In the movie industry, even the writers use Macs
By Brad Cook
April 12, 2004 8:05 am ET
Macs can be found all over Hollywood: in editing rooms, in story
meetings, in music recording sessions, on set and just about anywhere else
that creative types congregate. Given their relatively low key but
fundamentally important position in the industry, screenwriters don't often
receive recognition for the Macs sitting on their desks, but you'll find
them there too.
"To work on something [other than a Mac] would be to marry a woman you
don't love," Terry Rossio told MacCentral. He and writing partner Ted
Elliott can count "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Aladdin," "Men in Black,"
"Shrek" (which earned them an Academy Award nomination) and several
other big-budget films among their credits. Both can also say they've
worked on Macs their entire careers.
"If I had to guess why so many screenwriters use Macs," adds Elliott,
"I'd say it's for the same reason I prefer a Mac: the desktop
environment of the Mac OS is simply more beneficial to productivity. Staring [at
the screen] is actually a large part of writing."
The pair used to employ Final Draft when writing scripts on their G4
PowerBooks, but they recently switched over to Movie Magic Screenwriter
"because most studios use the Movie Magic Scheduler software, and it
just makes it easier all the way around," according to Elliott.
The rules of using Macs
Several years ago, Elliott and Rossio collaborated with writer/director
Roger Avary on an ill-fated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's classic comic
book series "The Sandman." Winner of an Academy Award with Quentin
Tarantino for writing "Pulp Fiction," Avary is a dyed-in-the-wool Mac user
who works on a PowerBook G4.
Avary also uses Final Draft, and he edited his last film, "The Rules of
Attraction," on two Power Mac G4s loaded with Final Cut Pro while
working from his home office, which contains an army of Macs for his
assistants and his wife. He's currently working on a film about Salvador Dali
called "Gala Dali" that he hopes to have ready for next year's Cannes
"I use Macs for the same reason I drive a Mercedes," Avary says. "It
may be a bit more expensive, and a Ford Taurus will get you there the
same, but I'm a whore for perfection in industrial design, and you can't
beat Apple for ease of use and an elegant human interface."
From veterans to rookies
Avary and the Elliott/Rossio team share a do-it-yourself attitude
toward the business -- the latter are currently producing several projects
-- that also extends to many who find themselves on the cusp of
screenwriting success in Hollywood.
Take Lee McCaulla, for example. He parlayed a lengthy career as an
animator in both TV ("Ren and Stimpy," "The Critic") and film
("Pocahontas," "Space Jam") into a series of Hollywood meetings, including one with
"The Lord of the Rings" producer Barrie Osbourne, for a live action
comedy that he scripted. Another long-time Mac user, he works on a Power
Mac G4 Cube in the office and a PowerBook G4 while on the road,
employing Final Draft on both to get the job done.
McCaulla has cautionary advice for writers more interested in the tools
of the trade than the craft itself. "A great screenwriting program doth
not a good writer make. Stephen King wrote 'Carrie' on an old
typewriter in a trailer park and it launched his career."
Not every successful screenwriter started his career on the Mac,
however. As in every walk of life, you can find plenty of switchers in
Hollywood. Up-and-coming screenwriter Carlito Rodriguez observes: "Once they
go Mac, they don't go back."
"The one comment Terry made that I remember specifically was something
about how using a Mac would make me smile," recalls Michael Gilvary,
who made the move to a PowerBook G4 after 18 years in the PC world.
Rossio and Elliott helped convince him it was the right choice.
Now, he says, "I feel less like I'm pushing 1's and 0's around a
silicon chip and more like I'm pushing my heroine into a confrontation with
an unspeakable evil dwelling in the bowels of the Earth, which is the
screenplay I'm currently working on."
Gilvary is adapting a graphic novel called "Sanctum" for Raw
Entertainment; previously, he worked on an unreleased film called "Life During
Wartime," produced by Gale Anne Hurd ("Terminator 2," "Aliens").
"I use Microsoft Word," Gilvary admits. "The idea of spending a couple
hundred bucks on a script formatting program just seems silly and
wasteful. While I'm working on a script, I churn out other documents that
don't need formatting -- outlines, notes, and so forth. So it never made
sense to me to keep those in a word processing app but then launch a
formatting program to write the script."
British screenwriter Alan Coulson echoes those sentiments. Another
switcher who also sticks with Word, he says "most writers I know [in the
U.K.] have stayed with the PC," but he went with a 1GHz Dual Processor
Power Mac G4 "because of its stability and because I also edit short
films and music videos in Final Cut Pro." He's currently preparing his
first film as a writer/director, "Switch," and is writing two new Judge
Dredd movies for Shoreline Entertainment.
The ties that bind
Rossio relates a recent meeting for a film he and Elliott are working
on that sums up why he loves the Mac: "We were at Jerry Bruckheimer's
offices to see some footage from the upcoming Nick Cage movie 'National
Treasure,' and it was almost nostalgic to see the editor working with
Mac OS 9.2. It's not a new idea to suggest that creative people are going
to bond with the Mac more often and more fiercely than non-creative