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ATPM 7.04
April 2001


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Review: Movie Magic ScreenWriter 2000 v. 4.0.1

by Mike Shields,


Developer: Screenplay Systems (product page)

Price: $229 (street)

Requirements: 68030-based Mac, System 7.1 or later

Trial: Feature-limited (watermarks printing)

I write movies. I write reviews. So, it was only natural that I write a review of software used to write movies. Okay, screenplays. Also, TV shows and movies of the week. Each has its own individual format, and MMS (like the others before it) handles each unique format flawlessly. Recently in these pages, I reviewed similar software. The trap when getting a piece of software like this is to compare it to others, as the box would suggest. It has always amazed me how the product I’m thinking of purchasing seems to beat the one that I currently have, and MMS makes no exception here on its impressively printed box art. The problem I have with that is that some of the claims aren’t true, or could at least be more up-to-date. So, instead of attempting to compare this to a product I reviewed a little over a year ago, I’ll simply talk about it itself and provide a conclusion at the end.

Installation, as always with a Mac product, is easy. I only mention it here because for some reason the copy protection has confined me to needing the CD mounted every time I run it from home. However, I was able to register the software from my office computer. This is a bit clunky for me, but you can remove the CD immediately after startup and still be able to run the software. An inconvenience, to be sure. I haven’t called tech support on this one yet, but I will be sure to do so and keep you updated in my column.

Starting a New Script

Simplicity in itself. Choose File:New, or Command-N, and it asks what type of template you need from the 11 provided. Personally, I need only three: movie, TV (long form), and sitcom. All scripts have the same elements in common: Slugline, Action, Character Name, Dialog, Parenthetical, and Transitions. I won’t get into accepted industry use of the latter two, as many debates have arisen on the newsgroup misc.writing.screenplays. However, this program provides them should the need arise. There are several different ways to create the various elements. (For me, that meant a toolbar on the right side of the screen that causes unnecessary clutter—that’s right, I want all my clutter to be necessary.) Various elements allow for easy transition from one to the next—after a Slugline, it falls into Action; from Character, it goes into Dialog. You can also Tab from one to the next, as well as Shift-Tab to go backwards.


Edit Menu

After musing and creating for awhile, you’ll end up with something like this:


And then the fun begins. A character list is created automatically, allowing for easy retrieval when inputting to the character element. There’s also a scene list, which I found both useful and tedious. I was able to import a current screenplay that I was working on; however, it didn’t break up the sluglines on import the way I would’ve liked. Sluglines hold the general form LOCATION—DESCRIPTION—TIME OF DAY, and MMS allows for individual creation of each, and therefore provides three separate lists. But, the time of day was appended to each slug that I imported, so, if I wasn’t careful, I ended up with something like: INT. OFFICE—DAY—DAY. Another inconvenience. I hope it’s fixed in further updates.


Advanced Features

The sluglines also provide for the installed scene index cards, which allow for easy editing and moving of scenes.


Scene Cards

Another feature that I really like is the change character name capability.


Character Name Change

A simple dialog box, and suddenly, Jack becomes John. Okay, it’s a little more complicated than that, since it wouldn’t change the description of the character, but the name would be replaced everywhere.

Yeah, But Should I Buy It?

Well, yes and no. MMS allows for easy creating of screenplays for the first-time writer, and if you don’t own any other screenplay software, it’s a valid first choice. Although, I feel most of the extra features provided will needlessly confuse someone that has never written a screenplay before, as they are mostly provided for scripts that are in production. For someone that’s thinking of changing from screenplay creation software that he currently owns, I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless, of course, you’re put on a production that requires it.

Reader Comments (15)

Roger · October 30, 2001 - 14:29 EST #1
A worthless review.
Mike Shields (ATPM Staff) · October 30, 2001 - 23:55 EST #2
That was kind of the point. I wanted this to be an indication that I liked other software better. If you did not get that impression, then for that, I apologize. Otherwise, explain to me why you felt is was worthless, and we can go from there. Thanks,
ATPM Hollywood Guy
Abbey · October 31, 2001 - 00:04 EST #3
I thought it was a lovely review and will keep this in mind the next time I decide to buy software of this kind.
Rev. Joe Jenkins · November 2, 2001 - 14:29 EST #4
No review that reviews is worthless. Some may be written badly and the points not made clear, but worthless is not a word that I would use. Of course, I am not classing this review as such, just making the comment :o)
Josie Harkins · January 3, 2002 - 22:17 EST #5
I wish I could get hold of this, but I live in Red Cliffs, Victoria, Australia.
Sean Nicholson · April 6, 2002 - 22:42 EST #6
The software is useless. Write a style guide and save a lot of money.
Mike Shields (ATPM Staff) · April 7, 2002 - 01:38 EST #7
While you may believe this to be true, the average person doesn't have the time or wherewithal to create their own stylesheet. And I believe that I stated as much in my review. I'm currently reviewing yet another screenwriting program for an upcoming issue. Tune in then.

Steve Allen · July 7, 2002 - 15:29 EST #8
I have owned this software for over a year and it is excellent. I would agree with the review. It is better than Final Draft once you get to grips with the mass of pull down menus.
Josie Harkins · July 12, 2002 - 01:02 EST #9
I find the Movie Magic ScreenWriter excellent but, unfortunately, I live too far away (Australia, Red Cliffs Victoria) to ever get a script of mine accepted by any of you guys. I have an excellent story. Never been thought of before, suitable for family film, but I don't have the knowhow to get it accepted. But I still say the software is great and easy to use.

Josie Harkins
Kyle Anders · October 16, 2003 - 14:40 EST #10
I bought the MMS2000 to write my first scripted and I chose it over Final Draft 6. I have no idea whether I made the right choice. I sure hope so. I'd like to know what the reviewer thinks of this comparison given between the two.

Rob · February 18, 2004 - 12:01 EST #11
I have both Final Draft and Screen Writer. I started out with SW2000. I wrote a first draft that ended up being 129 pages. Too long. I decided to rewrite it on Final Draft because I noticed SW2000 added a lot of useless things like CUT TO's and continues. So I rewrote the script on Final Draft. It ended up giving me 150 pages even after eliminating all the extra verbage and so on? There's a setting which allows you to decrease the number of pages by switching from the NORMAL to TIGHT or VERY TIGHT settings. Even on the VERY TIGHT settings with less word count and less spaces. I still ended up with 133 pages. Still more than SW2000.

Does anyone have any idea why this is happening?

The SW2000 was on the NORMAL settings.

anonymous · August 4, 2005 - 20:50 EST #12
Here's a cool free script writing package!


(ATPM Editor revision to comment - this application is currently Windows only, yet we've let this comment remain here because the page indicates an OS X version is forthcoming.)
adam · September 22, 2005 - 16:32 EST #13
I may be thick but I can't make head nor tail of this software and the review above relies on the reader actually knowing jargon like the SLUG stuff etc.. can someone write a review of this from an amatuers point of view. I have MMS and can't use it at all as I don't even understand where to begin and how to use it.. it lloks like a mass of menus and gobbledy gook... for one thing are you supposed to import texts somehow and turns it into screeplays? Another hting.. how do you open up a screenplay template and just addd your own stuff.. this software has really got me stumped.
ATPM Staff · September 22, 2005 - 16:45 EST #14
Adam - well, there is the consideration that reviews are sometimes written for the benefit of people who are well-versed in the field the product review is covering. There's also the consideration that this review is more than four years old, and was written by a person who doesn't have much contact with the ATPM staff any more.

We recommend getting in touch with the developer of the software.
derrick bonner · August 14, 2006 - 09:53 EST #15
OK I am ready to turn my idea into a script and have no idea what software to purchase. I also do not wish to be confused by a complicated program. I just want to focus on my script and let the software tackle to tedious things like margins and editing etc. So, what do you suggest?

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