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If scriptwriting programs were cars, Mariner Software’s Montage 1.0.2 would be a turbo Mercedes with GPS and a six-DVD changer—but no reverse gear. As nice as they’ve made the interface—particularly how intuitive it is to navigate—in its current version Mariner has missed the fundamentals of screenwriting, making this software an impractical choice for professionals, and only marginally useful to wannabes. That said, Montage makes a bold statement with its approach, and with future upgrades it may indeed rival the current screenwriting standard, Final Draft 7.1.2.
A simple word processing program can keep dialogue, scenes, and action properly formatted; you can accomplish proper formatting with Microsoft Word, for example, and even Apple’s Pages ( ) has a screenplay layout. Montage handles this well enough, making it possible to writing a script from scratch. If you were inclined to write a spec script, Montage could work for you. But true screenwriting software needs additional features.
The bulk of a working screenwriter’s life is not spent on writing first drafts, but on rewriting and polishing scripts, while keeping track of changes. In this respect, Montage falls flat. Features that track changes and drafts, lock pages (which sets page count and allows for a versioning scheme), create production scripts, and number scenes—industry-standard elements of screenwriting—are all missing from this initial release. Working screenwriters can’t get through a day without these tools.
Mariner acknowledges the importance of these features, and says it plans to add them in a future update.
Bugs are routine with many new applications. Sometimes, even veteran software can be bug-heavy, like rival Final Draft’s 7.0’s early release ( ), and Montage has its share. For example, Montage behaved oddly when I was editing a document. The cursor often would jump a number of lines down the text when I inserted a Scene Heading; sometimes, it would jump to the end of the document when I deleted a section of text. Or, when you make global changes to the document formatting, like changing the margins for Action text, the change appears only on the text you enter after you’ve made the change—and not on the preceding pages (though in some cases, the document printed correctly despite what I saw on screen).
Montage can import scripts from Final Draft and RTF files. For me, this was a hit or miss exercise, as the resulting text had significant formatting errors when using some templates. For example, importing a Final Draft document into the normal Screenplay template worked correctly, but it was incorrect in Screenplay (Warner Bros.) template. Another inconvenience: Montage does not have the ability to export back to Final Draft.
Mariner designed Montage as a departure from the constraints of Final Draft, and it has delivered on some fronts. The Outlining and Synopsis parts of the program, both well-designed and conducive to brainstorming, are nice additions. Plus, in the Contacts section, Montage lets you track your script submissions. It also integrates with Apple’s Address Book to store client information.
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Montage 1.0.2 feels like it was born prematurely. Seasoned screenwriters won’t find the tools they need in this initial release, and it was rather buggy. But the software does show promise, and perhaps with some additional updates, it will steal some of Final Draft’s thunder.
[ Anton Linecker is a writer and video technical adviser living in Los Angeles. ]Montage gives you quick access to your outline, contacts, synopsis and other helpful tools.