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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginners Guide
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on 19 April 2011
Whilst the title of this book is accurate, I have to say that at first glance it looked as if it was aimed at computer technicians - it's the mention of "open source" that threw me. But what the book is really about is using a software program called Celtx to correctly format scripts for film, TV, stage, and more. With a background in writing - and having recently got a master's degree in Professional Writing (specialising in screenwriting) - I have been using FinalDraft: a program that is considered by many authorities to be the industry standard, but which fails on some levels, and I wanted to see if Celtx could do better. This placed me in an ideal position to give this book a thorough trial and see how it complements the software.

"Open source" refers to the Celtx program being built on standards that avoid the need to pay for licences and royalties. Now, this might sound as if, as screenwriters, we are expected to edge into technical territory (all right for some, but not everyone), but this term merely explains why Celtx is good for us - because the software is free. In fact the only cost will be for this book, and that makes it low-cost.

Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide promises to give us the secret of turning out a professionally-produced document that is correctly formatted for whatever genre of the entertainment industry we are writing. Okay, the temptation here is to review and extol the many virtues of the Celtx software, but that's not what this is about. I suppose this is because Roberts' book and the software seem to work so perfectly hand-in-hand.

It is targeted at everyone who is interested in writing and using a PC to get their stories down on paper: industry professionals, home-video makers, film clubs, or people who just want to produce a script for fun - and you never know where that might lead. . .

So what's the problem with scripts that makes them so difficult to type out? Surely the odd badly-spaced bit of dialogue and slugline here and there wouldn't be noticed. . .? Would it? Put simply, producers and TV professionals on both sides of the Atlantic are particularly picky about how the story in a script is laid out on paper. I know from the experience of one fellow wannabe writer that an unprofessional-looking script stands little chance of even being read if it doesn't illustrate a degree of professionalism; and it doesn't matter how great the story is. This book not only teaches what to use, but also how to use it.

Although the word "screenwriting" is in the title, the book also covers writing radio plays, storyboards, comic books, documentaries (I've worked on some of those), and - this was what really grabbed my interest - stage plays. Why? Because the program I had been using will only offer a stage template for the US version; I wanted the European version, and Celtx offers both US and UK by default.

There are chapters dedicated to each of the writing formats, with illustrations - including useful screenshots - and flowing text that leaves nothing for granted. The uncanny thing, I found, was that as soon as a question occurred to me it was then answered in the text, thus showing a logical progression of information. Oh, and unlike some text books, this is written in such a friendly manner there is no doubt as to whose side the author is on. I mention this because, especially with some maths books, the impression is that the authors know all the answers, but are not really comfortable sharing them with the reader.

It should be mentioned that this isn't merely a guide to formatting, but also how to write a logline, an outline, a treatment, and guidelines on how to deal with the industry and market the project.

In my initial read-through I was not left with unanswered questions, although, as I continue to use Celtx, that may change. If it does, and I think my suggestions might be useful for future editions, I can contact the author because he has included his email address.

I liked the comprehensive contents section that makes it easy to find where you want to be. Unlike some books this also comes with an index. After explanations there are useful What just happened? sections that help clarification. Roberts' honest style reveals the features gradually - but not slowly. And if he thinks that Celtx is falling short of perfection he tells you, even mentioning bugs that need sorting out.

Had I not had the book then getting around the software would have been so much more time-consuming. In fact, you can begin writing a story as you work through.

What I didn't like - and this is only a minor gripe - is that, because the author is based in the US, there is no mention of the differences in dealing with UK-based producers; it is clearly aimed at the American market - but then so are most of the screenwriting text books I have collected over the years. Don't let this put you off as there's plenty of relevant information and advice to make it worth buying. After all, storytelling is the same on both continents.

On a presentation level, I liked the sans-serif font used for the text; this is particularly relevant to the eBook version because, in my opinion, it is easier to read on a backlit display. And the hyperlinks actually work, making it easy to jump from the contents, index, or to any of the websites listed in the text. Oh, and the page numbering: have you noticed how, when reading full books using Adobe, the printed page numbers tend not to correspond with the number shown in the toolbar? Well they do here. It's in the detail, you see.

This book is a pleasure to use and covers more than I would have expected in its 376 pages. The author describes the software as "the Swiss Army Knife of pre-production software", and I would say that his book is essential reading to help get the best out of Celtx. Yes, I will recommend this to others.
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on 7 June 2011
Here's how it goes with new screenwriters: They can't afford pro screenwriting software like Final Draft, so they struggle with a hobbled demo version which limits them to just a few pages of script. They're so eager to get on with writing that they don't stop to learn the basic rules of screenplay formatting, structure, tone or style. They don't spend time learning about three-act structure because they don't know such a thing exists.

The net result is a bugger's muddle that completely fails to express their beautifully honed inner vision in any meaningful way. How do I know? Because I made all of these mistakes and several more that I'm too embarrassed to recount.

I learned the basics the hard way, by buying several screenwriting books, going on courses and reading scripts. Even then I always had this nagging feeling that my scripts were missing something tremendously important. I still have that nagging feeling. I don't think it ever goes away.

Back to the point. New screenwriters don't have to cough up a couple of hundred quid for Final Draft. There's an excellent piece of software called Celtx which does everything FD does and a bunch more besides. It's free and it works well.

But Celtx isn't going to jump off the screen and tell you how to use it or how to format a script or what a synopsis is or what the difference is between a logline and a tagline.

That's where Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide comes in. Ignore the baffling `open source' bit in the title, this book is aimed squarely at new screenwriters who want to get on with writing their magnum opus. All the information they need is here: not only how to install and drive Celtx and how to write and edit a script but also how to work with different project types including feature scripts, documentaries, stage plays, audio plays and so on.

The book then rises above your average `how to' by including a shedload of useful information about treatments, synopses, outlines and, of course, loglines and taglines. There's a whole chapter on how to market your script and a list of recommended screenwriting books.

This book won't turn you into the next Aaron Sorkin, but if you're standing at the starting line scratching your head, it'll give you a solid boost in the right direction. It's available in old-fashioned paper and new-fangled electronic formats. One's cheaper than the other. Guess which.

All in all worth a few quid of your money. Download Celtx, buy this book, get your head down and get your first script done.
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on 12 May 2011
Don't be put off by the Beginner's Guide title. This is an easily accessible book for beginner and accustomed user of screenwriting software alike. I'm a convert to free Celtx from expensive Final Draft and always suspected I was only ever using a fraction of its power. You know how it is; you're a busy writer, you've used Final Draft, how difficult can it be to switch to Celtx? It is easy, or at least I found it so but I ended up skating the surface of the program. As it says on the front of the book `learn by doing'. Well I did when I started using Celtx two years ago, but without realising there was a lot more.

My interest was piqued by a fellow writer's mention on Twitter that the publishers, packt.com were looking for reviewers to blog about the book. I'm thankful that the book is as approachable and useful as it states on the cover as reading it and then writing about it would have been a very dull task indeed. It is a manual with both utility and inspiration. The author is generous with his support of writers because he realises how difficult it is to sustain ideas and how to crack a very difficult market.

My approach, and I guess for a lot of other users too, is to read the book with my own projects open in a Celtx window so I could test out all those exciting new buttons for myself. This was a revelation! Not only did I discover all the new aspects but it was written in a refreshingly jargon-free conversational style that made me feel like I could actually do it without being either a total geek or an ignorant technophobe. Roberts is very good at removing the technofear! Though all the screenshots were for a PC user, it was easy to translate for a Mac user (the windows aren't THAT different). Don't be put off by the amount of pages by the way, readable chunks of informative text are broken up by the relevant screenshots and it's easy to go back and check where you are in terms of your own project and which aspect you're trying out.

As a writer who has written many shorts over the years, one or two features and a novel, I felt I needed to organize all these different strands of my writing practice in a way that makes them easily retrieveable. The most exciting part for me (yes, screenwriting is exciting!) was the realisation I could `contain' my projects within Celtx; logline, outline, beatsheet, storyboard etc each has its own tab within the project. If you're interested in the production scheduling side of film production, you can do that too with sketches, camera angles, music, research images. This containing element was the most compelling thing I discovered and takes the headache out of tracking down specific drafts of a project.

The sample scripts were very informative too, with the added bonus of being able to apply the different effects of the formatting to them to create templates suitable for different markets worldwide. They're all classics of their genre too, which helps as they are well known. Roberts constantly reminds us of pitfalls that bedevil the newbie writer; Not numbering the scenes for a spec script or including camera angles. He encourages us to explore how our stories will work in other formats by converting a screenplay to comic book example. I found his approach to refreshingly unstuffy but also quite painstaking without being patronizing.

So, to look at the blurb on the front cover: `Learn by doing: less theory, more results' I this to be found to be accurate. This book is both technical manual and good on the theory of scriptwriting. Roberts encourages to write in the present tense, to prepare for the script by writing a good outline or treatment (all contained within the same project, remember, for efficiency). Further, he exhorts us on the cover to `Write and Market Hollywood-perfect scripts the free way'. Well, yes, there is certainly no excuse to send out badly formatted scripts that guarantee your opus a place in a busy executive's paper recycling bin or more usually comnputer trash icon. Your script should be the very best version of itself that it can be, honed, polished, good structure, compelling characters, cunning twists and real emotional heart. Roberts gores into the history of this touching upon Arsitotlean dramatic theory and how storytelling as a human occupation comes to us from out early ancestprs. And Celtx is free. As Roberts is keen to state, the creators of the program can make it free by advertising inexpensive add-ons that enhance the program but are by no means essential. Though I bet there are producers out there salivating at the packages available for relatively little money in these days of cutbacks and the rise of indie and low-budget filmmaking, Celtx seems doubly relevant.

I liked the double-pronged approach of the book and Roberts' attitude to his subject. Neither too techie, nor too theoretical but a good composite of the two. If, like me, Robert MNcKee's `Story' made your eyes bleed, then this could be a good place to start. Which isn't to say that if you're new to screenwriting you shouldn't read other books on the subject. Blake Snyder's Save the Cat is given honourable mention here, as are other books on writing, producing and especially formatting.

When I had Final Draft, the book that came with the disk was informative and a good quick reference guide but was strictly technical and rather dry. Roberts' book feels like a conversation or one-to-one tutorial. As someone who writes every day, it's a book I would have open on the desktop to consult. It's easy to find what you need to know with the extensive index and indeed you can open up help windows on Celtx itself. There really is no excuse for not making your script as professional as possible.
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on 17 May 2011
I became aware of Celtx last year while working on a short film project I was commissioned for. It looked like a good bit of kit, but I already had an excellent piece of writing software and didn't require another one, nor did I have the time to learn how to use a new program. Then I became aware of Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide so I thought I'd give it a go.

The eBook was extremely helpful and I was able to learn as I went along. It's an easy read well laid out and it's very easy to find exactly what you're looking for. The book covers everything from your computer requirements, loading the software, the basics through to advanced use. The more I read of the book the more I discovered I could do with Celtx (even aspects of the software as a writer I will never use, but which will be extremely valuable to those looking for a complete production package). The book was so good I even recommended it to the person who first told me about Celtx and even he discovered things he never knew he could do before.

Although I only used the book to learn how to use screenwriting side of the software it does also teach you a lot more about exactly what Celtx is capable of on the production side of things and anyone who has Celtx, or is thinking of getting it, should really get the book as it will definitely help them make the most of the software.
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on 28 March 2011
First The Bad News

If you're under 20 or American (or both) then the style may not annoy you. If you're old and grumpy and English like me then it might.

It's like being taught by Austin Powers. That many exclamation marks don't belong in a grown-up's book. Neither do phrases like 'Okay, time to see if this baby will get off the ground!', 'Whoa! Look at the following screenshot' and 'Wow! Celtx turned it into all caps', 'Blap!', 'Cool beans!', and especially not 'Yeah, baby! It happens!'

It might not be as bad as I make out. It's not as many as one exclamation mark per page but it's more than one every other page. Ralph Roberts is old enough to know better. That's him over there on the left in a photo I stole from (...)(Ralph, you need to resize those photos down a bit).
Other bad news? Sometimes, mainly in the setup, it gets a bit technical and I'm not sure your average scriptwriter is going to be up to it. 'For Celtx to work, it is necessary to remove the scrim package or, on more recent Netbooks, the replacement gcin package.' Yes, you get told what to try typing to achieve this, but you don't get told where to type it.

Non-Event

It's not really a problem, but this book, published in March 2011 refers to a version of Celtx release in January 2010 (v2.7). V2.9 was released in February 2011 and there doesn't seem to have been a v2.8, so there's not a lot the author could have done about it.

Celtx doesn't change much between versions (I first used it when it was v0.97). If you want to see the difference between 2.7 and 2.9, then go here .

So What's The Good News?

Once Celtx is installed (which actually isn't difficult on Windows at least) the book does a pretty good job of explaining Celtx.

I've used Celtx off and on for years now (although I use Final Draft most of the time as I don't like that much web integration), and I know that the author knows what he is talking about.
It's not the author's fault, but you're unlikely to read all this book: Celtx allows you to do an awful lot of things:
* Film
* Theatre
* Radio
* Audio-Visual
* Storyboards
* Comic Books
It's probable that you're going to be using Celtx for just one or two of these. Of course, the book has to cover them all.

What else does it cover?

As well as the subjects listed above, you also get:
* An overview of the common features
* How to organise your projects
* Marketing your script - not much to do with Celtx, but the necessary basics so you don't shoot yourself in the foot.

Each chapter goes into quite a bit of depth. There isn't a menu item left uncovered. What is really good about this book, though, is the non- Celtx information, the 'How To Write A Screenplay' stuff.

Every chapter is peppered with extra information: not only where to get yet more information, but also tips and hints as to how to go about writing a script - what script readers are looking for in order to be able to dump your script and move on to the next one (and collect their fee).

Readers will drop your script for what seem to a novice scriptwriter as really petty reasons - maybe you have included scene numbers in a spec script. It's about the story, isn't it? Well, yes, but script readers know from experience that if the writer doesn't understand the basic technical, mechanical requirements for a script, then they're almost certainly haven't been around long enough to know the basics of structuring a story or of how to plot or how to use bookends or ensuring every character has an arc.
This book will help you with the mechanical technicalities as well as the requirements of the industry. And point you in the direction of books to help you with plotting and the 'art' of scriptwriting, too.
About The Author
From what I can tell from the net, Ralph Roberts is technology-savvy and an accomplished author. It's said that he's sold some screenplays (which is an achievement in itself) but it doesn't look like any of these have been produced.
Ralph, however, has produced a fair few DVDs of his own, mostly (or maybe entirely) self-made documentaries about things he cares about, and paid for (I would guess) with his own money, and marketed privately.
You're not going to get a wildly successful scriptwriter writing an ebook on Celtx. They can afford Final Draft, and will be pressing on with all those commissions from the big studios.
Ralph knows his way around a computer (he built his first one in 1976, apparently). He would appear to know the scriptwriting ropes as well. After all, it's not rocket science. Even if it were, Ralph worked for NASA during the space-shots. I can't find out exactly what he did there though. If it was sweeping floors, he seems to have come a long way. I suspect it was something more technical.

Summary

All in all it's a well thought out book with more information that you'll probably ever need. It's well-written (apart from the 'Yeah! Baby!'s) and will tell you everything you need to know in order to get that script written, not just how to use Celtx, but what script-readers are looking for.
I recommend it.

And if you are in to scriptwriting and looking for support, then can I suggest you have a look at my screenwriters group. It has a UK bias, but anyone is welcome as long as they accept that. It's a private group in the sense that casual visitors aren't allowed, but that is just so we can post scripts there and we don't have to worry about them getting stolen and appearing elsewhere on the web.
Click here to have a look You will get one or two emails a day on average, you can post scripts for a critique from anyone with the time, and do the same for others. And we occasionally meet up for a drink.
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on 4 May 2011
In order to write a good script - you need talent. But the talent is not enough. The script can be a unique and worthwhile to be turned into a movie, but he can't reach the production for one simple reason - not meeting the standards of writing scripts. These standards can easily be discovered, but the script turned into a torture because of text formatting. I am very well know this because of writing screenplay for a children. However, there is a solution - specialized software that can make life easier for a screenwriter. But these programs cost a lot of money. But luckily, I came across a wonderful book "Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide" by Ralph Roberts published by Packt. The name itself intrigued me very much, because Celx is the open source program, meaning that it is free. I immediately wanted to get acquainted with this book more closely, about my impressions after reading it will be written below. At the moment I'm preparing a Flash series for kids and thanks to the book, I know exactly what will be my choice of scripting tool.
The book is written in very simple language, and for most ordinary users. Any instructions are so clear and natural that they would perform even my grandmother J. After reading the book, you can quickly and easily master the program and immediately start writing scripts that will meet the standards of Hollywood and Bollywood. The author emphasizes that using Celtx to write scripts much easier, without being distracted by unnecessary things, and I totally agree with him.
The book has a lot of examples. We learn that using Celtx we can write not only Hollywood scripts, but also scripts for theater, podcasts, documentaries and even entire novels and comics.
I am very grateful to the author for giving such interesting features as organization of the shooting. Could you imagine that you do not need to worry about how to make a list of scenes that will be removed or rehearse and what props are needed for them? All it takes Celtx. And if you suddenly need to quickly change the schedule - it rebuild everything in a second. We will be able to schedule production activities and generate reports based on out scripts using the scheduling features in Celtx. It's a miracle.
But besides the fact that the book reveals wonderful opportunities Celtx, it is equally important that the author share his experiences. Indeed, Ralph Roberts has written over 100 books along with thousands of articles and short stories. He has a lot of knowledge to share. From the book you will get interesting tips on the essential elements you need to be clearly defined before you sit down to write the script, how to write a script that will be a success, etc.
At the end of the book also presents a very interesting collection of resources on writing scripts. But that's not all - as a bonus, the reader will learn about marketing tips and will find out some answers to the question: how to register the script?
As someone who writes every day, it's a book I would have open on the desktop to consult. There really is no excuse for not making your script as professional as possible.
I would like to thank Packt Publishing for the opportunity to get acquainted with this amazing book and would recommend it to all readers.
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on 17 August 2013
I have just downloaded the instructions to my Kindle Fire. I cannot even get over the first hurdle given that the pictures in the book do not correspond at all with what appears on the screen. Having written my title heading, there is no way I can advance. Like so many computer instruction books, the assumption is that the user understands everything. I've just wasted my money on yet another manual.
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