Write screenplays with Kit Scenarist

Writing Workshop

Article from Issue 247/2021
Author(s):

Creative writers take note! Kit Scenarist is a free application designed to simplify the process of writing a screenplay.

Screenplays require a specific format and make special demands on the author. Unlike a novel, a screenplay virtually reduces the story to the dialogue. You'll also need to use a special layout based on a fixed-width font and wide margins – a standardized format that makes it easier for production companies to estimate the length of the film.

Rather than messing around with setting up this layout in a word processor, professionals use special programs, which may also include useful functions such as helping keep track of characters and locations. If you're looking for these tools in a free application available on your Linux distribution, you won't find many options, but one that may fit your needs is Kit Scenarist [1].

Installation

Although the cross-platform software is currently not available in the package sources of most distributions, the project website has many options for Linux users, offering RPM and DEB packages for Fedora and openSUSE or Ubuntu and Debian, among others, and the installation is usually a fairly convenient process. Only Arch Linux and its derivatives, such as Manjaro, have the program directly in the repositories where it goes by the name of scenarist.

When the application is first launched, a wizard helps set up the language and theme for the interface (Figure 1), various modules, and the template for the script. Here, if you do not already have concrete specifications from a company, it is best to choose one of the options for Final Draft, either A4 (for the European format) or Letter (for the US format), as shown in Figure 2. Both templates are based on the film industry's quasi-standard.

Figure 1: When first launched, a wizard helps you set up the software, including the language for the interface.
Figure 2: You can either select the document format during the installation or change it later in the project under Settings.

First Steps

After starting the program, the first thing that appears is an overview of the projects that have already been created. You have the option to open or import a project or to change basic parameters via Settings. Open the corresponding dialog and activate the spell checker in Program. The software first tries to load the preset Russian dictionary from the Internet, but you can select English or one of many other options as your preferred language.

The next step is to create a new project and start writing. Clicking Create project opens a dialog where you give the project a name (Figure 3). The program will use this later when saving the file. With the Advanced options you can change the storage location.

Figure 3: To create a new project, simply enter the project name and choose where to save the file.

Research Window

After creating the project, the software will direct you to the Research window, where you enter further basic data and create the title page. You can save characters and locations here, as well as link external data such as documents, images, and links. The concept is similar to the Snowflake Method [2] for creative writers. You'll find this information useful when writing the actual document.

The program has some helpful automatic features. If you name a location later on in the script, the program automatically creates it in the Research section. However, this does not work for characters. If you add a new character as you're working on the script, it's a good idea to create them in the Research section first and then use them in the script (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Research overview, with the selected document overview here, helps you to arrange the roles, locations, and events in the script.

If you create characters as Scene Characters, they are automatically also created in the Research window. If you mention a role in the script, an auto-complete will be available for that character in the future. Renaming a character later in the book, however, is a process that can only be handled through the Research section.

Right-clicking on Characters opens a context menu where you can search for characters in the script using the Find characters in script entry. This function lets you transfer roles from a script to your research.

In the Cards overview, the background changes to a pinboard. Small cards represent the scenes. At the top, you have the option to rearrange the order of the scenes and print these cards as an overview.

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