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Script Writing Format
The film industry is, perhaps surprisingly, rather set in its ways. One of the first things any script writing course will tell you is that format is not optional. It’s not a case of providing something clear and easy to understand, there is a set way to lay out a script and if you hope to sell your screenplay, you need to know what it is and stick to it, in fact some script writing courses cover very little other than how to format your script.
Naturally there are software packages which will do the work for you, but you can use Word, or any other word processor as long as you know what the formatting should be. There's a good description of the format you need on ScriptFrenzy.org, but many organisations have their own variations, BBC scripts and Warner Bros Scripts are not quite the same in format, so how does a poor, would be writer keep up? The answer lies in script writing software. These programs won't write a screenplay for you - though some can help with the creative process. What they can do is make sure you don't have to worry about the format, so you can concentrate on the words.
Free Script Formatting Software
Celtx is a free tool for PC or MAC. It includes story planning tools and storyboarding to help you get all your ideas down and see how they hand together.
Trelby is free software for Windows and Linux. Easy to use and includes a names database for those days when you need a new character quickly, but can’t think of a name.
Script Writing Software - Mid - Price
Scrivener (the software I use) costs around $45 and is available for PC and MAC. The package allows you to import research notes (including web pages and pictures) and keep them all together in a single project. Scrivener software can also be used for novel writing and has a great ‘cork board’ facility, exports in lots of formats and has a good name generator. Get a dropbox account and install Scrivener in that, then write on any computer attached to your dropbox account and know your work is backed up.
Storyist. (around $60)
Good storyboard feature and allows you to export in several different formats, including Final Draft.
Story (around $80) For PC or Mac.
Simulates index cards and timelines and allows you to build a story by linking them together.
Scripped can be used monthly or bought for a one off cost of around $90. Unlike the others it is a web based tool, so you need to be online to use it, but the big advantage is that you can write your screenplay from any computer. The other advantage? You won’t lose your work if your disk crashes.
Movie Outline, available for PC and MAC s a little more expensive that the others at $200 . Easy to use it makes good use of color, keyboard shortcuts and has a number of useful features, such as the ability to highlight all the dialogue for one particular character.
Dramatica Pro Windows or MAC around $140
Often used as novel writing software, Dramatica pro can also be used to write screenplays.
Screen Writing Software - Top of the Range
Final Draft Available for PC or MAC at around $250. This is the industry standard. If you become a professional, you will need this. The software includes a large number of templates so you can write for specific customers without having to learn the details of their preferred format. There is also a Final Draft writer app for your iPad.
Movie Magic Screenwriter. Around $250. Available for MAC or for Windows. Easy to learn, has a huge number of templates. The software includes iPartner, an online collaboration tool as well as a text to speech engine which lets you hear your character’s dialogue. Full outlining and a clever import tool make it easy to include work written in almost any other text formatter. Sample files help you learn how specific story types are structured.
Using the correct format is not a guarantee of success, your screenplay may still be perfectly formatted garbage, but the sad thing is that if it isn't in the right format, even the best movie script will probably never be read.