Anyone who has worked in video/film or larger multimedia projects knows that the tasks of scriptwriting and pre-production are not as easy as they first appear. Now, it’s not just the rigid structure of the script itself which is the only issue — if it were, the simple macros for Word, OpenOffice.org Writer and other word processors would suffice — but it’s also the need to track characters, share the script with others, write production notes, do breakdowns of scenes, characters, props, CGI, special effects, locations, and so on. And if you opt for a professional scriptwriting applications like Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter, you’ll have to forfeit several hundred dollars US for applications that are often buggy, or at least outmoded by modern UI standards. So if you’re a budding screenwriter or a multimedia scripter on a limited budget, what are your options?
A few hours away from me, in the unassuming little provincial capital of Newfoundland named St. John’s (pop. about 120K), there toils a little crew pumping out some high-class software. Their flagship product, a screenwriting and pre-production application called Celtx, is something I’ve kept one eye on for a long while. (Coincidentally, I wasn’t even aware that this was a local project at first.) An Open Source application based on the Mozilla –yes, as in Firefox– code, it’s come a long way in the past year or so. When last I peeked at it, it was a very early version that proved rather slow, bug-ridden, and the cause of much aggravation when doing any degree of writing. But how it’s changed! Now, it’s a little shining star carrying with it hope for all those who have been burned by the unstable and costly Final Draft (or one’s inability to afford it in the first place).
Celtx is a comprehensive software package designed for people who work in the Film, TV, Theatre and New Media industries. It combines full-feature scriptwriting with media rich pre-production support and enables online collaboration. (celtx – Overview)
I’m seen a number of Mozilla-based applications in the past, but this one puts them all to shame. Not only doesn’t it “feel” like a browser in any way, but the functionality is, by far and away, one of the most comprehensive scriptwriting experiences I’ve ever encountered. Besides including a server synchronisation that permits others to see the script, its pre-production breakdown and database system allows you to insert text, graphics, video and audio which are all linked to the salient parts of your script. For example, when you mention a particular location, for example a park, you can have the script link directly into its database where you can keep a picture of the park and some key points to remember about it. Almost anything can be linked into this database, including props, makeup, F/X, production notes, electrics, and so on. In essence, it’s a one-stop shop to take you from writing the script all the way into pre-production — perfect for multimedia use and independent filmmakers.
And since it’s Open Source, it’s free of charge. If you’re a scriptwriter of any type, or dream of writing the great American/Canadian/etc. screenplay, be sure to check out Celtx.