Tag Archives: celtx

Rating the Forums

celtx graphic

Celtx Forums Might Be Worth Checking Out

William Goldman famously said about Hollywood “Nobody knows anything” and I think online screenwriting forums are good evidence of this. I have always tried to avoid them, convinced that they are, well, a waste of time. If I am going to be a screenwriter, I better spend more time writing for the screen than writing for other screenwriters. The best thing I have done for my screenwriting career is to start this blog and seek out other bloggers. Instead of spending time in the local pub—the “forums,” I have my own castle “the blog,” where I can express myself free of charge and without threat of flamers or dullards. It’s nice here, huh?

But is this the right move? Are there screenwriting forums I have missed? I decided  to check out three to make sure I’m not missing out. I was a bit surprised by what I found—I even enjoyed some of them!

In the comments, let me know other screenwriting forums I should be checking out.

The Artful Forum

This one may be the first I was directed to as a young screenwriter all of five months ago. Connected to Craig Mazin and Ted Elliot’s blog, it features lively, moderated discussion, mostly about the craft of screenwriting. The “Ask a Pro” section of the forum seems like the coolest part of the site. I sifted through a thread with Ted Elliot and he did provide some decent replies to questions from members, who mostly asked about Pirates of the Caribbean. As much as he may have preferred to talk about something else, he did answer those questions.

The worst part are the judgmental, mean people who if you have a question, will look down on you and sort of make fun of you. For example, The Alameda Writers Group announced an event the other day on the blog. Instead of taking the poster seriously, the forum spent two days debating the grammar of the entry. Perhaps the Group posted in the wrong part of the forum, perhaps no one wants to go to the event, but still, not OK to be mean.

Opinion: I would look through this for information but think twice before posting. It’s not worth the effort to just be dissed or called a noob.

Wordplay Forums

The Wordplay Forums are run by the prolific Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. Unlike the Artful Forum, there are no categories for posts so it is one long line of topics. That written, the conversations I read this morning seem rather focused and helpful. I checked out one on contests that gave some good feedback on which to apply to; this is needful information for me as I just finished my first feature-length last month.  It’s much less snarky than other screenwriting forums and may be worth checking out.

The downside: the threads are difficult to follow and not being powered by vBulletin like the Artful (or Celtx) Forums, they are simply a collection of links that take a bit of time to load. Before I subscribe to this one, I would like an improvement in readability. There are helpful links/advice on this board, you just have to search for it.

Celtx Forums

This is a hidden gem for me. Maybe it’s because I like Celtx so much, I just think that the people who use this free screenwriting software program must be pretty agreeable people. At its best, the Celtx Forums are a big party; threads include titles such as “The Original Skype Conference Call Thread (now UPDATED!)” and “How many people will jump in Celtx IRC chat?” It’s as if the members can’t get enough of each other on the board and need more outlets to talk and chill.

I am interested but a little afraid of the “Script Reviews & Collaboration” section. While seemingly very Web 2.0, I am not ready to put my script out there for strangers to read. This is strange, because ultimately I would like thousands of people to see it. Yet I do not think I can get the best sort of criticism online; I would have to know someone and trust that person before I could simply write him or her with my script. I have been burned too many times before. I like that this option exists and I have seen this on other forums, but I just don’t know. I’m not ready.

OK, time to share your experiences in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Rating the Screenplay Software

Movie Magic 6—Write Brothers, Inc. A

Final Draft 8—Final Draft Inc. B-

Celtx—http://celtx.com/ A-

Before we begin, I should admit that this post is very subjective. I only used the free trials and did not in fact buy any of the products listed (small budget). For those not in the know, formatting software helps screenwriters take their Word document and shape it into a screenplay. There are varying degrees of automation, but generally the user presses tab and enter in varying ways, a tab to make Jon a “character name”—JON, centered, and an enter for dialogue to also appear in the center of the page. Enough explanation, let’s get right down to it—while Final Draft may be the industry standard, it’s also rather expensive. Movie Magic 6.0 is good—but again, it’s not cheap, and Celtx is free and also pretty sturdy. Let’s hit these three in a bit more depth.

Final Draft 8 reminds me of a really ritzy spa. They’re over generous and almost cloying when you pay membership but if you’re on a freebie account they could care less about you. For example, unlike Movie Magic, which offers a five day trial—Final Draft only allows you to save fifteen pages or less documents. So, if you really wanted to use FD on a trial, think again. I did get to glance at a few cool gizmos. There are dozens of templates, whether traditional screenplay, stage play, or even “BBC Three-Camera Show” format, in case you have a Judi Dench vehicle coming up.

The templates work well, but are a little strict, if you make a mistake while formatting, as I often do, the program does not help correct. It is generally a matter of “Ctrl + Z” and starting over. In fact, the text often gloms together and will not come apart. Maybe with a more complete trial I could figure out how to work this, but with only fifteen pages to save, my hands are tied. Final Draft also offers other gizmos; you can register your script online with the Writers Guild. There is also collaboration software, if you want to go down that route, although how that works, being a solo screenwriter, is beyond me. It also offers notes and index card programs, in case you haven’t been to Staples in years.

So, on to Movie Magic 6. I found this program both less expensive and a lot more fun to use. For example, while you have many templates, sans BBC, you can mess around with those templates to fit your own specifications. Want the dialogue double-spaced? It’s a format change away. Movie Magic also comes with the index cards and really good breakdown software (breakdown is the next step in screenwriting, after the script is approved, a line producer goes through each scene and decides what props, actors, animal trainers, and other things he or she needs). On top of that, the formatting is easier to accomplish. Again, there are less “bells and whistles” but a much better value and for the beginning screenwriter with a budget, and a much more sensible buy.

Finally we come to Celtx, my screenwriting software. Anyone can download this, it’s free, you don’t need to be rich. The downside is that the formatting is only for screenplays, stage plays, and a few other types, so TV writers may have to invest a bit more. It also has breakdown features, a very usable format, and a PDF converter. Plus, Celtx has a strong online community that is wildly loyal to the software and can answer any questions on their forum. I would recommend this to the screenwriter starting out (ala me) who doesn’t want to invest too much (read: any) because that person is still looking for work. I would graduate to Movie Magic 6, and then once a studio hires you, make them buy you Final Draft 8, although we may be on version 32 by the time you make it up there.

I hope this post wasn’t too long, but you do have choices. Be aware that there are more people making money from screenwriters than screenwriters making money. People who write need to realize that their investment should be their writing and not their tools. Programs come and go, and to be honest, who cares what the screenplay looks like. What matters is it is good. I would much rather read an amazing screenplay written in Word than another boring genre potboiler with five hundred special effects and robots who act human, and actors who act like robots. Which is just to say, be careful and don’t overpay.