How to Write a Scene, now in handy two-page form

My 2007 post on How to Write a Scene got recirculated in infographic form last year, which featured only the bullet points.

Both versions are useful. The blog post is detailed; the infographic is handy. But screenwriter Zak Penn asked for something in-between:

Can you send me PDF of your scene writing checklist? Want to use when I speak to students, thought it was excellent.

It’s a good idea. So here’s the original post, slightly edited and reformatted to fit onto two pages you can print or email:

pdf link

Anyone is welcome to use it. I just ask that if you distribute it, please keep my name and the link on it.

And because you’ll ask, the fonts are Minion Pro and Trend Hand Made.

The Long-Lost Austin Three Page Challenge

Scriptnotes: Ep. 149

John and Craig open the vault to bring you a never-before-heard episode recorded live at the 2013 Austin Film Festival, where we did a Three Page Challenge and met with the writers.

We’ve kept this episode banked for months just in case we can’t record a new episode. But we didn’t want to wait any longer.

We’ll be back with a normal episode next week.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 6-22-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Storyboarding your film using Fountain

Charles Forman, who has already made some really interesting tools for visualizing Fountain screenplays, is back with Storyboard Fountain:

Storyboard Fountain works with a Fountain screenplay file. Open it, and the entire script is displayed on the left of the file. Action, dialogue, and parenthetical lines are shown as elements, so you can create boards for every filmable line in the movie. In fact, you can have as many boards as you want per line, or even choose not to have a board, if it’s not necessary.

As you draw, each drawing tool you use is saved on its own layer. The images are saved in a folder next to your Fountain file on your hard drive. The reference to each board is saved in location in the Fountain file itself. As a result, you can use the Fountain editor of your choice to edit your script while maintaining the integrity of the location of the storyboards.

Developers Charles Forman and Chris Smoak have released an open-sourced alpha version for the Mac.

Do most screenwriters need this kind of tool? No.

But screenplays aren’t just for writers. They’re platforms upon which to build a movie, a process that involves many different artists and professions. For some films, storyboarding is key part of the process, so anything that can help couple the words to the images is a win.

I love to see developers using Fountain to build applications like these. It’s an exciting time.

From Debussy to VOD

Scriptnotes: Ep. 148

John and Craig talk about what screenwriters can learn from the structure of classical music, then invite journalist Scott Tobias on to discuss how day-and-date video-on-demand releases make it hard to know how indie films are doing, individually and as a group.

We also talk about the future of the Three Page Challenge, Reboots vs. Remakes, and how everyone in Hollywood is just a little bit off.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 6-12-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

To Chase or To Spec

Scriptnotes: Ep. 147

John and Craig discuss whether screenwriters are better off pursing writing assignments or working on their own material. They also look at the visual comedy of Edgar Wright, and The Shawshank Redemption’s 20th anniversary.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 6-7-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Bronson Watermarker, rebooted

We have a new app out today: Bronson Watermarker PDF.

Bronson Watermarker PDF screenshot

It’s in the Mac App Store, and 50% off through Sunday, June 8th.

The new Bronson features a stripped-down UI that indicates where we think Mac app design is headed. Many buttons have lost their edges, relying on color and context to indicate their clickability. Title bars are integrated into the window. Animations take the place of progress bars.1

You can see more screenshots here.

The changes are more than cosmetic. Bronson has new features to protect screenplays and other documents, including password encryption and invisible watermarks.

Bronson Watermarker was our first Mac app, released January 2012. It was deliberately minimalist: one list field, five watermark styles, one checkbox. Over time, we added a button to change the font and opacity, but the app remained essentially unchanged.

It also remained kind of ugly.

Of all our apps, Bronson was starting to feel like the odd duck. It sold well, and we got appreciative emails from people who used it daily. But we weren’t proud of it.

So we took two weeks to remake it. From pixels to code, it’s an entirely new app, with almost nothing carried over from the original. We added in the features users wanted most (passwords, saved lists, better customization) and removed things that never fit quite right (image watermarking, line burn).

Removing features is a tough thing. You end up with a better, more-focused app, but users can argue that it’s a downgrade. The Mac App Store makes it especially difficult, because it replaces the original app with the new version. For almost everyone, the new Bronson is a much better app — unless you really liked what we used to do with JPGs.2

In the end, we decided to make a clean break, shipping the new version as a new app and appending PDF to the name. This let us increase the minimum OS requirements and move it from the Productivity category to Business, where it really belongs. It also means users of the old Bronson can keep their app, or choose to switch to the new one.

Through June 8th, everyone gets the upgrade price of $15. After that, it’s $30.

Just to keep things even, Highland and unlimited library for Weekend Read are also 50% off through June 8th.

  1. WWDC is Monday, so we’ll know soon which of our guesses were correct.
  2. It’s easy to see this conundrum with word processors and screenwriting software, which get bloated with rarely-used features. Most users wouldn’t know if you removed these vestigial bits — but some users rely on them. When was the last time you used Mail Merge? For most people, never. For some, three times since lunch.