One of the most important tools for any filmmaker (whether you’re a big wig executive for a major Hollywood studio, or an independent writer/director/dp/editor/producer from Small Town, USA making your first film on a shoestring budget of $1000) is the software used. There are software options for editing (including Final Cut, Avid, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, and more), production (EP Budgeting, EP Scheduling, Movie Magic, Big Horse, etc.) and animation (Blender, Maya, After Effects, etc). But remember, before the movie can take place, there has to be a script. So naturally, there are software programs for screenwriters.

The two “industry standard” screenwriting programs are Final Draft and Movie Magic’s Screenwriter. Both of these programs however are very expensive (hundreds of dollars!). Several years ago, a company called the Greyfirst Corporation developed a free-ware software program called Celtx (which stands for Crew, Equipment, Location, Text, and XML). Celtx is a cross-platform screenwriting program which can be downloaded and used for free, and uses industry approved formatting. More than that, it is also capable of many script formats and even pre-production functions. Let’s take a look at all the perks and functions of Celtx.

Multiple Formats. If you want to write a script, Celtx is the program for you, no matter what kind of script you want to write for. The “Film” format will allow you to easily create a properly formatted screenplay for a feature film, short film, or television program. “Audio-Visual” will let you make a script for anything where you need to see exactly what we will see with specific sounds. This can include music videos, infomercials, or anything else where a perfectly synced soundtrack with visuals is needed. The “Theater” format is used to write stage plays, complete with acts and scenes as well as characters and stage direction. “Audio Play” is useful for creating radio shows similar to the old Superman radio shows or even modern radio commercials. “Storyboard” lets you create a storyboard for a project. This option listed later as it is also an option in the production tools. If creating a comic book is more your speed, you can use the “Comic Book” feature to outline pages, panels, captions and speech bubbles. There is also just a “text” function, if you prefer, to just take the place of word processing programs such as Word.

Index cards. One very useful Celtx tool is the “index cards” feature. Sometimes when you are working on a script… maybe doing re-writes, you may decide that your script would work better if a few of the scenes were in different places. This can easily be accomplished with the index cards. While writing your script, you will notice that your scene numbers appear listed in a box at the lower left of the screen. In that same box, there is a small black symbol which reads “index card heading”. You can use this to label each index card for each scene, or not use it and have the entire scene show up on the index card. Then, when you are ready to start rearranging, click the “Index Cards” tab at the bottom of the screen. This will bring you a screen full of index cards. If you filled in what the headings will be, you will see them on the cards now, if not they will be blank. Simply click the “Show script” button at the top of the screen to reveal the scenes on the cards. You can now click and drag a card to anywhere in the sequence to change the order of the cards. Once the cards are moved, the scenes in the actual script will appear in this new order.

Typeset. This is where you can see what your script actually looks like on the printed page. You can also alter how it will look as well as save it as a PDF file to be shared with others via e-mail. If you click “Save PDF”, you will get a PDF file of your script (pretty self explanatory). If you click “Format Options”, you can change paper size, whether or not to show scene numbers (for a shooting script), have page breaks, and have “MOREs” and “CONTINUED’s” for dialogs, characters, and scenes.

Add. Near the VERY top of the screen in Celtx is an “Add” button. This has many features attached that are useful for your pre-production endeavors. From here you can add storyboards for your script, catalog all your characters and locations and props, make various types of schedules (calendar, one-liners, or call sheets), and even add descriptions for characters and scenes including the total pages and in what scenes they appear.

Web Services. For a fee, you can also make use of the online community for Celtx called Celtx Studio. This allows to you store back-ups of your scripts, and even share your scripts with others for collaborative writing efforts or for quickly distributing the script to your crew.

While many of the “Hollywood Types” might look down on Celtx because of it’s free “no budget” aspect, once you’ve formatted everything properly and printed up a copy of the PDF version of the script and hold it side-by-side with a Final Draft printed copy, you cannot even tell the difference. There might be a small change in the spacing between the two, but if you are looking at the PDF of a Celtx-made script, you will never know if it was made in Celtx or Final Draft. Of course, if you can afford Final Draft software, by all means get it!

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