Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Two of your most popular products are Movie Magic Screenwriter and Dramatica Pro. What were the inspirations behind these two software packages?
CH/CT: Movie Magic Screenwriter was the natural next step after Scriptor, our first product and first-ever personal computer script formatting software program, and Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling, our production estimation and management software. In the entertainment industries, the script is usually the first step in the process, which is why it is so essential. In addition to powerful writing tools, Movie Magic Screenwriter also has the most comprehensive production tools built into it. This makes the interaction with production management smooth and painless. Moreover, Movie Magic Screenwriter is designed for more than just screenwriting. It supports writing plays, sitcoms, radio shows, musicals, comic book scripts, and more.
Dramatica Pro grew from our interest in how stories worked. My writing partner, Melanie Anne Phillips, and I began exploring the inner workings of story back in 1981. By 1990, we had developed the foundations of a new theory of how stories work and why they exist. In 1991, we approached my business partner, Stephen Greenfield, with the idea of turning our ideas into a software tool for writers. We released version 1 of Dramatica in June 1994. We've been continuing to develop the software since that point and are happy to be bringing out the latest product based on the Dramatica theory software, Dramatica Story Expert.
BD: Who would best be served by the software?
CH/CT: Movie Magic Screenwriter, Dramatica Pro, and Dramatica Story Expert are for writers of all sorts – comic book writers, screenwriters, novelists, playwrights, animation scriptwriters, radio play writers, musical theater writers, and more. If you want to write in proper script format regardless of the type of script it may be, Movie Magic Screenwriter is the best program for writing it.
If you are developing a story idea, or have a story, novel, play, or script that has been written but has some problems with it, Dramatica Pro or Dramatica Story Expert can help you work the kinks out or fill in the gaps.
BD: Are there any specific success stories of which you are aware from individuals who used either Movie Magic Screenwriter or Dramatica Pro?
CH/CT: We have a lot of writers and shows that use Movie Magic Screenwriter for writing TV and movies. We also have people that are using Movie Magic Screenwriter to write their comic books. Paul Haggis might not be a household name, unless you are a movie fan. He was the first screenwriter to pen back-to-back Best Picture Academy Award winners, Crash (which also won Best Original Screenplay) and Million Dollar Baby. His credits also include Flags of Our Father, and he has written the story for the video game Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare. Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott who wrote The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise are big users of Movie Magic Screenwriter. Tim Kring who did Heroes and Jon Cassar of 24 had their writing staffs all using Movie Magic Screenwriter. In comics, Mark Waid of Boom! Studios is a great supporter of our software, as is Shuster Award winner J. Torres, who was the writer of Legends of the Dark Knight, Teen Titans Go!, and more recently the Eisner Nominated Allison Dare.
As far as Dramatica Pro goes, that is harder. Dramatica Pro is Hollywood’s little dark secret. Writers that use it don’t want to say they do for various reasons: some people think that Dramatica writes for you (it doesn’t), and/or people think Dramatica gives a writer a competitive advantage (it might *grin* ) and so they don’t want to give away secrets that might make other writers better; however, we do have a few people that wear the Dramatica cap proudly. One of our biggest proponents is Tracy Hickman. If the name is familiar that is because he has spent a lot of time at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list with his Dragonlance series among the many series he has written with Margret Weis and Laura Hickman. Tracy has also used Dramatica on his RPG games for Serenity: Out in the Black and has a soon-to-be released Batman novel for DC called Wayne of Gotham. Erik Bork, one of the writers behind the Band of Brothers mini-series and From the Earth to the Moon uses Dramatica for all of his scripts. Cal Arts also has classes that incorporate the Dramatica story theory in its writing classes. Many influential people use the Dramatica theory for books, movies, TV series, RPGs, and video games. There is a place for Dramatica in any story you want to tell.
BD: Many aspiring writers, especially those hoping to work in the comic book industry, have been known to attend comic book and other genre conventions with the hopes of learning from the working writers in attendance. Are there any upcoming conventions at which our readers will find Write Brothers and its software?
CH/CT: Yes, we will be at San Diego Comic-Con in July (booth #1429). We have been going to SDCC for over a decade now, and we have really seen a growth of people who are not just interested in writing scripts using Movie Magic Screenwriter, but that see the importance of telling solid stories through Dramatica. Chris Huntley has been doing a yearly panel on story development in conjunction with the SDCC Independent Film Festival, and this year, his panel is called: “Creating Unforgettable Villains” that will be on Saturday, July 14, from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. He always gives practical techniques for story development that you can use right away. His panels are always well attended. SDCC is our big show for the year; we always try and make it a memorable show.
This year we will be introducing our latest incarnation of Dramatica called Dramatica – Story Expert for Mac. It is a large step forward from Dramatica Pro; it has an all new look and feel. It is developed to work on the new Intel Macs running Lion. The new Project Window allows you to have a jumping off point for each one of your stories. We have added a new feature called GISTS, which enables you to provide English language approximations of the Dramatica structural item terms. Each one provides the 'gist' of the idea of the item. This is going to be a huge bridge making Dramatica easier to use. There are other new features like a better name generator and the ability to import images into the casting of characters window. We will be giving demos of Dramatica – Story Expert for Mac all weekend.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to writers who aspire to work in the entertainment industry?
CH/CT: GET OUT -- NOW!
Are you still there?
Ok, if you HAVE to work in the entertainment industry, here are a few tips that might improve your chances of success a bit.
- WRITE EVERY DAY.
- WRITE MORE.
- Avoid rewriting until you've written at least one other script. Writing another script gives you the opportunity to improve your writing, increases your stockpile of completed (but not necessarily ready for criticism) works, and gives you much needed distance from earlier projects, so that you may be more objective about them when you tear them to pieces during your rewrite.
- Expect a minimum of about five years of hard work before you "might" get discovered. The actual time frame is ten years to never.
- Make your own opportunities.
- Move to the geographical location closest to where you'd like to work. Proximity can be very important, especially for enhancing #5 making your own opportunities. Being connected through the Internet is not enough when someone wants to meet. Skype and FaceTime are pale comparisons to meeting face-to-face over coffee.
- Be bold but not rude. The squeaky wheel often gets the job opportunity first.
- Learn how to speak in public. Writing is only half the job. Working with others and being able to communicate effectively is essential.
- Learn your trade, which means learn the technical do's and don'ts, read as much as you can about the type of writing you want to do, and read other people's scripts. It also means getting a computer and the software that takes the drudge out of the process.
- Get a real job. Unless you are independently wealthy, you will need to find a way to support yourself, even AFTER you have sold your first script. There are very few full-time writers, and even fewer that can make a living on the income from their writing.
Believe it or not, we really like writers and writing -- that's why we're called Write Brothers. But, writers are on the bottom of the power totem pole in the entertainment industries – by design. Writers have little clout, and those that work with them in the entertainment industry generally like it that way. The reality is that the odds are against your becoming a successful writer, but if writing is part of your being – your reason for living – then the rewards can be satisfying and fulfilling. And, we hope Movie Magic Screenwriter, Dramatica Pro, and Dramatica - Story Expert can help get you there faster.