Screenplay Software

Hm. What to choose?

The industry standard is “Final Act“. It’s $250, and I had the demo, but… yeah. It’s $250. I really liked it, but apparently a lot of people said it was buggy and crashed and did bizarre things.

One man who had Final Act and was tired of the bugginess and crashes of it wrote the next contender, “Fade In“. $80. Eighty is a lot better than two hundred and fifty. I’m currently using Fade In, but you quickly reach the nag point, and printing my script excerpt on Saturday left the bold announcement on it, “printed using an unregistered copy of Fade In”.


Scrivener people apparently rave about the Scrivener-like “Save the Cat“, which is a really odd name for software. It costs more than Final Act at $100.

Scrivener apparently also does screenplays, but I don’t know – It lacks the features of Fade In and Final Act – Enter, then tab, and it suggests who I’m probably about to have say something dramatic. Hit the enter twice, and the dialogue spacing is now active.

Scrivener doesn’t really do that. Scrivener is amazing for what it does, but I don’t see people using it to write feature films.

Which leaves me to wish that Final Act would get together with Fade In, fix the bugginess, and offer the program for $40.

Yes, Fade In is what the pro’s use. It’s so widely used, that I could collaborate with any pro screenwriter using it. And all the programs I just mentioned all use Final Draft extensions to save the file, so that you can mail it to someone who has paid the extra $170!

I guess it is what it is – if you’re going to play at writing screenplays, you gotta pay the piper, buy Final Act and (sigh) join the Writer’s Guild after your first sale.


Sending Off Your First Screenplay

Saturday, I sent off an excerpt of my first screenplay. I’m counting it this way because although I sold some scripts back in the 80’s, it was to a local independent film company trying to get established called “Two Guys Productions”, and I think it was more that my script was something that was currently popular in action films, inexpensive to film, and would give the company a product they could market – rather than the quality of my script.

But Saturday, I sent an excerpt off, not trying to sell my script, but to sell me. A new film company had put out the word they were looking for a screenplay writer, and I jumped on it.

So I sent Empty Hand, the life story of Gichin Funakoshi. It’s a drama, not a karate movie. Although there are scenes of Funakoshi training under Asato, there is no competition, no sparring, no dramatic fights. Funakoshi to my knowledge never once struck a man in anger. Those who knew him said it was a VERY good thing he never did, as it would have been terrible, even though he was a small man.

I finished up a few pages of it on Friday, sent off the excerpt (along with scenes from my books) to the film company. I felt good enough to take a couple of hours off, and sit and play Age of Empires.

Then the jitters hit. See, when you’re sending off your work for someone to decide if they’re going to hire you or not, or buy your product or not, the feeling is tantamount to, “Are you accepting me, or rejecting me?”

Rejection is terrible. Trust me, I know. You always get this feeling of “I don’t love you” when you get it.

But I’m sitting here lying to myself, because of the two scenes I sent off, one of them was the wrong scene. So now I’m sitting here and cheerfully telling myself I’ve hit a career milestone, and am eagerly anticipating my first rejection letter.

After all, every screenplay writer has been rejected at least once. I can think of one who actually was hired to write a movie because he’d done a script or two that was sold, and his script was deemed too strange, and it was promptly sent to another writer.

The director sat on the second script, and after a couple of years, felt that there was something unique about that script. He went back, and took all of the “Weird” parts of the first script, mixed it with the “Normal” parts of the second script, and one of my favorite movies was the result – “Patton”.

Or how about this story? A man writes his first movie script, in a genre that hadn’t been done in 30 years in Hollywood. The studios shuffled it around to see if anyone had interest, and the answer was no, because that Genre was dead.

Then they gave it to an actor best known for action movies. He too passed on it. But it was stuck in his mind. After an aide asked that actor what his next project was, he answered, “I don’t know, but I’ve got this script…”

And “Braveheart” was born in that moment.

So, I’m betting my future on ten pages and a single line of dialogue sitting at the end of a script excerpt: “I am still a Samurai, father.”

So, I’m anticipating my first rejection letter, and trying not to waste my weekend jittering and being unable to relax.

Who Makes More Money?

Script writer? Director? Or Film Score composer?

I’ll give you a hint. Obviously the director makes more money. So, who ends up in second place? The guy who actually wrote the script?


The score Composer gets a rough 10 to 15% of the film’s shooting budget. That means the person who sat down and wrote the single D natural crescendo note to show building tension made much, much more money than the person who wrote the actual movie.

I must be missing something. I mean… When I was growing up, it was basically Goldsmith had everything boxed up. Not all of his scores were good. Goldsmith wrote a soundtrack for “Legend” that apparently was… pathetic. And the film producer turned to a German Prog Rock synthesizer band, Tangerine Dream.

And they turned in one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time. It was so perfect for the movie, it’s astounding. I remember seeing a fragment of Legend with goldsmith’s score behind it, and it was truly… lame.

Then James Horner was the name to know. I mean, his work on “The Wrath of Khan” was amazing.

now, it’s people like Hans Zimmer.

But with all due respect to how movies are made… What good is randomly swelling music if you… don’t have a good story?

Let’s pay our writers more.


you can just send me a deposit right now on one of my scripts.

Good Writing Advice

Years ago, my mother saw a book somewhere, and she got it for me because I was a raging Star Trek nerd. It was David Gerrold’s “The making of the Trouble with Tribbles.”

I read it, and it was more than just a “how I wrote it and how they filmed it” story. Although I will say later on I read Gene Coon’s book on Star Trek and he commented that Gerrold’s memory is faulty, and apparently Coon had to re-write the Trouble With Tribbles to make it fit the show.

But essentially, the book was on… how to write a script.


So, since Ninja movies were all the rage, I wrote a bad movie about Ninjas. And literally, I attracted the attention of a local independent movie producer-wannabe, who I worked with eventually to write about four movies. He was never able to get backers and funding, so the projects just died.

Everyone who was supposed to be in the movie went out to see a Ninja movie that came out, and they all told me, “your script is a lot better.”

Well, looking back on it, my script was horrible, so I can’t imagine how bad the other one was!

But that’s how I learned to write Scripts. I sat down with 3X5 index cards, a ball point Bic pen, and wrote out every confrontation I could think of. Some read – fight scene “(Sawyer and Yamoto)”. But you get the idea.

Once I had the two packs of index cards filled out with scenes, I sat down, set up an IBM Selectric with my margins I needed, and wrote the script. I think it took two weeks. I had a meeting with everyone, and they kept asking, “Is it done?” Mind you, they were asking if a 107 page script with a dozen major fight scenes was done after 15 days.

So I handed in the script. One page equals one minute of shooting script, and I had taken five different Chuck Norris movies and figured the average time based on the minute count on the back. I think I had a goal of 107 minutes.

fortunately, the sorry mess never got filmed. It was loaded with action and fight scenes, though.

So… what’s the good advice? “Think of every scene as a confrontation.” If I were teaching script writing in a college, that book would literally be my textbook for the class. Even in Charlotte’s Web, every scene is a confrontation. Fern talks to Wilbur, and time is ticking. Charlotte comes up with a plan to save Wilbur. Templeton goes to get a piece of paper with a word on it.

“It says crunchy.” “No, no, Templeton…”

As you watch your next movie, ask – “who is confronting who in this scene?”

Great way to learn more about movies.

World War Z – How I would have changed it

I realize that there’s ideologies involved in the movie. however, let me explain how different the movie would have been if I could have written it.

My readers may well start a petition drive by the end of this short article.

First… there’s guns everywhere. Gerry shoots a man in the Walgreens, and… they run out the door, leaving that gun lying there.

Stupid. Heros should grab every gun they see in a disaster/end of the world situation.

Let’s contrast that with a horror movie I saw in the ’80’s, where the Hero breaks into a gun shop, loads up on everything he needs, and leaves a big wad of cash wrapped in rubber bands on the counter as he leaves.

Why? Essentially, you’re in an “Invading army” scenario. Reloading takes time, and sometimes it simply is far more effective to grab a second gun and shoot.

In addition, you need strength in numbers. Everyone who joins you, will need a weapon. The more you pick up as you go along, the better you’ll be.

Second… Gerry is supposed to be a UN Investigator. He’s got to have combat experience. The rundown from the ship’s captain makes that clear. He’s not very inventive about clearing out the “Zekes”, the way that a man in that job would have been. As a matter of fact, he shows he’s all too willing to drop every weapon almost as soon as he gets it.

Third – anyone with the kind of build-up they give Gerry would have immediately responded in one way upon finding out his wife and daughters were taken off the ship. “Let me speak to the Captain. Here’s how it is. I’m going to find your answers. And when I’m done, I’m coming for you.”

The movie demanded it. I’m sure the audience left unsatisfied, wanting to see vengeance over Gerry’s family being kicked off the ship.

Really, I don’t know if Max Brooks was satisfied with the movie or not. Brooks went so far as to give survival tips in his book, most of which the movie ignored. I suppose if I ever meet him, I’ll interview him to find his thoughts on the movie.

And I’ll put it up here.

That’s my thoughts. The movie was good, but I felt it could have been better

Possible Project

You know, I’ve got an admission to make. I’ve got a project which keeps popping in my head. I know a lot of History, and certain people in history to me are irresistible. The history of Balthasar Hubmeier really needs a Mel Gibson to direct it, but he never would. It would take some serious convincing to get him to do it. If you know who Balthasar Hubmaier is, you’d know why.

But, there’s a pivotal person in history that I remain fascinated with, because I could see how a biography movie of him would be a HUGE epic story, since after all his life was a huge epic story. By this I mean Tokugawa.

Yes, I said Tokugawa. Ieyasu Tokugawa. Changed his name seven times, his parents taken from him early on, forced to be a hostage until he was fourteen, then expected to go and immediately be the Daimyo (samurai lord) of his family. You can almost see the fourteen year old’s thoughts at that point. “I can be Shogun.”

The future of Asia was almost set in stone from that moment. History had conspired to make him strong almost from birth. If you attempt to show the humanness of Tokugawa and Ishida as well as the might and power of both… it would make a compelling movie.

I’ve got an article on how to write a movie script in 30 days. At some point, I’m going to do it, and the subject may well be Tokugawa, because I’m a real nerd for Military history. And while I’m aware that there was a book and TV movie made about James Clavell’s book “Shogun”, it truly falls VERY short of the power and majesty any movie about Tokugawa should elicit.

And of course, prior to filming, one would need to sit with the head of the Ishida clan and the Tokugawa clan and get permission. You can proceed without it, but hey, POLITENESS is everything in Japanese society.

Director’s Commentaries

I suppose I’m one of those weird guys who – after I watch my DVD – I go back and watch it the next day or the next week with the director’s commentary playing. Sometimes it helps me with learning:

  1. How did they jump from scene 35 to scene 37? very often, you get stuck writing. you just can’t SEE how Hero finds the Keys in his pocket, but you have to get them there somehow.
  2. What did they mean by that? I’ve seen several movies where the director or screen writer put some scene in and you’re thinkng… “What in the world did that scene mean? you ruined a completely good scene by adding that stupid part in!”
  3. Why did they delete that scene? In one war movie I have, there’s a deleted scene that I vigorously disagree with the director about. It needed to be in there.

How many of you watch the director’s commentary?

By the way, we need many more DVD’s with this option. I’ve only got about seven DVD’s with this.

Screen writing

win-showcase-scrivener_header-16183As I mentioned previously, my writing program for novels is Scrivener, which I just recently purchased, after I wrote a third of a book during the demo process!

I needed to get the first novel ready for the screen because – once I sign to a contract with whatever publishing company signs me, I want to slide over the completed manuscripts of books 1-3, plus their screenplay scripts, so I can get these on the movie screens and on the DVD market after that.

So, my writing program of choice for Screenplays is Final Draft. It’s the best, has a very good interface, the kind of interface that inspires you to write and create. I really love it.

But it’s $250, and I can’t afford it. Sigh.

web_banner_smallSo, I’ve downloaded Fade In, which is nice, similar to Final Draft, and only $80. I don’t have to register it yet.

I hope to have something online for everyone to enjoy by this weekend.