Screenwriting Tools and Communities (#7)
Here are some resources I’ve found interesting and/or useful.
There are over 10,000 results for “screenwriting” when you search for books on Amazon.com, and at least one new screenwriting book is published every week.
Here are some “how to” books I recommend:
- How to Write a Movie in 21 Days
- Screenplay (Syd Field)
- Story (McKee)
- Writing for Emotional Impact
- Save the Cat (series)
- The Screenwriter’s Bible
- My Story Can Beat up Your Story
There are also good books about the screenwriting life. Some of my favorites are:
- What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting
- Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting
- Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade
- Just the Funny Parts: … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club
- The First Time I Got Paid For It: Writers’ Tales From The Hollywood Trenches
Some of the most popular screenwriting format programs include:
- Celtx (free; upgrades available)
- Highland (free, with $49.99 pro upgrade)
- Final Draft ($249.99 for Final Draft 11; considered over-priced and widely-loathed, but also the industry standard)
- Movie Magic ($99.99 for version 6)
More options are discussed here, and you can find about 40 screenwriting programs at The Writer’s Store.
Most programs have free trials, so you can see which one you like best before you commit.
Having screenwriting software is necessary (IMHO) but not sufficient to write a properly formatted screenplay. The software will let you designate dialogue as V.O. (voice over) or O.S. (off-screen), but it won’t explain when you use which. For that, and for many other things, you need to read something that gets into the details of formatting, like The Screenwriter’s Bible.
Many format programs have lots of bells and whistles including:
- virtual index cards that can be moved around on virtual cork boards,
- text-to-speech (so you can hear robots read your screenplay out loud), and
- collaboration functions (which are actually useful if you and your writing partner are in different locations or don’t want to crowd around the same screen).
There are also specialized software programs that supposedly help with plotting and structure, character development, etc., but I’ve never used any.
You can often find screenplays for produced movies by googling the name of the movie along with “PDF.”
Scott Myers has collected a list of 100+ scripts made available by studios and production companies here.
Scripts often appear online around awards season (roughly the three months before the Oscars) but they may disappear later. So if you find a copy of a script you really want to study, it’s a good idea to download and save it.
You can also try Simply Scripts, The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb), and Drew’s Script-O-Rama.
Many libraries and bookstores carry published scripts, but often the format will be somewhat different from the original version.
There are no longer any paper screenwriting magazines that I know about, but print magazines like Movie Maker and Writer’s Digest often have articles on screenwriting.
The top online screenwriting magazines are:
You can read some screenwriting articles I’ve written here.
The number-one screenwriting podcast is unquestionably Scriptnotes, with over 100,000 weekly listeners and over 400 episodes.
New episodes are free (and don’t even have annoying ads!) and have transcripts available within a week after the podcast airs.
Older episodes are available for a premium subscription or you can buy a 50-episode season for $5.
The Listener’s Guide will help you navigate back episodes.
IMHO, if you’re not listening to Scriptnotes you’re not serious about screenwriting.
The Moment podcast hosted by Brian Koppelman isn’t just about screenwriting but includes many talks with screenwriters. My favorite features Eric Heisserer (Arrival).
You Had Us at Hello
This occasional podcast hosted by Tess Morris and Billy Mernit focuses on rom-coms.
BAFTA Screenwriters Lectures
Recorded screenwriting lectures and other screenwriting resources are on the BAFTA screenwriting page. Apps are here.
My favorite talk is the one by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey).
The Writer’s Almanac
This is a short (5-minute) daily podcast with historical tidbits about writers and a poem.
Home of the Scriptnotes podcasts and transcripts, plus sample scripts and other resources.
There’s also John’s newsletter, Inneresting.
Named “Best of the Best” Scriptwriting Website by Writer’s Digest
Black List Screenwriter’s Notebook
Books, essays, talks, podcasts, data, and more.
Nicholl Fellowship Formatting Guide
Nicholl-winning scripts are also available here, and there’s a long list of recommended books.
Online Screenwriting Communities
Here are some online groups to know about:
Done Deal Pro Screenwriting Forum
Most of the people I follow are screenwriters, so you could start building your own follow-list here.
Scott Meyers has compiled a great collection of screenwriting tweetstorms here.
In-Person Meetups and Conferences
In the wake of the WGA-ATA dispute, there have been a bunch of screenwriter mixers, mostly in LA. To find the next one, look for #WGAMIX on Twitter.
To find screenwriting meetups in your area, check here. Or start one of your own.
The absolute best screenwriting conference is the Austin Film Festival Writers Conference every year in October. I wrote about it here and here.
Most community colleges offer classes in screenwriting.
UCLA Extension has a large selection of online and in-person screenwriting classes and offers certificate programs.
The best pen for screenwriters is the Pilot G-2 07. It is known.
I like Decomposition spiral notebooks for taking notes and making outlines, because the paper feels nice, they’re eco-friendly, they have sturdy covers, and they’re hipster AF.
My favorite journals are made by Paperblanks, and the mini size will fit in a purse or pocket. Other writers like Moleskine.
John August’s Writer Emergency Pack ($19) is a card deck for helping to get a story unstuck.
Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything important!