Movable Type vs. WordPress

questionmarkNot a screen-writing question, I’m afraid — more a “Geek Alert” one.

I’ve got a blog on blogger.com at the moment, and am thinking of moving to a different blogging tool. I’m a techie by background (computer science degree) now working in film visual effects (currently on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and would love to have much more flexibility than blogger.com gives.

How have you found WordPress vs. Movable Type? They are the two that I am currently thinking about switching to, and would love to get your take on the two. How flexible are they, and do they allow you pretty much any access to the data that you would want?

– Hugh Macdonald
London

In another post, I’ll talk about blogging recommendations for the not-so-technically inclined.

geek alertIt sounds like you, Hugh, are geeky enough that either WordPress or Movable Type will work fine for you. WordPress is done in PHP, while Movable Type is (mostly) Perl, so if one of those languages is more your strong suit, let that be your guide. And if you don’t feel like climbing under the hood, the default installs of either WordPress or Movable are pretty powerful, and both have plug-ins that let you do a lot without touching a line of code.

There are some technical and philosophical differences between the two systems as well. WordPress generates each page on-demand (at the moment someone requests it), which allows more flexibility in design and upkeep, at the cost of a slight delay in page loading. Movable Type, on the other hand, stores static pages that can be loaded very quickly — but can slow down when you make a change that ripples throughout the site. In recent revisions, both WordPress and Movable Type have taken on some of the other’s strengths — MT can generate certain page on the fly, while plug-ins for WP allow it to cache frequently-requested pages.

Both in terms of pricing and spirit, WordPress is “more free” than Movable Type. Movable Type is an honest-to-goodness company, with the goal of making a profit. For a single user, the MT software costs $70. WordPress, on the other hand, is open-source, and free. Both platforms have active support forums, but in my experience, the basic documentation on Movable Type is better.

I found WordPress much easier to install, however. The trickiest part is setting up the MySQL database, and the instructions do a good job explaining that. Movable Type has a much better exporting system, which ironically makes it a lot easier to move from MT to WP than vice-versa.

In summary, they’re both good. My gut tells me you’ll pick WordPress. But if you really want to impress the geeks at the FX bay, also check out Ruby on Rails, which is very much roll-your-own, but allows for immense customization.


Whether to pitch or to spec

Craig Mazin has a good article on Artful Writer today about whether screenwriters are better off pitching their ideas, or just writing the script and trying to sell it as a spec. I largely agree with his points.

Keep in mind that Artful Writer is geared towards screenwriters who are already working in the industry, so the pitch-versus-write decision wouldn’t be the same for most aspiring screenwriters.


Whether or not to American-ize

questionmarkI am from the UK and have written a script which I think would work either side of the Atlantic. Though the theme is generic, some minor details would not seem authentic to an American reader as well as technical differences, such as spelling.

Should I send an amended US version to American agencies and a British one in the UK, or send the original version to both?

– Paul James
via IMDb

I don’t think there’s a wrong answer, but here’s what I would recommend if I were in your place.

If it really wouldn’t suffer from setting it in the U.S., then go for it. Keep your UK version for British agencies and filmmakers, and do up a separate-but-equal version for the U.S. (Hint: put a “UK” down by the date on the title page, so you can easily tell which one is which.) While most Hollywood folks are clever enough to realize that a good script is a good script, there’s always a chance that a reader will see “Bristol” and think, nope.

Next, if you do set it in America, with American characters, you’re probably better off using American spellings throughout. That way, there’s no weird disconnect when Tyrell starts talking about “gang colours.” And have a native-born American whose opinion you trust do a careful reading through your script, just to make sure there’s no dangling British-isms.

Having said this, a UK writer shouldn’t worry about being too British. Or Scottish. Or whatever. There’s a long history of talented filmmakers crossing the Atlantic to work in Hollywood (and vice-versa). You shouldn’t try to sublimate your natural writing style to match some mythical American standard — which all too often resembles the lowest common denominator. But if you decide to American-ize this script, make sure you do so thoroughly.


Printing words on-screen

questionmarkWhen you want a title to appear on the screen (i.e. “Two days later” or “September 1987″) how do you write it exactly?

– A. B.
via IMDb

Printing words on screen works much just the way you’d think. You write TITLE OVER, like this:

INT. JOHNSON FARM – DAY

Robin pulls open the curtains, so tattered they begin to rip from the rod. Bright light floods into the dusty room.

TITLE OVER:

21 HOURS AFTER ABDUCTION

With a trained eye, she surveys the dank livingroom. Her attention focuses on a chest of drawers, which has been pulled out slightly from the wall.

Note that many times, you simply want to provide clarifying information to the reader, and have no intention of showing an on-screen title. In these cases, it’s completely acceptable to append the info to the end of a scene header.

EXT. POLISH GETTO – DAY [1945]

INT. MARGE’S KITCHEN – NIGHT [WINTER]

EXT. CENTRAL PARK – [THE NEXT] DAY

Of course, only append this bracketed information if it really is crucial to helping the reader understand the scene — for instance, if your story moves back and forth between two timelines. Otherwise, you’re just adding clutter.


New Charlie posters up

charlie onesheetAin’t It Cool News has the six new one-sheets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Five of the posters feature the young Golden Ticket winners, while the final one has a new image of Willy Wonka, with the appropriate tagline, “semi-sweet and nuts.”

I hadn’t seen any of these one-sheets before this morning, but I strongly suspected these single-character portraits were on their way, given the somewhat-iconic characters of Veruca Salt and company.


Intercutting

questionmarkFollowing up on an earlier question: Maybe I’m foolish for asking this.

For location changes I have been using scene headings, so that in a phone conversation I will have:

INT. MARIA’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

Maria paces the room, phone glued to her ear.

MARIA

I can’t believe you’d do that!

INT. SEAN’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

SEAN

Do what?

INT. MARIA’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

MARIA

That!

Is it correct to assume that by using slug lines, I could avoid the scene headings? If I were to do it that way, would I use a slug line that is essentially identical to my scene headings but without the “INT.”? or “EXT.”?

– Brock

This type of scene happens all the time. Think about 24. If you put in a new slugline every time you changed speakers on a phone call, the script would be 180 pages.

Behold, the magic that is “INTERCUT.” Instead of your second “INT. MARIA’S KITCHEN”, just have a slug that says INTERCUT or INTERCUT MARIA / SEAN. Then you don’t have to keep doing the location sluglines. They’re really in one scene, even though it’s split between two places. It’s much easier for the reader to follow.

Your scene would end up looking like this:

INT. MARIA’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

Maria paces the room, phone glued to her ear.

MARIA

I can’t believe you’d do that!

INT. SEAN’S KITCHEN – NIGHT

SEAN

Do what?

INTERCUT MARIA/SEAN

MARIA

Mention my genital warts at a cocktail party!

SEAN

The guy was a doctor!

MARIA

He was a Ph. D! In philosophy!

SEAN

Rhetoric, actually.

MARIA

What’s the difference!

SEAN

There’s overlap, but rhetoric is a pretty narrow specialty.

Maria SLAMS DOWN the phone. We stay on her side of the scene. A beat, then she lets loose with a long-delayed, primal SCREAM.

The dog looks up at her with big, droopy eyes.

CUT TO:

EXT. SOMEWHERE ELSE – DAY

Next scene…