Sunday, June 21, 2009

Celtx Studios

Collaboration is a nice friendly word, all cuddly. It's chocolate where a word like "organisation" is dry flour.

Unfortunately - just like the uncomfortable fact that if you have decided you want people to buy your writing skills you're a business (whether you like it or not) - another uncomfortable fact is that if you are working with other people to produce some end result you are now an "organisation". Calling it "collaboration" doesn't make it any easier - it could make it harder because you may think that it's something that it's not.

The efficiency of any organisation is proportional to the level of communication between the individual team members. And that's two-way communication, not just dictats from on high. Regardless of whether it's a behemoth of a blockbuster or a couple of mates with a camera.

If you work in the same location as your team mates you can chat, discuss and whatever, the person you need to speak to will generally be on hand. But even then it can be hard, there are misunderstandings as well as people's lives getting in the way.

Distributed organisations are a thousand times worse. If the people you're working with are not around you, but scattered across the globe, or even just the country, the level of communication drops, the opportunities for misunderstandings increase. Idle gossip can become a serial killer's knife slashing through the body of your organisation.

So if you are operating a distributed team in an effort to produce some sort of film, you have truly got your work cut out - you have to keep the communication level high, and keep the thing moving.

Celtx is a free screenwriting tool and production tool. From one computer you can write the script, and perform most of the breakdowns you need to organise the actual production. Which is great if you're just one person, but organisations aren't, they're more than one. What can you do then?

This is where Celtx Studio comes in. Celtx acts as a front-end to a powerful online application which not only stores your project in a central location it allows you to create a set of user accounts that other people can use to log in and work with the project.

So you, as the writer, can create the screenplay, the director can produce a shooting script, or a shot list, or whatever. the producer can use the system to assign locations, actors, props to a calendar and have automated call sheets and what not.

All saved in this central location, all available to the people that are given the accounts.

Celtx Studio is not free but the entry level is not expensive ($5/month) which gives you four additional accounts; $15/month for 15 accounts, and so on: $1/month per seat basically.

Using a little ingenuity it's possible to create a communication system using Celtx alone - use specific documents for communicating. Putting things in writing is better than phone calls which are too ephemeral.

That's the theory. We shall see how it works out in practice...

What's on the turntable? "Soil Festivities, Movement 3" by Vangelis

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