond anyone’s slush pile, but I’m happy that, at the very least, thanks to this software, I’ve been encouraged and sufficiently supported to see it through to completion. Seasoned writers might not need all the help it offers, but for the rest of us, I’d say it was invaluable.

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Comments 19 comments

Charlie 5 years ago

Great article! I've had ideas for movies over the years so we definitely check this out.


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 5 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for your comment, and please, do check it out and get writing! And good luck with it!


Dardia profile image

Dardia 5 years ago from Michigan

Great hub! I have wondered about how to write a screenplay. Does this program help with that? Does it convert novel work to screenplay? I have a novel I have been working on that I think would make a good screenplay as well.

Voted up, useful, interesting. and awesome.


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 5 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Dardia, thanks for your comment and votes! It won't convert your novel I'm afraid, a screenplay's such a different animal, but it'll give you a fantastic structure from which to work as well as a ton of support. Good luck with your writing!


K H Camp profile image

K H Camp 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Great hub, and congrats on finishing your screenplay!


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France Author

Hi KH Camp, and thank you. I've just submitted it for a professional assessment so am feeling slightly nervous!


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

12/7

Riviera, Congratulations on your screenplay! This hub is marvelous. Voted up and away. Im sorry for not visiting you that much. Ive been tied up with my publishing projects and my health is not getting any better, so I was making use of my time. Riviera, I DO value you as my friend and follower. You are not only a great talent, but an inspiration to all of us. Merry Christmas.


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Kenneth, and thank you for your lovely comment. Sorry to hear about your health troubles and I wish you a speedy recovery. Love your energy and enthusiasm, as ever, and wish you a Merry Christmas too!


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hi, Dear Riviera Rose, what a lovely name. YOU are very welcome as I only speak the TRUTH. My health issues may keep me from reading hubs from all of my followers, but YOU know this, I have the BEST followers in all of HubPages!!!! I have 2 incurable diseases...1. Accelerated Fibromyalgia that attacks the nerves, muscles, joints--24/7 pain like an abcess tooth inside my body and 2. Neurothopy in my nerve endings and feet and legs..like walking on firecoals. I am not complaining. There are little kids at St. Jude's in Memphis with Cancer whose attitude is better than mine sometimes. And Riviera, you also have a Merry Christmas. YOur friend, Kenneth


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Kenneth, I'm in awe of your optimism and humour when you have to endure 24/7 pain like that. You're an inspiration to us all!


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear Riviera Rose, it is in God's hands. He, I think, sometimes tests us to see what we are made of. As the three Hebrew children were cast into the fiery furnace...He was in there with them, thus, He walks in this pain with me all the time. I dare not question His will or purpose. And may I tell you, Riviera, that YOU, kind lady, are an inspiration also...you were among my first followers. That made me smile from ear to ear. And still does. Never think that I DO NOT appreciate YOU. For I do.

Love, Kenneth and God bless.


Funom Makama 3 profile image

Funom Makama 3 3 years ago from Europe

This is really an incredible piece and definitely an educating one. Last summer, I wrote a script and have been thinking of how to either market it, or send it to the right source to convert it into a movie. I believe and I am sure the script is worth converting to a world class movie and all these while I have been doing rigorous search on finding the right sources and as well convincing them... But with this software, I think I should get it, use it to process the script once more as I used amateur editors who are my friends to edit the script. I am very happy to come across this and I hope from time to time, I get to read more of your insightful and great hubs....


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Thanks Funom Makama, congratulations on having written your script! Of course this software won't edit your work but it will help you to organise it and edit it yourself; it's also fun to use and makes you feel like a pro :)


viveresperando profile image

viveresperando 3 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

This is a great accomplishment! So going to have to find this software! I have books in chunks all over. I wonder if you have any review on any software that helps organize those "chunks" for books? :)


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Viveresperando, thanks for your comment! I know what you mean about having books in chunks all over - I find good old excel spreadsheets helps me to keep stuff organised. Good luck!


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica

Congratulations. When you get your deal, tell the casting director about me.


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Rasta1 - thanks for your comment and your confidence in my screenplay - I'm afraid a deal seems a very long way off as things are! I dare say you'd make a fantastic leading man though!!


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

A friend of mine wrote a screenplay once and had me proofread it for her. So I got to see all the elements that go into writing one, and the format that's required. Movie Outline definitely makes the job a lot easier.

You reviewed it very well and in detail. Your hub is very useful as a detailed review for anyone who wants to write a screenplay. As you said, it is like having a mentor help you create the screenplay. If I ever decide to write one myself, I'll use Movie Outline.


Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France Author

Hi Glenn, thanks for you comment, I appreciate it. Having tried out the classic Final Draft software I can honestly say that Movie Outline offers so much more - it's a pleasure to use.

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