Screenwriting programs are notoriously expensive. It makes sense for us to question the pricing and look for real answers.
Why is screenwriting software so expensive?
Screenwriting software is expensive because of the vast demand among aspiring and professional screenwriters. Screenwriting software saves time, helps organize files, develops scripts, and provides advanced features such as formatting screenplays to industry standards.
Let’s look at the six main reasons screenwriting costs a lot of money.
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6 Reasons Screenwriting Software Is So Expensive
Here are six good reasons screenwriting software is so dang expensive. Later, I’ll share what you can do if you can’t afford the more pricey programs right now.
1) Meet Industry Standards
Screenwriting software helps screenwriters format their scripts according to the highest standards of a competitive industry.
Why is meeting industry standards so important for aspiring screenwriters?
Many screenplays need to follow a specific format to even be considered for film festivals and other screenwriting competitions. Not to mention film and production companies.
A screenplay that doesn’t meet the minimum industry standards for formatting is quickly dismissed by early readers (gatekeepers in the screenwriting industry).
No matter what screenwriting software you use, you should always choose one that adheres to official screenwriting guidelines such as those established by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the broader film industry.
Screenwriters can easily format screenplays that follow these standards with screenwriting software such as:
- Final Draft (desktop, laptop)
- Script Studio (desktop, laptop)
- WriterDuet (cloud-based screenwriting software)
- Slugline (Mac and Ipad)
2) Demand From Screenwriters
Screenwriters demand software that helps them to improve their scripts and save time. Therefore, they agreed to pay higher amounts for these benefits. The screenwriters of today are more than likely to use screenwriting software than the screenwriters of the 70s, 80s, or 90s did.
Like any market, price usually matches the demand.
Aspiring (and professional) screenwriters are willing to pay premium prices to reduce the time and effort it takes to manually organize and format screenplays. For example, screenwriting software automatically formats and paginates scripts.
Screenwriting software eliminates 90% of formatting headaches—which, to me, makes it more than worth the higher price.
It’s also true that some aspiring screenwriters want to buy expensive software because it makes them feel like a professional screenwriter. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this motivation.
3) Professionally Optimize Scripts
Screenwriting software helps writers optimize their scripts professionally and efficiently. Their advanced tools collaborate with other visual features to provide the best-customized screenplay.
There is no denying that this software also helps screenwriters to improve their drafts.
Screenplay software allows for sophisticated customization of characters and story beats. Writers can add location ideas, plot points, dialogue cues, and more.
Story details are accessible anytime for reference to ensure character and plot continuity.
It’s these story-enhancing tools that make screenwriting software so expensive (and worth it).
4) Advanced Screenwriting Features
Screenwriting software provides advanced features to screenwriters.
Some of these features include:
- Corkboard plotting
- Emailing screenplays
- Templates of various types of screenplays
- Ability to collaborate with other writers
- Plan multiple levels of story structure
Screenwriters could manage to replicate these features by themselves, but it would be a lot of hard work.
The software makes planning, editing, writing, formatting, and submitting screenplays very simple.
5) Visual and Brainstorming Tools
Screenwriting software comes equipped with advanced visual and brainstorming tools. This software helps to connect story maps and convert visuals into your script.
With these tools, you can easily brainstorm fresh new ideas and angles for your story.
You can use these tools to edit, format, and merge screenplays. Using screenwriting software, you can also convert screenplays into PDFs for easier reading and sharing with others.
6) Levels the Playing Field
Another reason screenwriting software is so expensive is that it levels the playing field for all screenwriters. The fact that I can use the same software as a complete beginner that J.J. Abram uses is extraordinary.
Can you think of any other industry in which the average person has the same access to tools as a complete beginner and as a multi-million dollar veteran? There are not too many.
Screenwriting software allows even beginners to press ahead without worrying about learning “how to write a screenplay.” Instead, they can focus on telling their story.
Is Screenwriting Software Worth It? (Yes, and Here’s Why)
Screenwriting is absolutely worth the price. There is a definite advantage to using screenwriting software.
When I first got started writing scripts, I was interested in how professionals wrote their scripts. I recall asking working screenwriters what software they used to write and, of course, most of them told me they use Final Draft.
After some research, I found screenwriting software that costs between $80-$200, depending on where you get it from.
I’ve been writing for over 20 years, and I’ve used both free screenwriting software packages (which are usually inferior) and professional screenwriting software.
Hands down, to be taken seriously as a writer in the film industry, you need to use actual movie software. You can get away with using word processors or other writing programs to write your scripts, but that’s not where I suggest you start.
Below, I am going to summarize some key points that show screenwriting software’s worth:
- Helps to perform editing, writing, and formatting of scripts
- Manages many languages according to your needs
- Helps to write multiple types of scripts
- Operates on all types of devices ( including Mac Books, Chromebooks, and PCs)
- Corrects spelling and grammar mistakes in your script
- Generates a backup of scripts so that you will not lose data
- Formats your script to meet the guidelines of the industry
- Advanced storycraft tools and functions
- Paginates scripts to meet industry standards
- Performs actions quickly using keyboard shortcuts
- Make format changes easily
- Revision mode allows you to keep track of all changes (and revert to previous versions)
- Many software provides the working offline feature
- Easily collaborate with other writers
All screenwriting software provides specific features at different prices.
A majority of professional screenwriters choose to invest in professional screenwriting software. If you want the best shot at making your script into a movie, follow their lead.
What To Do If You Can’t Afford Expensive Screenwriting Software (3 Good Tips)
All of these bells and whistles make no difference if you can’t afford screenwriting software. Let’s face it: software like Final Draft and Script Studio is going to cost you a lot of money.
While I think the software is worth it as a one-time purchase (you’ll have it for years, maybe forever).
Still, what if the expensive software is out of your price range? Are you forced to grind away manually or settle for subpar software? Not at all.
There are actually three things you can do.
Download the Cheaper App
Some software, such as Final Draft, offer cheaper applications with fewer features when you download to a tablet (like an Ipad). This is a simple way to vastly reduce the cost while still accessing some of the best software for bringing your script to life.
You’ll need to check on what software is available as an app for tablets (this can often change).
These apps will likely allow you most (if not all) of the main formatting features, which is one of the biggest reasons to use the applications in the first place.
Purchase Pre-owned Software
People often think of buying lower-priced pre-owned vehicles, but many of us forget to apply the same principle to screenwriting software. You can sometimes find “used” screenwriting software that someone else is selling on sites like eBay or Craigslist.
Often you can save a hundred dollars or more on the price.
Get a Lower-Priced Alternative
You can also go with good lower-priced software that, while missing some of the features in the more expensive versions, still gives you most (if not all) of the features you really need.
The key is finding “good” alternatives.
That’s why I have your back. I did some research and found these screenwriting programs that I would recommend:
Here’s an excellent 3-minute video on why you need professional screenwriting software (and which one to choose):
Final Thoughts: Why Is Screenwriting Software So Expensive?
I also want to conclude that without having skills, screenwriting software is useless.
Why? Because it doesn’t improve your writing skills. Essentially, it’s just a text editor. Expensive software doesn’t help write a better story it just makes writing a better story easier and less of a hassle.
The bottom line: I only recommend buying such advanced tools like Final Draft if you can afford them, you possess basic screenwriting skills, and the meets your current needs.
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