Augmented creativity: The best software for screenwriters
All aspiring filmmakers need to start somewhere, and there’s nothing simpler than putting pen to paper with a great story in mind. Writing it down is the first step to eventually seeing it on screen, and seeing a written narrative come to life with picture and sound is a beautiful reward for years of trial & error.
Luckily, the process is a little easier now than it was in the days of Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) and John Ford (The Quiet Man). There’s no need to get out your rusty old typewriter and discard a whole page after every mistake. Word processors, add-ons, and apps have grown from curious innovations to vital equipment for new screenwriters, and we’ve collected a list of what we consider to be the best.
A vital platform for filmmakers, Celtx is a collaborative piece of software that allows the organization of scripts, plans, video files, and audio clips. Not only does it familiarize the user with the screenwriting process, but you can also share everything you work on with your creative team and, eventually, the public.
If you’re not quite ready for the collaborative process that Celtx offers, try Final Draft for a more streamlined approach. Stripping down all the trimmings, this program focuses solely on the writing process, and is a great tool for learning the ins and outs of all the complicated formats, fonts, and shorthand that come with writing a screenplay.
If you’re a Mac user or writer on-the-move looking for an iPad alternative, look no further than Storyist. It offers everything covered by Final Draft, as well as a cork board for index cards & photos, all in a neat OS X version.
If you like to keep things analog, your room or office is probably buried with layers of Post-it notes. A simple idea can spark into several, and before long you can’t breathe for pink & yellow slips covered with indecipherable scrawls. What if we told you it doesn’t have to be this way? There are several apps that replicate the style of Post-it notes in a nifty portable form, but Index Cards is probably the best.
Similar to Index Cards but a little more extensive, Evernote allows you to keep track of all the ideas you have at the touch of a button. However, rather than a simple board of notes, the software can link to web pages, import pictures, and record voice memos.
There’s no use starting a screenplay if you’ve never read one. You can usually find a few in your local book store, but they’re a pain to track down and too bulky to take on your travels. Weekend Read instead provides a huge catalogue of accessible screenplays for you to browse at your leisure. Learn from the best and find some inspiration, too.
Got a finished story you want to share with the world? There are several public platforms out there to get started on, but the most widely-used is Wattpad. Frequented by both amateur scribers and professional scrawlers, the site plays host to both traditional prose & scripts, as well as a friendly community of eager readers & writers. We’d recommend looking past the fanfiction.
You’ve just spent months composing what could be the best screenplay ever written. But what to do now? There’s no use exerting yourself for hours on end if you don’t know anyone who’ll read it and (if you’re lucky) get it made. LinkedIn is the top networking app at the moment and a valuable tool for anyone looking to get funding in the movie biz.
Some writers enjoy complete silence to focus on the task at hand, but for the creatives who like a little musical stimulation, there’s no platform out there better than Spotify. Their free account is occasionally interrupted with some pesky ads (though this can give you a chance to take a mental break for a minute), but their premium upgrade opens many possibilities. Offering unlimited music, albums, and playlists, you can listen to your faves on repeat, or check out the discovery options and find something new.
Everyone’s talking about the latest podcasts. They’re quickly replacing live radio as the world’s most popular form of audio storytelling, and you don’t want to be out of the loop, do you? Check out Stitcher – a handy tool that collects all of your favorites into one easy app. It’s comprised of a wealth of true stories, interviews, and movie reviews that’ll get you up-to-date with the latest trends and could even inspire your next story.
We haven’t found an app to help with your wrist pain, but we can at least ease the strain on your eyes caused by days spent locked in your room, staring at a blank screenplay that you’re trying to will into existence. F.lux tracks the movement of the sun and dims your screen accordingly, throwing on a custom filter in the evening to make that glaring word processor a little easier to look at.
Love writing, but find it hard to concentrate? Being a tortured genius isn’t easy when constant Facebook notifications are blowing up your phone. Thankfully, this app has a solution. Once installed, its customizable settings will ensure your social media traffic doesn’t make your phone vibrate with messages, comments, and likes all day while you’re trying to write.
Another concentration tool for the easily-distracted artist, Brain.fm custom builds atmospheric soundtracks for those who like a little ambience while they work. With the flick of a finger, you can be surrounded with oceanic peace, metropolitan hustle and bustle, or a tempestuous storm to put you in the mood.