Based in Toronto and New York City

, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Lonely No More

Writers Reach Out on the Web

For professional television writers, the software programs of choice have been—and still are—Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter. But a surge of free web-based scriptwriting tools has been quietly building a user base of mostly young and aspiring scriptwriters.

            Among the chief attractions of this new generation of software are Web 2.0 collaborative features. Zhura (www.Zhura.com) provides the formatting ease of Final Draft and adds real time point-and-click collaboration, revision tracking with a partner or group and import-export capability to Final Draft or other software formats.

            Being able to collaborate online and receive notes and ratings from the online community has been a big draw, says Zhura’s CEO and founder Eric MacDonald. “We’ve had groups ranging from classrooms, workshops, literary agents using the site to work with clients, to television writing teams.”

            The Boston-based company has also experimented with so-called crowdsourcing to create its own sketch comedy show; Zhura members worldwide were invited to write for a local comedy theater, Improv Asylum, and their sketches were performed this past spring and streamed live on the web. Use of Zhura software has been free, though a premium service—available for a low monthly fee—was slated to debut by the end of summer.

            L.A.-based Scripped, a web-based scriptwriting site (www.Scripped.com) founded by friends Sunil Rajaraman, Zak Freer and Ryan Buckley, recently closed a deal with a coverage house, Coverage Ink, to offer special services to their members. Full studio coverage of a script, including notes, is available for $135; consultations on scripts in progress can be had for $60.

            “We want to put writers in touch with the proper people and help bring their work to completion,” explains Rajaraman, the president and CEO. Scripped, which recently added a writer-producer-actor Edward Burns to its board of advisors, planned to release collaborative tools and gadgets by the end of the summer.

            Plotbot is another free scriptwriting tool that features collaborative capabilities and revision tracking as well as tiered levels of privacy (www.potbot.com). The oldest web-based program, ScriptBuddy, boasts 72,000 members, an online community and a free scriptwriting program as well as a for-fee premium version (www.ScriptBuddy.com).

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