Phil Peel

Film, video, photography, sound and story

Screenwriting books – do they help?

Posted by Phil On July - 2 - 2012
screenwriting books

Some of my screenwriting books.

I used to love going into a bookshop (remember them..  before Amazon existed ) and browse screenwriting books. Each claimed to have the answers to the secrets of successful screenwriting. I would skim through several over half an hour in the bookshop, then  buy one, take it home and read it again.

I would rarely finish them though. But they are there, ready to dip into when I need guidance, crammed with fading Post-it bookmarks. I now usually cannot figure out why I put the bookmark there, but it’s an indication that something on the page resonated at the time.

Now the bookshops rarely seem to have any screenwriting books of interest. Maybe they have to stock more books on gardening or How to stop smoking. Maybe I have all the knowledge I need. Just have the problem of applying it.   I’m beginning to acquire more books online as Ebooks.  Great.. instant read… instant gratification.. Bookmarks that I can add notes to .

But deep down it doesn’t really satisfy. ..and when I need help, inspiration or guidance  I still find myself going back to my bookshelf

Incidentally for me, the most useful was the first I read 1990.  Michael Hague’s “Selling Screenplays that Sell” the yellow one at the top.

The most inspirational   … “On Writing” by Stephen King, which usually sits beside my bed.



Editing standing up. Is this weird?

Posted by Phil On June - 7 - 2012

Years ago I remember seeing a TV programme about Walter Murch editing Cold Mountain on Final Cut Pro. But what I thought was really strange was that he edited standing up.  Obviously a bit weird.

I thought no more about it until recently when I saw a BBC Horizon documentary : The Truth about Exercise.

One of the points it made was that sitting is a killer. ..or to be less sensational and more specific,  sitting for long periods  will shorten your life.  …and that got me to thinking.  What am I spending most of my time doing at the moment? Video editing and script writing.  Both very sedentary,  or in other words ..lots of sitting down.

In my youth, I was always convinced that the world would blow itself up in a nuclear war. I never expected to get past 30, so I’m somewhat surprised to still be around decades later. As I get older I’m also more aware that the end of my life is getting closer,  So the Horizon statistics about the number of days of your life that you will likely lose, due to sitting down, begin to assume a greater relevance.

I’ve been nervous about exercise after breaking my rib last autumn, whilst doing pull ups on a doorway and the bar fell off. Yes I know that’s illogical. But my subconscious has got it fixed that exercise = months of pain.

Anyway after seeing the Horizon documentary 3 months ago, I reorganised my edit suite. I have the Macbook Pro up on an Icurve laptop stand on top of high ( kitchen style) worksurface. So it’s level with  the other monitors.  ..and I’ve been standing up whilst editing or writing over the last 3 months.

..and it’s great. Admittedly my feet get a bit sore after 12 hours or so. Today I’ve been using it for 8 hours. But I’m sure it better for me. I think I’m losing weight.

I use an ancient Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard, that is hideous  against the sleek looks of the Mac, but is far kinder to my wrists.

Here I’m I’m using it for scriptwriting. So the keyboard of the Macbook is a convenient rest for the printed script. For rewrites I  print out and write notes on the pages. Incidentally I’m using Scrivener to write with, which I’ve found is really excellent.

..and here I’m using it for video editing using FCPX.

On the right hand side is a wireless mouse and Wacom tablet. On the left is a Contour control shuttle.  So I can zoom in an out with the left hand, whilst using the tablet/mouse simultaneously with the right hand.

The second keyboard underneath (on the rolling table) is for the separate PC and monitor on the right. So I can look up stuff on the Internet (I’m still learning FCP X) without disrupting the main editing or writing.  Though I have to admit it can be a bit distracting at times.  ..pause whilst I check Facebook 🙂

One disadvantage of this is that I occasionally use the wrong keyboard when using the PC, which can mess up the main edit on the Mac.

The Macbook Pro also has a dual port ESATA adaptor running into 16 terabyte RAID array.

Here’s an interesting article about working standing up


3 months  ago

Celtx screenwriting program available now on Android

Posted by Phil On February - 19 - 2012

Celtx screenwriting program

From the Celtx Facebook page -Official

CELTX “Software for Android …It’s in final testing now. Should just be a matter of days.” Friday 17th Feb at 10:47

UPDATE:   Celtx Script for Android now available in the Android Market!”

So why am I excited ?  What’s so special about Celtx?

I’ve used many scriptwriting programs over the years. …and I know Final Draft is easy to use and the industry standard. But if you’re intending to actually shoot your film, then you’ll need to start converting the script into production files.   ..and here the industry standard is Movie Magic Scheduling, which is a brilliant if somewhat complex program. Ideal for shooting a feature, but probably a bit over the top for a scheduling a short.

So here’s what I find happens.  The script is exported from Final Draft into Movie Magic and then it’s broken down into all the necessary elements ..location actors, props, costume etc.    ..and that’s great

..until the script gets changed.  I know it should be locked off. but in reality things change. Locations aren’t available, you can’t get a particular prop or the script just needs to be adapted.

..and this is the problem. if the script gets changed in Final Draft or for that matter most other screenwriting programs, then it doesn’t get changed in the scheduling program.

So this is where I find Celtx to have an advantage. As it’s a combined scriptwriting/ scheduling program, so if you change the script, it changes the scene breakdown, and all the other reports.

It’s also has an very effective online sharing facility. We used this to develop “Buon Giorno Sayonara” which incidentally has just been accepted into the 5th Annual Geneva Film Festival, near Chicago, March 29th – 31st – our 4th film festival of 2012.

I also find Celtx is better than Final Draft at some things. For example I’ve just been converting a stage play into a screenplay and needed to go through and change all the lines into the various elements: character dialogue, action etc.

Final Draft can do this. It can change an element. from say ACTION to CHARACTER, but it takes a mouse move to chose the element, then up to pull down a menu, then down to a submenu, then select the necessary element change  This takes ages for each change. There is apparently no keyboard shortcut.

Whereas in Celtx it’s just cmd (Mac) 3 to do the same. It can all be done in keyboard shortcuts.

Well anyway the point of this blog post is that I’ve found out that Celtx is about to bring out an Android version.It’s been available on Iphone /Ipad for some time but frustratingly  not on Android. Yes you’ve gathered, I use an Android phone.  I particularly like the immediate integration with Gmail etc.

But I have to admit that many of the professional apps on the Iphone /Ipad are seriously good ,and unavailable on Android devices.

One of these was Celtx. I’ve been hustling them for a year to get it working on Android and it’s about to happen.  🙂