an Oscar Winner
Software takes drudgery out of creativity
By Jim Bray
to the lure of Hollywood and/or Broadway have some powerful tools at their
fingertips with which to ensure their scripts are palatable the ivory
Whether you're using
Windows, Mac, or DOS, script writing software can make the task of formatting
and organizing your chef d'oeuvre so easy you'll wish it could market
the thing as well.
Four excellent examples
of the species are the standalone products "Script Thing" and
"ScriptWare," and the Microsoft Word-based "HollyWord"
and "Side by Side". Each product takes most of the tedious grunt
work from the creative process.
Script Thing and ScriptWare
are powerful word processors, complete with spell check and thesaurus,
but they bring unique scripting tools to the task as well. For instance,
they automatically number scenes and pages (in the correct places on the
page) and let you shuffle scenes around as if they were written on recipe
cards (the "old tech" way of doing it!).
Thing" (Windows/Mac) installs from five floppies, and the process
(as with all of these products) is completely straightforward. Unfortunately,
this one puts a copy protection thingy onto Disk One at the end of the
process, which only lets you install it three times.
I can understand
why they'd do this, but what happens when your hard drive crashes after
the third install?
One thing I really
liked about Script Thing is its sense of humor, which is most evident
during the "Configuration Wizard" that steps you through initial
setup. The process lets you choose the type of script you'll use most
(screenplay, stage play, multimedia, or taped/filmed sitcom), as well
as the enabling of features like automatic spell check, pop up boxes that
make automatic suggestions for inserting locations and other things you've
The software keeps
track of elements for you, too, so you can go back later and print out
lists of sets and/or characters and even link storyboards or mark the
dialogue of one particular character.
comes on 3 floppies and works quite similarly to Script Thing, though
without the sense of humour. As with Script Thing, typing typical commands
like "INT" (for "Interior," meaning the scene takes
place indoors) causes the software to enter "Scene Heading"
mode, formatting the case, margins, and spacing correctly. Hit "Enter"
when you're done and you're whisked into "action" formatting.
script automatically formats as you type, with you controlling the program
by the way you move around the screen. For instance, the "Tab"
key activates character names (and the software remembers who you've used
so far, so you can merely type the first letter and the app fills in the
On the whole, I preferred
Script Thing, though the two are so similar you'd undoubtedly be happy
with either program.
The other two script
writers are really just Microsoft Word Templates, which makes them ideal
for users of that particular word processor.
(what a great name!) has a learning curve of only five to ten minutes.
It uses Word's "Style" menu from which to choose formatting
(from slugline and action, to dialogue, etc.) as well as adding a series
of buttons to the toolbar beside it that duplicate the pulldown menu.
The software starts
by typing "Fade In" for you, leaving you in "Slugline"
(where the scene takes place) mode and once you've typed in that info
you press "Enter" and Hollyword takes you to the action style.
Most of Hollyword's formatting is done by merely pressing "Enter"
at the end of your text and the software - usually - knows what format
you'll be using next and activates it for you.
Hollyword isn't as
sophisticated as the standalone apps, but for Word users on a budget it'll
do the job just fine.
One advantage it has
over the standalones is that your script is saved in MS Word file format,
so it's widely accessible. Script Thing and ScriptWare both use proprietary
file formats, though Script Thing lets you save in various other formats
- including Word, WordPerfect, and Rich Text Format.
by Side" gives you ten Word templates that format "script-and-storyboard"
or "visuals on one side and audio on the other" types of script.
It does a nice job, too, especially since I've always had the devil of
a time using columns in Microsoft Word.
Side by side scripts
are popular for writers of documentaries, corporate videos, TV commercials,
etc. SxS' formats include single and double spaced, upper and lower case,
for either column - so if you're used to this type of script, there's
probably a template with your name on it.
Or not. The templates
aren't particularly well named at all; when you open the "File, New"
dialogue box you see SBSFMT1.DOT (or a similar name), which isn't hard
to figure out ("Side by side format 1") but which could be clearer.
My personal choice,
since I didn't have to pay for any of the stuff, was Script Thing. That
said, however, I wouldn't hesitate to use any of these products because
they can all help ensure that the look of your final product is acceptable
to the decision makers.
Naturally, none of
them can turn a lousy story into an Oscar, Emmy, or Tony winner; that's
up to the creative juices of the person punching the keys. Still, software
like this is invaluable because it can help you become more productive,
allowing you to concentrate on the creative process without worrying about
mundane writing chores.
Script Thing (Windows/Mac
reg. price $285US. Upgrade version for $20. DOS version is $149US. Available
Scriptware from Cinovation
Inc. for Windows or Macintosh $299.95. Competitive Upgrade to Scriptware
$99.95+ s/h Available at www.scriptware.com
Hollyword - Word Win/Mac
Templates $84.95US. Fully guaranteed. Special prices for students faculty,
and for quantity orders.
Side by Side
- Word Templates for Mac/Windows From www.simon1.com $84.95US. Fully guaranteed.
Special prices for students faculty, and for quantity orders. Available
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