Cut-price scriptwriting software with usefully integrated advice for beginners.
Film Writer is designed to guide amateurs through the daunting process of writing a movie script.
Not only does it help you develop your idea and give it structure, but also to create a script that matches industry conventions for content, layout and length.
Each Film Writer document contains two tabs: Methodology and My Project. The first tab contains expanding help menus with advice on developing and writing your script, while the second tab is the script itself.
This Methodology tab starts with a crash course on fiction. It encourage you to answer the questions it poses – some as simple as ‘What do you enjoy in a story?’ You can type your answers directly into the help pages, where they are saved for future reference. It asks you to write a summary of your story, encouraging you to brainstorm your ideas before approaching that difficult first scene.
This is an excellent approach, especially for those who haven’t written any fiction before. The help menus could go into greater depth about certain concepts, and some more guidance on trickier ideas such as themes and genres would be handy. That said, there’s a lot to cover here, with characterisation, motivation, context and the classic three-act structure to get your head around.
The advice on style and structure is fairly conservative – there’s a lot of talk about heroes and adventures. However, learning to walk before you run is no bad thing. Its guidance is sensible and is based on widely accepted ideas and audience expectation.
The My Project tab, where you do your writing, has its own set of tabs. There are simple forms for the title and synopsis pages, and tabs for notes about your characters and locations – both of which are designed to make you think about these aspects in greater detail. You can add pictures to either of these to remind you of the look you want. Finally, there’s the My Screenplay tab, where you write your scenes.
This is hard going at first, as the strict formatting required for serious scriptwriting takes some getting used to. We picked it up fairly quickly, learning the short cut keys for switching between dialog and descriptive entries. Everything is slickly integrated, with drop-down lists of character names appearing when you start a new dialogue. A good spellchecker is provided, and this works in UK English.
The window on the left lets you flick between scenes, reorder them or delete redundant ones. It defaults to a typical three-act screenplay, with labels to help with structure. It’s a pity that other templates weren’t provided for shorter projects, such as TV episodes or short films. Once you’ve finished your script, you can print it out or export it as an RTF document.
Film Writer isn’t a wealth of multimedia resources; it’s a focused writing tool with a smattering of handy advice for novices. A few video clips with accompanying scripts would have been useful. Anyone who’s read a book on scriptwriting will have heard it all before, though. What really impressed us is how the advice is integrated with the act of writing, encouraging you to get typing before writer’s block can set in.
Even at this price, you won’t feel as if you’ve picked up a bargain. However, the professional equivalent, Final Draft, costs £166 including VAT (also from Amazon), which makes Film Writer a good budget introduction to scriptwriting.