Con­tour 2

Is your screen­play sick? Con­tour can cure it


$39.95 De­vel­oper Mariner Soft­ware, mariner­soft­ Re­quire­ments OS X 10.7 or later

If you think you’ve got a block­buster in your brain, Con­tour can help you get it out - but it isn’t a writ­ing or screen­writ­ing app. It’s a story de­vel­op­ment sys­tem, an app you use be­fore fir­ing up Fi­nal Draft or Scrivener.

What Con­tour does is very sim­ple. It en­cour­ages you to think about your story in terms of the tried-and-tested three-act struc­ture that’s used in many block­buster books and films, and it in­cludes a good se­lec­tion of real screen­plays so you can see ex­actly how that struc­ture is used in big-name movies. If see­ing your story nestling among Amer­i­can Beauty, Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire, The Dark Knight, and Star Wars doesn’t mo­ti­vate you, noth­ing will.

In­stead of a blank slate, Con­tour presents you with ques­tions. Who is your hero (ine)? What is

their goal? What’s in their way? By ask­ing these and pro­vid­ing ex­pla­na­tions and il­lus­tra­tions, the app forces you to think very clearly about your char­ac­ters and your story, mov­ing from the ini­tial setup to the sec­ond and third acts, de­scrib­ing plot points and key mo­ments as you go. Rather bril­liantly you can move from your story to the real screen­plays and see ex­actly what they’ve done in the same sec­tions, which means you’re learn­ing from, and com­par­ing your work to, gen­uinely suc­cess­ful films.

We’re not huge fans of the new, dark in­ter­face (the old, lighter one is still there in the app’s pref­er­ences), but Con­tour is very sim­ple and straight­for­ward, with use­ful op­tions in­clud­ing a pop-up guide to the cur­rent story, print­able struc­ture sheets and beat sheets, and a pop-up panel for record­ing stray ideas. The ex­port op­tions are fairly lim­ited, though: You can only ex­port as Con­tour XML or as rich text.

We like Con­tour a lot, but there’s an ob­vi­ous flaw here: if you fancy your­self as an au­teur or in­tend to create ex­per­i­men­tal cinema that laughs in the face of three-act struc­tures, this app is not for you. On the other hand, “block­buster” needn’t mean gi­ant robots bat­ter­ing lumps out of each other: The model used here is just as ap­pli­ca­ble to Pixar’s Up or Jim Car­rey’s Liar

Liar. If you’ve tried to write a hit but found your­self run­ning out of steam half­way through, Con­tour may be just what you need to fin­ish your mas­ter­piece.

The BOT­TOM LINE Con­tour’s a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive story de­vel­op­ment app for wouldbe Hol­ly­wood hit­mak­ers.

The new in­ter­face is a lit­tle dark for us, but it is clear and ef­fec­tive.

Not all ideas oc­cur when you’re at your desk. Con­tour also has an iOS app you can use when you’re mo­bile.

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