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.

Selling without selling out

Scriptnotes: Ep. 153

In their first-ever live streaming episode, John and Craig open the mailbag to answer a bunch of listener questions.

  • What research should a writer do before soliciting an agent or manager?
  • What should a writer be willing to give up in order to make her first sale?
  • Does a Mormon writer face special challenges in drink-and-drugging Hollywood?
  • Why doesn’t Highland exist on Android?
  • What determines “Story by” credit on a feature?
  • How did we like DungeonWorld? (John asked this question.)

All this, plus the Fermi Paradox in this episode of Scriptnotes.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-18-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Hiring a UI designer

Our tiny company is getting a little bigger. We’re hiring a full-time UI designer for Quote-Unquote Apps.

This is a new position, one that combines art and science (design beautiful things…that actually work). Responsibilities will include:

  • Designing art (icons, graphics) and animations for our current and future apps.
  • Building and testing interfaces for apps and websites.
  • Shared responsibility for support email. (Everyone in the office chips in.)

We make apps for Mac and iOS, including Highland, Weekend Read and Bronson Watermarker PDF. We have several new apps in development, and will likely make stuff for iWatches, AppleTVs and other future gadgets. We need someone to help us build cool things.

I’ve hired enough people to know that the job ultimately shifts based the special skills each person brings. But we have a good sense of what we Require and Desire.


Great taste. We need someone who can make beautiful, thoughtful art and experiences. We should to be able to have a conversation about any app and discuss where it succeeds, where it fails, and how to improve it. It’s one thing to know what it says in the HIG; it’s another to understand where the trends are headed.

Expertise. This person will ultimately be responsible for building interfaces, both as prototypes and in Xcode. They’ll need to be comfortable wiring up little bits that work with storyboards and auto layout.

You can’t learn taste, but you can learn Xcode. What’s important is that this person needs to genuinely love working under the hood, wrestling with constraints and timing and UIScrollViews. Candidates need to be able to muck around with code to figure out why the status bar isn’t displaying properly after rotation.

Prototypes can be a great way of exploring design options, so it’s likely we’d be using something like Origami or framer.js to create mock-ups. We have no musts when it comes to prototypes. Whatever works, works.

We’re not requiring that a candidate have a certain number of years experience working as a paid designer. In fact, it’s more likely we’ll find someone who has been doing something else but Just Happens To Be Great at this.

Our lead coder, Nima Yousefi, was getting his masters in biology. But he’d rather make apps.

We’re looking for someone who’d rather make apps.1

Our Desired list is deliberately broad. No one will tick all these boxes, but we’ve found making apps in 2014 ends up incorporating a lot of seemingly-disparate skills:

  • Web experience in HTML/CSS/Javascript. Many of the apps we’re working on have a web component.
  • Editing skills (Avid, Final Cut Pro). The App Store will soon be allowing demo videos, and we intend to create them.
  • Animation and VFX chops (After Effects, Motion or more-sophisticated apps).
  • Photoshop/Sketch/Illustrator skills. Beyond icon and logo design, we spend hours tweaking App Store screenshots.
  • Copywriting. Sometimes, half the job is figuring out the right word for a UI element, or how to phrase a warning.
  • A/B Testing. We haven’t done a lot of it, but upcoming apps will require it.
  • Broader coding experience. Nima remains our lead engineer, but there’s always too much to do, and a second set of eyes is great.

A good candidate for this position would be able to talk about most of the following with ease:

  • Great opening title sequences of the last year.
  • The design challenges of moving to larger iPhones.
  • Accessibility, and apps that do it right.
  • Are short URLs even worth it?
  • Google’s Material.
  • iOS keyboard extensions, and what’s possible.
  • Localization.
  • iBeacons.
  • Books you’ve bought just for the cover.

We work together in the Los Angeles office twice a week, keeping in touch other days over Slack and Google Hangout. Candidates don’t need to live in LA to apply, but they need to be able and willing to move here if they get the job.2

Salary is commensurate with experience — enough to live in Los Angeles — and there’s health insurance. It’s certainly not Google money, but it’s more than most people are likely to make writing their own apps, with the stability of a small team and guaranteed income.

Here’s the process for applying:

  1. Email Tell us about yourself. Include links to your work. If you have apps, send some promo codes.
  2. We’ll be accepting emails through midnight on Thursday, July 17th.
  3. We’ll start interviewing selected candidates via Skype shortly after that.

If you think you’re the right person for this job, apply. Or if you know a great candidate, send them a link.

It’s a great job for the right person. I have a hunch we’ll find someone amazing.

  1. Or, someone who has already made apps. We’re happy to bring someone in who already has her own apps in the App Store.
  2. We’ll consider international applicants, but visas may be a challenge.

The Rocky Shoals (pages 70-90)

Scriptnotes: Ep. 152

Aline Brosh McKenna joins Craig and John to talk about the difficult journey through pages 70-90 of your feature. After that, we talk about procrastination, the Panic Monster and our inner Instant Gratification Monkeys.

Screenwriting books always talk about structure, but never about tone, which is much more important for distinguishing great writing. So we spend some time looking at what tone feels like on the page.

Finally, we talk mentors. Aline has specific suggestions for young women.

Update: The post was linking to the previous week’s audio. Fixed.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-11-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Puppet update

Last November, I put out the call that I was looking for an experienced puppet designer for a new project. I got dozens of emails and recommendations, and had several great conversations with designers and directors suggesting techniques and pitfalls.

In March, I met with a great LA puppet shop to begin serious discussions about working together on it. They suggested a terrific illustrator to help create designs for the main character, a non-human creature with very unusual attributes. After a few sessions, we arrived something we loved…

…but it was un-puppetable.

That’s not entirely true, of course. With modern technology — green-screens, motion control, clever robotics — there’s almost nothing that can’t be done with a puppet. But when we looked at all the post-production that would be required to make the character feel like it was interacting with real-world environments and actors, it became clear that a fully-CG character would be a much better fit for this project.

The biggest issue ended up being the character’s walk cycle, which would have been a monstrous challenge for puppeteers. I had nightmare visions of needing to paint out six guys in the background of every shot.

Once I accepted that this character would be virtual, I questioned why I was so insistent on human actors and physical sets. After all, what was special about the project was this main character, who would be drawn in after the fact.

If we’re animating him, why not animate everything?

So that’s what we’re doing now. We’re creating the rough animatic and figuring out next steps. It’s absolutely the right choice for this project, even if it wasn’t the original intention.

But I still love puppets. The process of meeting with puppet-folk has left me eager to find the right project for them. It will likely be something in which their puppet-ness is innate to the concept — of course that’s a puppet; they couldn’t be anything else.

Of the many people I spoke with during this project’s puppet incarnation, one of the most helpful was director Toben Seymour. His video for Herman Dune is a great example of why puppets continue to be awesome.