Making the switch

I’ve been doing this screenplay thing for a few years, and I’ve always sworn off the whole notion of screenwriting software. I thought it would needlessly complicate things. After all, a script is just letters…black toner on white paper.  Nothing too fancy about it.

I’ve written all of my scripts so far in Word.  I threw together an industry standard template, including the 5 necessary shortcut keys (Scene heading, action, character, dialog, parenthetical) and called it good. I was able to win a few contests and operate fine in the development process.

I’ve always been a fan of simplicity. But this is the time of year when you want to try something new, so I’m going to start working with some of that fancy script software to see how it goes. I’ve opted to go with Celtx over Final Draft, namely because it’s free and I’m not done buying Christmas presents.

I’ve played around with both and don’t see too many different features, though FD does have templates for TV. I took one of my Word scripts and just pasted it into Celtx and it formatted it almost perfectly. I did a little cleanup, but it took less time than when I prep one of my Word files before sending it to someone by adding those little (MORE)/(CONT’D) thingys at the end of pages where dialog breaks. And Celtx does that for you automatically! I love the fact that it’s free. As a full-time Web guy, I’m a fan of standards and the open source development mindset, so Celtx is a natural fit. My main complaint is the name, which sounds like one of those old man wiener drugs they’re always pushing on TV when I’m trying to watch football with my daughter. Not to be prudish, but the last thing I want to hear at 10 am on a Sunday while we’re eating pancakes and watching Brian Urlacher is the phrase “erectile dysfunction.” But I digress.

I like the scene browser in Celtx and the index cards. Overall, there are a host of gizmos that make my Word template look like a sad little creature indeed. I think it will make organizing and rewriting even easier. I’m pretty excited to give it a try.

Ultimately, what software you use to create the script doesn’t really matter. I don’t think there’s a relationship between the writer and the tool she uses to write in the same way that B.B. King is attached to his Lucille. But sometimes you need to shake things up. So for 2009, I’ll be scribbling in Celtx.

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