Saturday, 22 August 2009

Tip #4 : There is such a thing as free production software!

By Dan Parkes (Director)

Most novice script writers will use their default word processing software. And this is not necessarily foolish considering favourites Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter cost hundreds of pounds. But what’s the fuss? Isn’t it just a bit of formatting –nothing that the tab button can’t fix?

Well, fortunately for us, early in pre-production we discovered the free software Celtx ( which not only provides script writing and formatting functions and can be exported into a universal PDF, but pre-production software as well. This means that you have all the automated functionality you expect, such as scene and character elements that can then be transferred to a script breakdown, scheduling and budgeting. It has a calendar from which you can develop your production schedule. And there is even a storyboard function, remote backup and an iPhone service. And did we mention it’s free?

But what we liked most of all is the ability to collaborate with team members by sharing the project on-line –and since it’s a free download it can be anyone you specify on the team. Any updates to the script or schedules automatically sends out an e-mail alerting them of developments as they happen.

OK, it’s free, so there are issues and it’s not perfect –we had to find workarounds for some limitations. But your choice of free software is not limited to Celtx. There is Page 2 Stage ( and also free on-line screenplay services such as Scripped (, ScriptBuddy ( and Zhura (

But then you just might want to spend £150 on Final Draft, so you can have the computer generated voices who will read your character’s dialogue aloud. Or use Movie Magic Screenwriter like Paul Haggis, Frank Darabont, Guy Ritchie and hundreds of other famous people on its testimonial page.

Then again, M. Night Shyamalan allegedly wrote the script to ‘Unbreakable’ using Times New Roman on Microsoft Word. And it sold for $5 million. Which reinforces a universal truth: it’s not what you’ve got, but what you do with it that counts!

If Celtx is not your thing, here are your other options:

Final Draft
Movie Magic Screenwriter 6
Movie Outline
Screenforge (Microsoft Word template)
Script Wizard (Microsoft Word add-on)
Scrivener (Mac users)
Montage (Mac users)


  1. hello, dan.

    > OK, it's free, so there are issues
    > and it’s not perfect –we had to find
    > workarounds for some limitations.

    I'd be very interested to know what issues and workarounds in particular you struggled with using Celtx?


  2. Hi Noah

    I think the two main workarounds were to do with printing to PDFs -which has formating issues (but this might depend on your set-up -we had to firstly send it to a printer and then select our own installed PDF option) and sharing on-line between others in the team -which used to be a option but is now a paid service. But we now use DropBox to do this and is almost the same anyway. Hope that helps!