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  • Anthony Hett

How to write a short film - Scriptwriting software

Hello and welcome to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.

Today I will be taking a look at the different scriptwriting software available to help you format your scripts.


As mentioned in a previous blog post Elements of a script, it is incredibly important that you format your scripts using the industry standard format, in order to ensure that they look and read as professionally as possible. (Be sure to check out this previous post, if you haven't already, so that you are confident what the different elements of a script are and how you should be using them.) So whichever software you chose to use, just make sure that you do use one of them.

When I started writing scripts in my youth, I wasn’t aware that scriptwriting software even existed. Therefore, the scripts that I wrote in my teens and early twenties were all written in Word – which is great for writing an essay but not so great for writing a script. It wasn’t until I started studying for my MA in 2009 that I started to using scriptwriting software for the first time.

These days there are many different scriptwriting softwares available. Here is a list of all of the software I am aware of (let me know in the comments below if I have left something off the list):

  • Amazon Storywriter

  • Celtx

  • Highland

  • Fade In

  • Final Draft

  • Movie Magic Screenwriter

  • Scrivener

  • Slugline

  • Studiobinder

  • Trebly

  • Writer Duet

So which one(s) would I recommend?

Well I guess the best place to start would be with the software that I use myself (after all the idea behind this blog was to give you the benefit of my experience and so lets start with the software I know best):

Final Draft

So this is the software that I currently use myself. I find it to be very good and incredibly easy to use. It formats everything for you and so you really don’t have to think about formatting at all and you can just get on with the task at hand; writing your script.

Final Draft markets itself as the industry standard, and although I can’t confirm or deny this to be true, a lot of the writers I know also use this software and I believe that Final Draft is compatible with other industry standard software and so I would say that using Final Draft is something of a safe bet. (However, judging by Twitter, it appears that a number of people don't like Final Draft and apparently it doesn't render your plain TXT into industry format).

The one downside of Final Draft that I have found is its cost. It’s not cheap! It’s regular price is $249.99. However, if you’re lucky, you might be able to get it in a sale? With Black Friday coming up, I would recommend that you keep your eyes open for any discounts that might be available.

Finally, I have also recently downloaded the mobile version of Final Draft onto my iPad. I have only recently started using it but it is currently working perfectly well for me. I’m not sure if it has all the features that the regular version has? However, I find that it does everything that I need it to do and the big positive is that it only cost £9.99. So if you’re writing on a tablet, I think the mobile version of Final Draft is a really great, affordable option.

Next up I want to talk about a software that I haven’t actually used personally but I know a few people who have used it and they only have good things to say about it.


FadeIn

Now as I have mentioned, this is not a software that I have person experience of. However, I have heard very good things about it both from writers I know personally, as well as people reviewing and recommending it online. From what I understand, Fade In is Final Drafts big rival. It appears to have all of the same features as Final Draft while it also converts scripts written using different software, which is a handy feature because if someone sends you a Final Draft file, you can still open and edit it.


On top of this, Fade In is also significantly cheaper than Final Draft and is available for around $79. Therefore, although I cannot recommend it personally, it looks like a great alternative to Final Draft and if I was just starting out and looking for a scriptwriting software to use, this is probably the one that I would try.


And finally I am going to discuss the software I used before I started using Final Draft (around 7-8 years ago).


Celtx

I believe that Celtx is a very good alternative to Final Draft and Fade In. There are two versions available. A free version and a paid for version. I used the free version for a few years, while I was a hard up student, and I had no problems. It did what I needed it to do, which was to format my scripts, which it did, making them look exactly the way that my scripts look now while using Final Draft. It also has some other good features which allow you to create storyboards and schedules.

One small negative I found was that when I moved over to Final Draft, I wasn’t able to open my old Celtx files. This is probably more of an issue with Final Draft, however as lots of people use Final Draft, it can be a little impractical when sharing files. However, I tend to only share PDF versions of my scripts and so it is more of a small inconvenience than a major issue. I also personally preferred the layout and usability of Final Draft to that of Celtx – although this was several year ago and so I don’t know what changes they have made in the intervening years.

As you can see from the list above, there are several other scriptwriting softwares available that I have yet to mention in detail. However, as I do not have personal experience of using them and do not know a lot about them, I do not want to revert repeating what ever I could find written about them online and I will therefore not be discussing them any further.

I would therefore recommend that you do a little more of your own research before deciding which software to use but that from my experience, I would recommend: Final Draft, Fade In, Celtx.


So those are my thoughts on the different scriptwriting softwares available. I hope that you find them helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments below and be sure to check out my YouTube videos. In my next blog I will be discussing Writing for your readers.