Screenwriting Secrets by John Scott Lewinski

Screenwriting Secrets » Movie Magic Screenwriter

Presenting itself as the most flexible and sophisticated screenwriting program, Movie Magic Screenwriter became popular on PC machines before presenting its Mac version recently.

At first glance, Screenwriter offers the full range of expected screenwriting features. All the script elements are there with the margins correctly pre-set. The software is pre-set to guess correctly where you want to go next (from character to dialog, or from slugline to action). Most of your scriptwriting comes down to hitting the RETURN/ENTER and TAB keys.

The program monitors the presentation of each page by neatly arranging page breaks. Like other screenwriting software packages, ScriptThing also lets you add optional "MOREs" and "CONT'Ds" where needed.

Screenwriter offers its own version of automatic running lists that allow the entering of a slugline or character name with a single keystroke. Screenwriter introduces an extra wrinkle approaching artificial intelligence. Instead of merely keeping track of characters names and typing in JOHN when you type a "J," ScriptThing keeps track of who is speaking in an individual scene and inserts the appropriate name. If JOHN isn't in the current scene, but JILL is, a "J" will give you the appropriate name.

Other functions like transitions, parentheticals and other basic elements are also a keystroke or pop-up menu away.

While also offering standard word processing features like drag'n'drop editing, cutting and pasting and undos, Screenwriter updates those functions for script use. For example, when you add formatted text to a given point in the script, the file automatically updates all character name presentations and continueds.

Ken Schafer, the software's creator and programmer, said his program combined easy functioning with attention to detail.

"First of all, it's dead easy to use even with all its advanced features," Schafer said. "We have gone to great lengths to add a great level of detail and flexibility."

Schafer highlighted several examples. While Screenwriter offers the standard pop-up menu keeping track of all sluglines in a script, the program records the settings in detail, breaking them down into different elements. So, INT. or EXT., location, time of day, etc., all break down into their own sub-menus.

"It's a matter of implementation," Schafer said. "Our features our planned and implemented in the most thought-out, detailed manner possible."

Schafer is particularly proud of the program's script note and scene pilot functions. While other screenwriting programs offer script notes that can nestle in the script text without showing up in the final printed product, Screenwriter offers notes that can stay open while the script scrolls down the screen. The programs script note functions offer 25 levels of varying detail and categories for optimum use.

"We laid in levels of detail to the program that we're really proud of," Schafer said. "That adds a flexibility to [Screenwriter] that's really amazing."

The program's users can manipulate the individual functions in any number of ways to personalize the writing process. If you are used to a program performing in a certain manner or need the program to perform an automated function it might not otherwise perform, this override control allows you as the user to change the program to operate as desired.

Schafer also mentioned Screenwriter's interesting script comparison wrinkle. The function allows a writer to contrast two different drafts of the same script to highlight the main variances and diversions. The function then produces a complete report, coming in useful for any writer in revisions who might be juggling multiple drafts of the same script.

While Screenwriter's packaging offers the traditional, complete manual to guide new users, it also offers a graphic support function within the program. Using a point-and-click interface to highlight the different screenwriting elements and Screenwriter's functions, this help function saves writers the time of having to fish out the box when needing to look up basic user answers.

Finally, Screenwriter offers detailed and advanced productions breakdown functions to take a script through the entire production process. These may or may not be of use to the aspiring writer working to produce a quality spec, but these functions are appealing to many industry professionals.

While Screenwriter offers all the standard, easy-to-use functions as other screenwriting programs and would allow any beginner to produce a script, Screenwriter could lay claim as the advanced scriptwriter's program. The software offers the fully functioning writer a complete, cradle-to-the-grave screenwriting tool.

To purchase the latest edition of Movie Magic Screenwriter, click here.

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