February 26

SCREENWRITING 2.O

Web 2.0 is a phrase that refers to the new direction of the Internet: web applications that function through your browser, also known as “web apps”. For example, word processing is now available for free straight from your Internet browser from a dozen different sources, including the very slick Buzzword, Google Docs, Zoho Writer, and others. That means you don’t need to buy MS Word or any other word processor, as long as you have an Internet connection. And your documents are available from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an Internet connection. Similarly, spreadsheets that compete with Excel and Lotus are also beginning to be available through web apps. So, how does this relate to screenwriting?

ZHURA.COMThe folks at Zhura were kind enough to invite me to test drive their new screeenwriting web app at, where else, zhura.com. The idea is that you no longer need to buy any screenwriting software; you can just write your script online and, when you’re done, download it in pdf format for submission to your favorite Hollywood mogul.

Before writing this post, I took some time to play with this new toy and even asked Zhura some questions, which they quickly answered. At first, I was put off by all of the “corroberation” features. When you arrive at the front page, you see a world that looks different than that of any serious screenwriter – namely, open access to everyone’s drafts and ideas, free collaboration, and no way to ever protect your intellectual property. That is the “Public” side. It is the opposite of what working writers need. However, I quickly discovered the “Personal” side, where everything is private, your files are not accessible to anyone, and you use the web app pretty much like you would use any screenwriting software. You can even give access to anyone you want, such as your writing partner, so he or she can access the work from any Internet connection. It automatically saves, keeps revisions, and allows you to revert to a previous draft.

The fun of this program is that (i) it’s free; (ii) it works pretty well; and (iii) it exports to Final Draft (in txt format) and likely most other screenwriting programs (I don’t use others, so I couldn’t test it on them). However, it is a beta program and still has a some drawbacks, which the folks at Zhura tell me they are working slavishly to address even as you read this. First, for a full length screenplay, I found the web app sluggish, which took me right out of my work. The last thing I want to think about while writing is the software. However, for shorter pieces, and even for longer pieces if you break them up into separate files, it worked fine. Second, it does not show traditional page breaks until you save as a pdf or export as a txt. That means, while you are writing, you have to guess where you are in the script. That is a problem I have seen in other recent programs as well. Zhura says they are also working on that issue. Finally, it does not have some of the bells and whistles common to the most popular screenwriting software, including, for example, the ability to change page length by imperceptibly changing line spacing. I would not be surprised to see all of these issues addressed in the future.

In summary, I can’t say Zhura is quite there yet, at least not for the working writer or the aspiring to be working writer. It needs to have all of the features of the major screenwriting software to do that. However, it is a huge step in the right direction, a lot of fun to play with, and (with luck) will add the features needed to be really competitive. It is definitely worth signing up and checking out. Let me know what you think.

Enough. Now go write.



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Posted February 26, 2008 by TW in category "Resources

11 COMMENTS :

  1. By Carlo on

    Those are the same problems Celtx has, which is why I don’t use it.
    Final Draft, while horribly coded, is still the best. The bugs seem to be ironed out, even though it took a while.
    Hopefully Final Draft 8 isn’t a piece of crap. Then again, I’m using Final Draft 6 because it’s the most stable on my computer.

  2. By Constance Reader on

    In spite of the drawbacks, I’m going to start playing with scripped and zhura. I have Celtx now, simply because I could be writing on any of three computers over two different OS’s and I sure as hell can’t afford to purchase Final Draft once, much less twice (once for each OS).

    The upside to Zhura and Scripped over Celtx, I think, would be that I wouldn’t have to save my work, upload it Box.Net, then download it again on whatever machine I’ll be working on next. It will always be there and there’d be no version confusion.

    My question is, does the export to .txt/import to Final Draft REALLY work? I’ve tried it with Celtx and Montage and in both cases, the element (scene heading, action, dialogue, etc.) settings all go to hell and I have to reformat every single element.

  3. By TW on

    There is always some clean-up when you import an rtf or text file into Final Draft, but there was no more than usual. It was fairly minimal on the script I imported.

  4. By Alice on

    Movie Outline 3 looks impressive. Has a lot of story planning and structure tools as well as script formatting.

  5. By Jim on

    I’m just starting to learn screenwriting, and I’ve had a great experience using Screenwriter 6. It is stable- rock solid.
    I read that it is the only screenwriting software to win an Academy Award for Technical Achievement, and that it’s the official software format of Writers Guild of America, East and is preferred by WGA, West. I’m not sure how this compares to Final Draft.

  6. By Jim on

    Screenwriter does have iPartner where you cab colaborate with one other writer over the internet. Celtx & Zhura look like they have better functionality for collaboration though.

  7. By Mike on

    I have frequented Zhura on multiple occasions and have been less than impressed with the software in general. OK it’s free, so you can’t expect to much, but saying that I find Celtx an unrivalled component in the freeware area.

    There is more than one side to Zhura though, it does have a thriving community but the drawbacks are that the community in general is very amateurish within their outlook upon the world of screenwriting.

    They seem to run on their own ideals and principles on how to construct a draft script. The hierarchy frequently offer their advice to the newcomers who seem to be lacking within the formatting knowledge, but they also seem to bicker like children within their own domain over the most minor writing principles.

    There is also a quick rating system there which offers a star rating to any script for anyone who cares to indulge. The one thing I found is that the authors don’t take kindly to those telling them that they didn’t like their work. I think this site is for the starting out screenwriter who is looking for a confidence boost, in order that may find pleasure and reasoning within their writing.

    The one thing that troubled me was that many authors are naturally under the illusion that their work is automatically copyright protected and even display WGA registration numbers on their publicly displayed scripts, but what they don’t understand is that the idea of their material can be stolen by any viewer and adapted to form a similar story with the original identity concealed.

    This site breaks all the ideals of the screenwriting principles. The software is inferior to Celtx, for multiple reasons and in general the community is hostile and belligerent.

    Not a place to be for a real pro, or any serious student of the cinematic industry.

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