Wed, 08 Apr 2009 Contour 1.1 review
Story development system aims to turn fragments of thought into solid foundations for screenplay
- Manufacturer: Mariner Software
- Pros: Useful tool for developing ideas using a proven story development system, excellent examples of the Contour method are included and also available online at www.contour-at-the-movies.com, progress meter provides a driving incentive.
- Cons: Need to budget for screenplay formatting software such as Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter, and Mariner Software's own Montage, or choose the free, open-source Celtx; user interface initially complex.
- Min specs: Mac OS X 10.4.9 Tiger, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Universal
- Price: £44.95, around £30.
- Star rating:
Mariner Software produces a compelling collection of useful applications, among them MacJournal, Montage and StoryMill, which focus upon creative writing. From blog entries and journals, to novels and screenplays, Mariner Software has it all just about covered. Enter Contour, a new software application that you might not realise you needed, until now.
In a nutshell Contour is built around the simple idea that most films can be broken down into four questions that drive the characters and plot. These questions are:
1. Who is your main character?
2. What is he trying to accomplish?
3. Who is trying to stop him?
4. What happens if he fails?
The Contour story development system, created by Emmy Award-nominated Jeffrey Alan Schechter, is the basis of many a blockbuster film insists the writer, producer, and director, citing Star Wars, Titanic, E.T. and Spider Man as examples. Many more, including Oscar-nominated The Wrestler and Pixar's recent Monsters vs. Aliens, are to be found on the 'Contour At The Movies' site.
By answering these questions and developing your main character as one of four archetypes - orphan, wanderer, warrior, or martyr - you can start to flesh out your story, ready for writing your screenplay. Contour also makes use of a three-act structure; the beginning, the middle and the end, splitting Act II in half, sharing 28 plot points of the 44 plot points Schechter suggests are needed to tell the story.
If this all sounds over-complex, initially it is, but the Contour interface quickly becomes familiar and the supplied documentation helps significantly in making sense of it all. For anyone used to jotting plot ideas down on the back of an envelope it’s a major leap towards some sort of formal structure.
The step-by-step, fill-in-the-blanks approach is driven along by a green progress meter. This also allows you to navigate back and forth through your plot to build a bulletproof outline and, hopefully, fill in any plot holes. Once you have your screenplay properly outlined in Contour, you will need to lay out your story in a screenwriting application. Contour seamlessly integrates with Montage, Mariner's award-winning screenwriting software says the makers, although other award-winning screenwriting software is available.