But what do you use to write it with? Word - Word of advice: DON'T. Seriously. Just don't even think about it.

But what then, it's not like screenwriting software's easily availible on the market, right?

Well, maybe not.

A quick search of the ever reliable site Wikipedia (well, as long as it's referenced. If it's not referenced my advice is to steer well clear) gives us the following:

Final Draft
BPC Screenplay
Movie Magic Screenwriter
Movie Outline
Page 2 Stage
and last but not least, Adobe Story

So it's not like you're dredging the barrel looking for something to write with. But what makes each of these applications unique? Why should you use That software to write your screenplay over This piece of software? Let's find out.


In all the universities I scoured looking for courses to do next year, which software came up as the one they use to teach how to write screenplays? Yep, you guessed it, Final Draft.

Now in it's eighth iteration, the software holds the honour of being the only software that allows you to register your script with the Writer's Guild of America, West online (we won't talk about the Guild just yet though, I'll end up boring your face off). Another handy feature it has is script templates for over fifty (yes, 5-0) different movie and television templates, which can be pretty handy I'm sure.

Final Draft can be used by both Macs and PCs, so no worries about incompatibility there, unless you're on Linux, and only takes up 35-50megabytes on the system, so it won't slow you down much or at all.

Final Draft also uses timecutting techniques like keystrokes to easily format scripts and uses autorecognition to save you having to write out scene locations and character names over and over again.

However, Final Draft does cost money - £165.99 to be precise. Yeah. If you just cringed, join the club.

But what do the pros say about Final Draft? Well, J.J. Abrams (I'm sure I don't nead to put a few of his works up but I will anyway; Star Trek, Lost, Alias, Mission: Impossible III...) says:

"Even if you don't have a computer, I recommend buying final Draft."

James Cameron? (Terminator, Avatar, Aliens, et cetera)

"You can't win a race without a champion car. Final Draft is my Ferrarri."

Guillermo del Toro? (Hellyboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pan's Labyrinth)

"If one could marry a program-or even elope with one- I would choose Final Draft. After all it has been a wise, patient and loyal writing partner that has been by my side for almost fifteen years.”

The list is long and prosperous - all those quotes are on the Final Draft Website.

My conclusion? Great bit of kit (I've downloaded the demo of an older edition before - blew my mind away). Bit expensive for a rookie though (particularly one who hasn't done an honest day's work in pretty much ever).


Well, if price is the issue, I can solve that one right here - Celtx (pronounced Kelt-ex, by the way) is a freeware programme. But what's that? You ask. A lot of gobbledegook you really don't have to worry about, but what maters is - IT'S FREE! Yep, you got it, no catches, no payments six months down the line, nothing like that, just go to the website, download the programme, install it, and away you go!

I use this programme myself and I can tell you now - It. Kicks. Some. SERIOUS. Backside. Really. I've been using it, maybe 2-3 years now, never had a thing go wrong with it. Granted, you need to be online to save PDF versions of your scripts, but that's only a biggie if your internet connection's on the blink, so I'll let it off.

The programme can be used on both Macs and PCs.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to find any quotes on the programme from people in the industry, I suspect that's because they've actually got the money to go out and buy stuff like Final Draft.

My conclusion? The perfect software for the budding writer.

I know I listed loads up topside of this article, but I'm not gonna talk about them all (I'm gonna let you have a look for yourselves), so we'll be going over to


This is the Other piece of professionally used kit, and has been used to write things like the Pirates of the Carribean series, 24, CSI, House, Shrek, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Heroes and Stargate Atlantis, so one assumes it must be able to both walk and talk.

The programme is in it's sixth iteration, and is another one that costs, I'm afraid, £162.74, to be precise - another cringe there.

Here's what the pros have to say on the subject:

" I’ve tried most of the competing programs, and found Movie Magic Screenwriter to be far and away the best and most intuitive of the bunch. It’s straightforward enough that a new user can start writing perfectly formatted screenplays within moments of installing it. And it has powerful outlining and production features for those who need them. A perfect program, I will not write without it. "
-- Evan Katz Exec Producer, " 24 " and " JAG "

"Writing for "24" is hard enough. Thank God we've got Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 that let's us get our ideas down with maximum ease. "

-- Manny Coto Executive Producer, " 24 ", " Enterprise " and " The Outer Limits "
"I've used Movie Magic Screenwriter for many years. Nothing is as simple, powerful, intuitive and versatile. And the support is outstanding."
- Paul Haggis, Writer, Director, Casino Royale, Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers, Crash (Best Picture & Best Original Screenplay 2005), Million Dollar Baby (Best Picture 2004)

"Movie Magic Screenwriter is the gold standard throughout the Hollywood studio system.... Superior program for addressing the challenges of production rewrites. There is no better screenwriting software on the market."
-- Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, Writers, Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2, & 3, Shrek, Aladdin, Mask of Zorro

"I was the typewriter machine kind of guy and for several years I refused to switch to a computer. I thought it was going to be difficult and messy. But lot of friends finally convinced me. I bought my computer and: it was impossible to write a decent screenplay. I was always fighting the keyboard, with bad results, until someone recommended Movie Magic Screenwriter to me. Bingo! Suddenly everything became easy and professional and clean and...perfect. Movie Magic Screenwriter allowed me to concentrate on my writing, not on the keyboard. Now, all of my friends have switched to Movie Magic Screenwriter and we are very, very happy with it."

Guillermo Arriaga, Writer, Babel, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 21 Grams, Amores Perros

"Movie Magic Screenwriter is the most intuitive and flexible screenwriting software on the market today."

Michael Goldenberg, Writer/ Director, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Contact, Bed Of Roses

"If you're a filmmaker or a screenwriter and you're not infusing Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 into your work; you are spending an abundance of energy without any creative payoff. This software is hands down one of the most powerful production tools we've evaluated. And the good news? It's incredibly user-friendly and far easier to use and navigate than a number of programs on the market. Screenwriter 6.0 includes a new outlining feature that it is fully customizable.  So no matter what story Paradigm you use; Dramatica, Three Act Paradigm, Hero’s Journey, etc., you can outline that way in Screenwriter. Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 is more than just a sound investment; it's an extraordinary tool for writers and those of us who merely "dabble" in our own personal projects". John Mundazio, UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate (NOTE: MMS also won the Editor's Choice Award from this publication).

Finally, I'm going to comment on a screenwriting programme that's not even out yet -


It's currently in beta stages at the moment, so details aren't all that clear, but if their past record's anything to go on, you can bet horses to courses that this'll be a major player in time. One to keep an eye out for I think.

So there you go - if you do have cash, go for Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter. If you don't, Celtx all the way. Don't worry, no-one's gonna mark you down for writing the thing on something that's not as well known as the others, there's nothing that says "ALL SCREENPLAYS MUST BE WRITTEN WITH THIS PROGRAMME!!!" so don't fret.

I'd say go out, get the programme of your choice and start writing, but before I do, I highly recommend you wait for the
Ah yes, the immortal first words of a screenplay. But fade in to what? There's so much to write about and so many ways to do it - do you want it to be funny? Dramatic? Tragic? That's up to you. It's your script. Your the one who makes the call. The director, producer, cast, heck, just about everybody in the film industry, can't do jack without a script. That's a lot of pressure to get it right, and often you'll find that time's against you because you'll have about a month to work up some little ten word sentence into a full fledged screenplay if your commissioned (and trust me, as someone who is well versed in the art of hitting deadlines, time will become scarce just when you need it. Like one of those "why bring a gun on a trip" scenarios: You'll definately find yourself in the "need it but don't have it category".

Personally, I'm a firm believer in the first ten pages (about the first ten minutes of the film, give or take, it depends on the content - action sequences usually take longer than dialogue based scenes) being able to draw a reader in, so that's what I've tried doing on two of the three scripts I'm currently working on (the third doesn't even have a "FADE IN:" yet so bear with me). In one instance, we have two gunfights happening in two locations on the far side of the world to each other (well, Baghdad and the UK, which seems pretty far to me), which can be best described as chaos (I did use... somewhat stronger language, shall we say, to describe it in the script, but I'm trying to keep this as clean as possible). The other has a bombshell (somewhat literally) dropped about two thirds of the way down page 8, which is always a good thing.

One thing I've heard most people tend to forget is that after the front 10, there's still about 100 odd pages or so to go! (I will admit, very much guilty of that on my part, I tend to get my beginning together, slap the ending on it and then spend shedloads of time working out just what goes in the middle). This is not a good thing to do. It's all well and good having a beginning of a film that rivals James Bond for it's action and intensity, but if it then peters out over the remaining 100 pages then, sorry bub, but your script pretty much ain't worth the paper it's written on. Which means that, if your anything like me, you've just wasted a bucketload of ink and paper getting the thing printed and a sack of cash buying stamps et cetera trying to get it seen by people. Actually, seeing as the only scripts I've ever finished are five minute shorts which were for an assignment I had to do for college last year and thus printed them out at college, I've never actually had to spend the cash on printing and ink cartridge replacements. Good job too, I'm skint!