Screenwriting software can easily cost more than $200. In these hard economic times, that money could be better spent elsewhere on “necessities” like credit card bills or groceries. Screenwriters tend to have different priorities though, and won’t let a recession get in the way of storytelling. Thankfully, the Internet has come to the rescue again.
Scripped.com offers Web-based screenwriting software that is completely free. Members just need to create an account, log in and continue working on their project that is saved to the Website itself. Carefully created by three college students, Scripped could very well change the screenwriting world and movie industry entirely.
With new developments on the horizon, such as producers being able to buy the rights to member’s work directly from the writer, Scripped is on the verge of really taking off since its launch last year.
MovieMaker spoke with co-founders Sunil Rajaraman and Ryan Buckley to take a closer look at Scripped.
Nora Murphy (MM): How did you come up with this innovative idea?
Sunil Rajaraman (SR): It started off actually as an idea for a screenwriting magazine between Zak Freer, our third co-founder, and I. In parallel, Ryan had already been developing some software which kind of facilitated the collaborative writing process. The three of us eventually got together and came up with what is now Scripped.
Ryan Buckley (RB): We noticed that there was no good online screenplay text editing software available and that, in combination with the interest in the screenwriting magazine, became a community built around a Web application.
MM: Did you study film in school or was this more of a business project?
SR: Well Zak is actually a graduate of the Peter Stark Producing Program for USC and he’s a very talented young filmmaker. He won the Hollywood DV Short Film Festival in 2008 for Best Horror Short, so he’s our resident expert. Ryan writes quite a bit and I’ve written quite a few screenplays myself; nothing I’ve tried to sell. We’re all pretty passionate about the industry.
MM: When members seek creative support, what types of industry professionals will be giving feedback?
SR: We’re going to actually overhaul our creative support offerings and offer much more. We’re in partnership with a company called Coverage, Ink. to be able to offer writers feedback at any stage of their screenplay, whether it’s script notes or coverage, etc.
RB: We have two resident experts and possibly a third. Those are Aaron Lubin, Edward Burns’ producing partner; Dolly Gordon, a private script consultant who has worked with several Academy Award nominated screenwriters; and Richard Walter, who is chair of the UCLA Screenwriting department. We’re also really excited to be working with Coverage, Ink. because they are designing a new product specifically for Scripped members who are writing short form screenplays.
SR: That’s the high level of what’s really exciting about Scripped. We think that the idea in general is that short video is going to take off—it’s just a question of when. A lot of our writers are student writers or young writers who might not dream of someday writing the next Casablanca; they may dream of someday writing the next viral video hit. That’s our demographic. So because of that we’re going to see a lot of growth in our user base and a lot of opportunities to help our writers.
MM: You mentioned how Aaron Lubin is helping you out with the site. How has Edward Burns contributed to the site’s success since joining the Board of Advisors?
SR: Ed’s involvement has been kind of like an advisor to this point in time. He’s looked at our different products, given us advice when we want it. But you’re going to start to see him be a little more involved this year. He’s going to do a podcast with Aaron for our site, so any questions that our young writers have, he’ll address and answer as an expert and as someone who had to get there the hard way.
MM: Aside from that and the developments that you’re having on the site, what goals do you have for the future of Scripped?
SR: We’re at over 15,000 users now in just over a year. I’d like to see that number go to about 50,000 by the end of 2010. I think that’s really doable. It’s sort of like a snowball effect; it’s about picking up momentum. So phase one of our plan is to kind of accumulate the largest pool of screenwriting talent the world has ever seen.
RB: We also have two products that will launch by the end of this year. One is a script filter to help buyers looking for any kind of script material, quickly find it and purchase rights to produce it directly from the writer via Scripped.com. That’s a product that we’re hoping to be able to demo to talent agencies by the end of the next quarter, so by the end of Q2 2009.
Another product we’re really excited about is our film school application, which we hope to also launch by the end of Q2 in time for fall term at film schools across the country. This is our way to better capture emerging writers and also provide a service to K-12 teachers. We’ve been really surprised at how many middle school and high school teachers are teaching screenwriting in the classroom as a module and they can’t expect these students to purchase Final Draft or install other free software like Celtx or Sophocles on their home computers, so they’re turning to Web-based solutions like Scripped.
SR: The film school application is really exciting. By starting with the schools, you’re starting with where the talent and the interest starts. Basically think of it as a community for an individual classroom to facilitate making it easier for both the professor and the students to interact in your own class. And at the same time, it helps us gain users who are writers and refresh that talent pool constantly.
RB: And I think it’s better for the movie industry as a whole. Our objective from the very beginning was to provide more access to the art of screenwriting and promote it to more people who might not otherwise think about writing a screenplay. So it’s to the extent that we can get students in middle school and high school excited about film or excited about writing for film; and our core mission is fulfilled in the extent that we can actually get them paid for their works, that’s even better. So that’s the core value to us and I think the film community will benefit from the film school application and the filter.
SR: This is a personal objective but I’d love to see the first short video for Scripped get produced and get a million YouTube hits. At the same time I’d love to see the first short or feature length film get entered into Sundance. I think that can happen. It’s just a matter of time. Between 15,000 writers, I have to believe that one of them out there is the next John August. And the numbers keep growing by about 50 a day, somebody out there is going to come up with something big from Scripped.