Saturday, November 7, 2009

Screenwriting for Dummies by a Dummy

One of the first things I learned when I decided to make a short film was how to write a screenplay. I had read a few before, but had no idea how to format one, and I had no knowledge of the technical aspects of writing it. Of course, since I was just starting out it really didn't matter if my screenplay met Hollywood screenwriting standards, but I figured it couldn't hurt to know the basics.

So, I picked up the cheapest book on the subject I could find at Books-A-Million. It was called simply, "Screenwriting", and it was a book from the "Teach Yourself" label. I figured that if I read up on the basics of formatting my screenplay, I could go from there and write it how I saw fit. With any form of art I am only interested in learning the basics, because after you know the fundamentals the rest is up to your own creativity. Well, the book offered a lot of help and advice, but the main thing I discovered from the book was on the last pages. It listed several websites that pertained to screenwriting. Among them was the following website:

What this website offers is screenwriting software called Script Genie that works with Microsoft Word. The software automatically formats your writing to the style of a screenplay, with your guidance. It is extremely simple to use. As you're writing, you choose what type of style you want and it places the cursor where it's supposed to be, sets the font and caps lock as needed, and you type away.
When I say "style," I mean Character Name style, Scene Header style, Dialogue Indent style, etc. For instance, when you introduce a character speaking dialogue, in Script Genie you click the Character Name style. The program sets your cursor where it needs to be, and you type the character's name. Then, you hit Enter, and click on the Dialogue Indent style, and it sets your cursor for typing your dialogue. And so on and so forth.
The "Screenwriting" book helped me understand the different settings required within my manuscript, but the Script Genie software made sure I did it properly. It is the only screenwriting software I have used. It cost me around $30, as opposed to software such as Final Draft, which cost upwards of $200. I think, for the budding independent filmmaker, Script Genie is an easy to use, cost effective choice. The book, also, was very helpful, and I think only set me back about $13.

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