The first workshop in the Introduction to Screenwriting series is now available as a downloadable pack under Resources

Tools for writing screenplays

How to use computer programs to make screenplays for the standard format.

If you're handling the format yourself then there's an introduction to the standard format here and a complete style guide in the resources section.

Screenwriting software

There's no doubt the easiest way to write screenplays is to use a dedicated screenwriting package. There are a considerable number available for all sorts of operating systems, but in the professional sphere the established leader is Final Draft.

The other big player in the industry is Movie Magic, which is becoming widely used. Either of them will easily cope with any screenwriting demand.

Using word-processors

Most people have a word-processor on their computer and are often comfortable with it. Most modern versions will allow the building of templates that achieve most, if not all, of the format requirements. Even more useful, the common types often have templates that other people have already built. In general my experience is that they work very well if you're writing on your own, but when you start to collaborate with others and share files the subtle differences between versions and tempates can be a bit problematic.

There are templates available for Microsoft Office, Open Office, Libre Office and others. Searching for them online isn't particularly difficult. If you find none of them meet your needs then adapt them yourself and share your version with the web.

Other software

There are plenty of other tools that might appeal, moving for the moment away from the screenplay format.

There are writing productivity tools that are primarily designed to help you develop story structure and plot development. I'm most familiar with Scrivener, which is inexpensive, supports Windows and Mac systems and makes the development of the story much more controllable.

There are also special software tools for story development, character development, plot structure and probably anything else you can imagine. Many of them encapsulate the lessons of traditional screenwriting teachers.

"A lot of people who are in the movie business don't really know much about movies, and they certainly don't know movie history. You have to even find a code when you're talking to these people - you can't use the references that you would use when talking to somebody who knows movie history. When you go in to pitch something, it depends what you invoke. You can't invoke anything really before 1980 with these people because they don't know what you're talking about. It's limiting. They get annoyed. They get offended that you are somehow trying to expose the fact that they don't know things, and make them feel inadequate. Which is of course not the point, or why you do it. "

Joe Dante