To Do: Destroy the world

So far, I’ve worked on one movie in which the Earth is destroyed. In Titan A.E., a mysterious alien race called the Drej show up one day and blow up the Earth because…

…well, I don’t actually remember the motive. Plot wasn’t the strongest aspect of that movie.

What’s important is this: aliens did it. So if scientifically-minded viewers questioned the physics of how exactly the Earth was obliterated, I could simply point to the semi-transparent Drej and say, “With their superior technology, far beyond anything we can imagine!”

It’s a lucky thing that Titan A.E. had villainous aliens, because it turns out that destroying the Earth is extraordinarily difficult. With this site, Sam Hughes examines 18 possible methods for “geocide” — a terrific word that you just don’t get to use very often. His conclusion? Aspiring supervillains need to be patient, or very lucky, because mere mega-wealth won’t guarantee you the chance to smash the Earth to smithereens.

Keep in mind that Sam focuses strictly on physically destroying the planet. Merely making it uninhabitable is several orders of magnitude easier — and we’re already well on our way!

(Via Cruel.)


Google cheat sheet

Everyone knows how to Google, but there are some special functions that can really help when you need specific information on, say, atheist penguins. (Yes, that was my attempt at a Google Whack. No, it didn’t work.)

Google has a great cheat sheet with hints for finding just what you need. If you have a few minutes to kill, it’s worth taking a look and trying out some of the less-common helper-terms. In particular, I find the info: and site: delimiters useful.


Good discussion on end credits

The Artful Writer currently has a vigorous dicussion about end credits for contributing writers that many readers may find interesting.

Here’s the situation. Currently in American movies, screenwriters are listed in the opening credits, with the wording “Written by,” “Screenplay by.” or “Story by.” (Check here for what these terms mean.) These screen credits are meant to denote the “author” of the script. In cases where there are multiple writers, arbitration is often involved to determine who should receive what credit — if any.

Under the current system, a writer who’s spent several months working on a given film may find her name is nowhere on the final product. Is that reasonable, considering the guy who drove the catering truck is listed? (Before you send angry emails: yes, catering’s important, and so are drivers. But they don’t shape the movie you see on screen.)

For years, there’s been discussion about including a list of contributing writers in the end scroll — writers who may not have done enough work to receive real writing credit, but nevertheless contributed. Personally, I like the idea, but I certainly understand other writers’ objections. Does it diminish the perceived authorship of the front-credit writer(s)? Possibly. On the whole, is it worth it? In my opinion, yes.

You can find a range of other opinions here.


Celtx screenwriting application shows promise

Steve wrote in to point out a new-ish screenwriting application under development called Celtx, which seems to incorporate a lot of features I’ve been clamoring for in terms of leveraging new technology. It’s certainly not a Final Draft killer yet, but it’s worthy of a look.

In many ways, this seems to be the screenwriting program I yearned to write. It’s open source, standards-based and well thought out. If I’d known I could get what I want by sitting on my ass and doing nothing, I would have not-done it sooner.

Celtx uses the Mozilla Application Framework, the same underlying technology as Firefox. That goes a long way towards making it platform independent, since Mozilla can run under Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. It’s a two-edged sword, naturally: for sake of compatibility, it can’t use some only-on-Mac features and eye-candy.

Unlike Final Draft, which strives to keep the screen matching up exactly to the printed output, Celtx takes a more relaxed approach. All the standard formatting blocks are there (Scene Header, Action, Character, Dialogue, Transition), but there are no rulers or page breaks. That’s a reasonable choice; you shouldn’t worry about every (more) and (cont’d) as you write. The program generates .pdfs, rather than trying to print directly — again, a smart call. However, I suspect many writers will find they need more control when it comes time to print.

One of the biggest psychological hurdles with Celtx is how it handles screenplay files. Currently, they seem to reside on Celtx’s server, rather than staying local on a writer’s individual computer. (I say “seem” because each project shows a URL, and you’re not prompted where you’d like to save your file.) This client/server model makes a lot of sense for collaboration, but would make a lot of writers nervous, both in terms of access and security.

Update: The developer wrote in to say that files are indeed kept locally on your computer, unless published to the server. A “Save As…” feature is in progress, according to the support forum.

You can import an existing script from Final Draft or other screenwriting applications, but only by saving it first as a formatted text file. (Final Draft uses a proprietary file format; if any reader out there has figured out how to decode it, please write in.) My import test was a mixed bag. Most of the formatting came through intact, but it lost all of the character names at the head of dialogue blocks. I suspect that’s an easily-addressable problem, however.

More impressive than its importing function is Celtx’s ability to export. It generates .pdfs and HTML, which, if you look through the source code, is actually properly formatted with CSS, as opposed to Final Draft’s ridiculous wrapped text file.

I haven’t fully examined Celtx’s outline and resource capabilities, but you can flag elements such as characters and props, which can be useful for generating reports. (Not that I ever use this feature in Final Draft.)

Celtx is currently in beta. Right now, it doesn’t offer enough to get me to switch from Final Draft. But I’m certainly fascinated by it, and would encourage any interested reader to give it a try.


Update on Firefox numbers

After my recent post wondering why so many readers still use Internet Explorer, I’m happy to report the numbers have shifted in favor of Firefox.

Before January 25, 2004:

26% Internet Explorer
22% Firefox
5% Safari
3% Opera

For the week ending February 20, 2004:

23% Firefox
19% Internet Explorer
4% Safari
3% Opera

(Numbers don’t total 100% because bots and RSS readers are excluded.)


Other writer sites

In the share-the-love category: A growing number of writers have websites and/or blogs that you may want to check out for more information and opinions about the craft, the business and the unreality of screenwriting. Here are a few worth perusing:

  1. Lee Goldberg has written extensively for television, and also has several novels to his credit. I haven’t read his book Successful Television Writing, but clicking through the first few pages (thanks, Amazon), I’d say he seems to know what he’s talking about.

  2. Ask Dr. Hollywood is a question-and-answer site, much like johnaugust.com. Because it’s structured as a series of very long pages, it’s not quite as reader-friendly, but the advice is helpful.

  3. Complications Ensue is a blog run by Montreal-based writer Alex Epstein, who authored the book Crafty Screenwriting. Again, I haven’t read his book, so caveat emptor. (Or for library patrons, caveat lector.)

  4. Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott’s Wordplayer has been in the sidebar forever, but in case you haven’t clicked it, you should definitely check it out. They’ve been dispensing useful advice for years. They also have open forums, which I’ve never been brave enough to try.

  5. The Artful Writer is a new site aimed at already-working screenwriters. I actually spoke with its owner, Craig Mazin, on the phone while wife was in labor. He had questions about Movable Type and CSS. Now that’s dedication.