Weekend Read knows what page you’re on

screenshotJust in time for the weekend, we have an update for Weekend Read. It’s free in the App Store.

Version 1.0.4 adds a page count in the footer of the reader view, so you’ll always know where you are in the script. Both Rian Johnson and Aline Brosh McKenna asked for this, and I do as I’m told.

Actually, the page counter is really helpful. I don’t know why we didn’t do it in the first place. Obvious in hindsight, and so forth.

Weekend Read 1.0.4 also improves parsing of some FDX and PDF scripts. If you have a file that didn’t work right in an earlier version, delete it and reload it. There’s a good chance it’ll work.1

Finally, Weekend Read now properly hides Fountain notes [[in brackets like this]].

We have a lot more in the works for Weekend Read, but we didn’t want to hold back these small-but-useful improvements.

logoIf you’re looking for something great to read this weekend, we have six episodes of Party Down available as our Featured Show, along with an introduction by showrunner John Enbom. Trivia: The Valhalla catering company, introduced in the gay wedding episode at the end of season one, was inspired by the ridiculously good-looking cater-waiters at my wedding.

  1. To keep things snappy, Weekend Read does the bulk of its processing magic as it’s first importing the script. When we change out the parsing engine, it doesn’t retroactively go back and try to reinterpret file already in your library.

Highland 1.7: faster, leaner, smarter

highland iconHighland, our award-winning screenwriting app for the Mac, has a major update available in the Mac App Store.

While Highland looks largely the same on the surface, we’ve rebuilt quite a bit under the hood and added features for screenwriters who want to use Highland for all their daily writing.

Highland 1.7 — already updated to 1.7.1 — offers:

Better pagination, particularly with dialogue. Unlike a certain company, we don’t regard our pagination as the One True Way. But our pagination is now pretty damn great. I turned in a script last week written entirely in Highland. Without any tweaking, the pages flowed exactly how I wanted. No split sentences, no orphaned transitions.

Markers to help you find your way in long documents. I’ll often find myself scrolling back to look at something earlier in the script, then losing my place. So now I hit Control-M to leave a marker [[%]]. You can hop between markers with Control-Option-M. (If you’re used to markers from timeline-based apps for music or video, you’ll probably find this particularly natural.)

Improved stability and file-handling. Highland is much smarter (and less aggressive) about auto-saves, which were a leading cause of crashes. The version in the Mac App Store today (1.7.1) addresses launch issues some users were having with our revised code base.

Search via integrated Find bar. Faster, and one less window to close. If you have’t tried Find Again (⌘G), give it a shot. It’s always ready to search for the last thing you looked for.

Better syntax highlighting. By making it really clear what prints and what doesn’t, you can focus on your words, not the syntax.

Much faster PDF parsing. Highland 1.7 is better at both melting and building PDFs.

We update Highland frequently, but 1.7 is a significant upgrade in actual functionality.

When people used to ask if someone could write a script in Highland, my answer was generally, “Well, you could. But that not really what it’s for.”

Now it is. Highland 1.7 is the first version I’ve used to write an entire script from outline to delivered draft, and I loved it. Highland is fast and lean and distraction-free.

So if you haven’t checked it out lately — or only use it as a converter — give it another look as a daily writing app.

The Scriptnotes Summer Superhero Spectacular

We’re doing a live episode of Scriptnotes on Thursday, May 15th at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. It’s a benefit for the Writers Guild Foundation.

This time, we’re featuring some of the biggest names behind the biggest superhero movies.

Scheduled panelists include:

  • Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (both Captain Americas, Thor: The Dark World, and the Narnia movies)

  • David Goyer (Batman vs. Superman, Man of Steel, Batman Begins, Blade, the upcoming Constantine)

  • Andrea Berloff (Conan The Legend, World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton and Blood Father)

Marvel and DC together on stage! Swords vs. hammers! Umbrage vs. reason! Plus more special guests.

We’ll also be doing a live Three Page Challenge. Details will be announced next week, but this will be a new process (that is, we won’t be pulling from the backlog) and may involve listeners getting to choose which entries we discuss.

But there’s more!

We’re selling a limited number of tickets for an exclusive pre-show cocktail party co-hosted by Aline Brosh McKenna, where you can mingle with these guests and other favorites from our first 150 episodes.

Pre-show cocktails at 6:30pm. Show begins at 7:30pm.

All tickets go on sale Thursday, April 17th at 10am Pacific at the Writers Guild Foundation website.

Fountain for coders, or the joy of writing

Charles Forman, whose company OMGPOP developed Draw Something, is writing a screenplay in Fountain:

I don’t work at a bank. However, I’m sure that on the first day of orientation, they teach you how to use an application written in 1999 in Visual Basic. It hasn’t been updated since 2001, it doesn’t work very well, everyone hates it, but it’s the way it is, and if you trick it, you might be able to do what you want, or wait until it’s 5 PM. It’s probably exactly what it’s like to use Final Draft.

The joy of writing shouldn’t feel like working at a bank.

Forman offers a detailed look at writing in Fountain from the perspective of someone who’s written a lot of code. For his screenplay, he used both Slugline and Highland, but also built his own tools based on the libraries available on GitHub.

“How many scenes do I have?” It’s a pretty simple question. Normally, in order to do this, you have to go through the whole script and count the sluglines. I used Javascript to parse my Fountain script. I looped through the sluglines and counted them. Then I was curious about the unique locations. How many times did person A talk vs. person B? I generated some basic stats and spit it out in the console by creating a tool in 20 minutes.

He also built a tool that generates a word cloud based on a screenplay.

Here’s Big Fish:


Forman listens to the podcast, so he’s heard us discussing the possibilities of a new screenplay format. He argues that we already have it in Fountain.

Because Fountain is pretty flexible, you could add metadata for anything you might want to extend the screenplay with. In my case, I have included storyboards. You could add metadata for the song that is playing. You could add metadata about which characters are in the scene, if its not totally clear. You could add metadata about what the purpose of a scene is. You could add anything. If I could make a small ask to the Fountain team, I would love a specific way to insert metadata. I am using notes. I’m thinking about putting curly bracket objects inside of notes going forward.

This kind of thinking is why I’m so bullish Fountain: not just what it can do today, but what it can be repurposed for in the future.

The Crossover Episode

Scriptnotes: Ep. 139

John and Craig visit Ben Blacker’s Nerdist Writers Panel for a special crossover episode, recorded in front of a live audience on April 13, 2014.

writerspanellogoAs television gets more cinematic, what if feature writing was more like TV writing, with multiple writers together in a room? Would movies get better or worse? Could a Joss Whedon or a Vince Gilligan make movies the way they make television?

We have another live show coming up: May 15th, featuring writers from the biggest superhero movies and a live Three Page Challenge. Tickets go on sale Thursday.

This is a two part episode! You can hear the other half at Nerdist Writers Panel. Seach for “Nerdist Writers Panel” iTunes, or follow the links in the show notes.

Our thanks to Ben Blacker and the Nerdist empire for a great evening. If you’re not already listening to his podcast, subscribe.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 4-18-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

The Grimm side of marriage

This morning, I tweeted:

Grimm’s fairy tales offer uniformly terrible marriage advice: 1. Endure supernatural hardship 2. Marry the person who rescues you

My observation was based on my nightly reading of a copy of Grimm’s that I got at Barnes and Noble last week,1 not any statistical analysis. But it sure feels true.

If someone has the time this weekend, I’d be curious to know which of Grimm’s tales actually fit this pattern. The book is free through Project Gutenberg.

Obviously, fairy tales are simplifications of reality, so we can’t expect verisimilitude in them. But this pattern of marrying the first person who assists you seems an especially dangerous idea to instill in young women.

As I think about acquaintances with terrible boyfriends/husbands, almost invariably the girl came from a difficult background (abusive parents, poverty, illness), and this guy got them away from it.

But the fact that they rescued you once doesn’t mean they are the right person for you to build a life with. It doesn’t mean they’ll be a supportive spouse or a good parent. And it doesn’t mean that you’re right for them, either.

If the only requirement for marriage is saving you from peril, we should all marry firefighters.

  1. I’m reading one of those $20 made-for-Barnes versions, and it’s actually really nice.