Two Writers, One Script

Scriptnotes: Ep. 155

John and Craig look at the trend towards hiring two writers to work on separate drafts of the same project. Is it better to have writers in parallel than serially? Or does it end up with studios ordering off a Chinese menu: this scene, that character, that other set piece?

Both Craig and John just started new first drafts, so we talk about the difference between the Map and the Territory, and how outlines can’t always anticipate the discoveries made while writing.

Finally, we answer a bunch of listener questions ranging from the Peter Stark Program to loving your day job.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 8-4-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Disney’s corporate synergy, 1957 and today

I love this graphic from 1957 showing how the various elements of the Walt Disney company fit together.

corporate chart

You could make the same chart today.

Here is a partial list of the properties Disney owns in 2014:


  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • Touchstone Pictures
  • Disneynature
  • Disney Animation Studios
  • Pixar
  • Lucasfilm
  • Marvel
  • The Muppets
  • DreamWorks (distribution)


  • Walt Disney Records
  • Hollywood Records
  • Disney Music Publishing


  • Disneyland/Disneyworld worldwide
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Disney Vacation Club

Theatrical Group:

  • Disney Theatrical Productions
  • Disney on Ice
  • Disney Live

Consumer Products:

  • Disney Store
  • Disney Baby
  • The Baby Einstein Company


  • Disney-Hyperion
  • Marvel Press


  • ABC Television Network
  • ABC Family Worldwide
  • Live Well Network
  • A+E Networks (50%)
  • Disney Channels Worldwide
  • Radio Disney
  • Disney Television Animation
  • ESPN Inc. (80%)
  • Hulu (32%)
  • A+E Networks (50%), includes Lifetime and History


  • Disney Infinity
  • Maker Studio


  • Marvel
  • Disney Comics

Almost every one of these items is a huge business just by itself. Which raises the question: If one were to make a new version of the 1957 chart, would Theatrical Films still deserve the central marquee spot?


I’d argue that in 2014, film properties are probably still worth keeping near the middle of any Disney flowchart. The company makes money in many ways, but feature films are still the key drivers. You don’t get Cars merchandise without the movie.

The success of Frozen is an example of how Disney can capitalize on a hit film by using it in other divisions: Disneyland attractions, TV tie-ins (Once Upon a Time), music, books, merchandise, and possibly a Broadway musical.

As screenwriters, there are pros and cons to this kind of corporate synergy.

Giant corporations like Disney will keep making movies because it feeds the engine — and the better the movies, the bigger the multiplier in success. You can criticize individual films, but the juggernaut franchises have sprung from well-executed movies, and all of these movies began with screenwriters.

The challenge for screenwriters is that it’s increasingly difficult to get momentum on any movie that doesn’t seem to have the potential to work across divisions. An R-rated blockbuster like The Matrix can’t become a theme park ride, so why spend $100 million to make it?

Looking at the list of top-grossing R-rated movies, Warners and New Line made seven of the top 10. With talk that Fox may buy Warners, I wonder if they would still be making those movies post-merger.

Getting 2-Up preview in Highland

Over the weekend, we sold the most-ever copies of Highland, thanks largely to the Mac App Store’s “Explore Your Creativity” promotion.

With new users come new questions to the support desk, including this one I’m surprised never came up before:

Is there any way to see two pages side-by-side in the preview?

There is!

In the preview, right-click (or control-click) and you’ll get a menu letting you choose the layout. Highland defaults to “One Page Continuous,” but you can choose “Two Pages Continuous” to get a 2-up view.


You can find more answers and tips in Highland’s FAQ.

During the Mac App Store promotion, Highland is half-off, just $14.99.

Making Things Better by Making Things Worse

Scriptnotes: Ep. 154

John and Craig talk structure and escalation. Structure is simply what happens when. Escalation is how things get tougher.

In features, characters are usually going on a journey that can only happen once, so you need to make sure that the events in your story are constantly challenging your heroes in new ways so they can continue to grow.

In television, you’re often telling stories in which the character themselves don’t change much, yet the sequence of events within the episode (and in the season) needs to feel like it’s pushing forward.

Along the way, we discuss Intro to Journalism’s Five W’s, and what people mean when they say a two-hander.

John and Craig are headed back to the Austin Film Festival again this year for a live show and other special events. Use the code SCRIPTNOTES to get $25 off our Conference and Producers Badges.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-24-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Impostor Syndrome, and unknown unknowns

On the podcast, Craig and I have discussed Impostor Syndrome, in which successful people secretly feel like frauds.

Apenwarr, who works for a major tech company, wonders if Impostor Syndrome is actually a good thing:

The people with Impostor Syndrome are the people who aren’t sure that a logical proof of their smartness is sufficient. They’re looking around them and finding something wrong, an intuitive sense that around here, logic does not always agree with reality, and the obviously right solution does not lead to obviously happy customers, and it’s unsettling because maybe smartness isn’t enough, and maybe if we don’t feel like we know what we’re doing, it’s because we don’t.

Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a moment. The people with the problem are the people who can’t hear that voice.

Highland and other screenwriting apps on sale

Highland on MacBook Air

Apple asked Highland and several other screenwriting apps to be part of their Explore Your Creativity promotion on the Mac App Store. It’s a great time to check out these apps at discounted prices, and perhaps pick a new favorite.

Highland is the app we make. It’s half off during the promotion, $14.99 rather than $29.99.

Over the past year, Highland has become the second-bestselling screenwriting app in the Mac App Store, after Final Draft (which is also on sale for $124.99). Users choose Highland for its speed and minimalism. You just type; Highland figures out which elements are which.

For the past year, I’ve done all my screenwriting in Highland and love it. You can see more about it, including a video, at our website.

Slugline is Highland’s longtime pal, also on sale for 50% off ($19.99 versus $39.99).

Slugline’s editor does more on-the-fly formatting, with text moving while you type. If you’re used to traditional screenwriting apps, you may find it comfortingly familiar. If you’re used to plain text editors, you may find it distracting.

The great news is that Slugline and Highland share the same format (Fountain), so you can freely move back and forth between them. In fact, at these prices you can get both Highland and Slugline for the cost of one, so if you’re curious about working in a plain text app, get both.

While it’s not strictly a screenwriting app, Scrivener has many fans for its extensive feature set, including corkboards, outlines, tables and images. In many ways, it’s the opposite of Highland’s minimalism, but if you need an app that can handle a thousand-page research report, Scrivener may be a good choice. It’s half-off at $29.99.

Fade In isn’t part of the Mac App Store promotion, but if you’re looking for an app that does many of Final Draft’s production features, Craig swears by it. (It’s $49.99.)

I’m excited that there are more choices than ever for screenwriters. I hope this promotion gets more users trying out alternatives, and picking the apps that suit them best.