Thursday, May 05, 2011

TEST DRIVE: Movie Outline 3

CI evaluates Movie Outline 3, a new, all-in-one screenwriting solution.

by Ebony Jones

As writers, some of us are stuck in a habitual financial recession. Who wants to invest money in their art when they’re not even sure if it’s good? But at some point in time, you have to invest to make it better.  But is Movie Outline 3 worth the money? (currently $136 on

Before I changed my attitude about the worthiness of my craft, I used the free software Celtx. For those of you eating Ramen every night, Celtx is great software. It allows you to seamlessly crank out a script or even whet your palate for the concept of script format. And I always recommend it to people who don’t have the ducats to afford software. And while Celtx does offer elements of script planning, I was looking for more. I’ve used Final Draft, which is of course one of the two major screenwriting software programs, along with Movie Magic Screenwriter. It’s simple and pretty self-explanatory. For the price, there aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles, but it serves the basic purpose of its user for typing out a script and moving on to the next one. I feel like Final Draft is more for established screenwriters.

In my research, I have found that the perfect software is subjective to the person and the stage of their writing career. Movie Outline 3 fits my personality. I need to plan everything from story to location to characters. And I still rely heavily on screenwriting books that advise on how to write a great, award-winning script. This software does that.

I love that Movie Outline 3 allows you to write both scenes and/or steps. For me, stepping out the story in steps is easier to write, but since most writers work with scenes, the option is still there to speak the industry language. This software also allows you to use color-coded index cards (Step Cards) as steps or scenes. It’s simple to toggle back and forth between the two. There’s also a tab for Notes. But what I love is the Story Tasks tab, which allows you to write those little reminders that could make or break the continuity of your screenplay.

The selling point for me in this software is the character analysis. Celtx does this as well, by helping you create a character-based database for your characters. Movie Outline 3 takes it a step further and interviews you about each of your characters. It also gives you the option to create relationships between the characters and helps you evaluate how the realism of the interactions rates in conjunction with the pacing of your story. Movie Outline 3 focuses heavily on voice and whether or not your characters are diverse or if you’re just writing the same story, different day.

Click to watch a demo of Movie Outline 3 in action.
Speaking of pacing, your screenplay is beholden by the genre for which you’re writing it. While it helps to study screenplays for your genre, Movie Outline 3 gets the ball rolling by providing a sample from each of the main genres. I’d like to see them offer more recent options in future upgrades. But for what they do offer, the analysis is impressive. Basically, they allow you to pace your script with one of their examples. You'll catch on quickly whether your horror movie is moving too slowly or whether the suspense for your actioner is starting too soon, only to fizzle out before the end of the movie.

Typing out the script is efficient as well. Once you add all your characters under the Characters tabs, when writing the script, you have the auto-complete function that predicts your next function or who your character will be. You also have the option to turn off this function. The default settings are set to industry standard, but you have the freedom of changing settings if necessary. Scripts that export from Movie Outline 3 are portable to standard formats including Final Draft 8. Movie Outline 3 can also import from a wide range of formats, including Final Draft, .rtf, and even PDF (it's the only software I know of that can do this!) Once you import, Movie Outline 3 will analyze and reformat the script.

Some of my other favorite functions from Movie Outline 3 are the FeelFactor tab, the Dialogue Spotlight function, and Story Structure Templates. With FeelFactor, you can visually pace your story’s emotional levels via a graph of other genres. The Dialogue Spotlight isolates a character’s dialogue throughout the whole script so you can ensure you’re using a consistent voice. The Joseph Campbell fan in me (I have actually read his book) loves that they have a Hero’s Journey template so you can step out your story based on a structure that even George Lucas hails as key to his success. Other templates include One-Hour Drama, the Half-Hour Drama, and 3 and 5-Act Screenplays.

Finally, you won’t believe the bonus Movie Outline 3 has to offer. Before you even start typing out your screenplay, read the manual. Trust me on this. I downloaded the .pdf and loaded it onto my Kindle. This is serious coffee-with-Girl Scout-cookies-during-a rainy-day kind of reading. The manual was written by artists. They not only go through the techie stuff that bores you to tears, but they actually break down screenwriting in the most simplistic way imaginable. They tell you what a scene is, or what a character arc is, or what pacing is, and why it’s important to master in your script. The writers for the Movie Outline 3 manual convince you that you need all these elements to make it in this writing world.

So is it worth the dough? Heck yeah! I can say without a doubt that I’m a believer in what they’re selling. Movie Outline 3 is one size fits all software that really does perform as advertised. Click here to download a free trial of Movie Outline 3 at their website.

Ebony Jones is a 2001 graduate of Cornell University's School of Hospitality with a degree in business communications. She has completed her first unpublished novel "Sierra Phillips: Swimming in Blue Liqueur" as well as a short story, “When Ariel Lost Her Voice”. She has finally tackled restructuring the dramatic screenplay she's been working on that has now gone from “When Momma Dies” to "Untitled" since the mother no longer dies.

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