Checking batches of PDFs

Last week, I wondered aloud how I could check creator codes on a folder full of PDFs without checking them one-by-one.

Zoë Blade wrote in with a Terminal command, but it turns out I could do it in Automator very easily. Here’s the workflow.

automator workflow

Why didn’t I try Automator first? Past experience.

Over the years, I’ve tried doing a dozen things in Automator, only to run into obstacles where it can’t do quite what I need. Often, the breakdown is conditional logic, or the need to transfer a value from one section to the next.1

This is the rare case where Automator does almost exactly what I want. I’ve saved this workflow as an application so I can periodically test batches of files.

  1. Having played with other building-block environments like Scratch, I know it’s absolutely possible to do logic and variables in a drag-and-drop way, but I have a feeling Automator isn’t getting updated.

Photoplays and archetypes

Scriptnotes: Ep. 143

In a wide-ranging episode, Craig and John look at a 1912 screenwriting book, Levinson’s beef with the WGA, and the Periodic Table of Storytelling.

We also answer listener questions about keeping secrets from readers, firing managers, and what happens to a Broadway show after Broadway. Plus, more follow-up on old One Cool Things.

There are still (maybe?) tickets for the live show on the 15th. See the links for details.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 5-16-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Which apps are screenwriters using?

We had 57 entries for the Three Page Challenge we’re conducting on May 15th.

I wondered which apps these screenwriters were using, so I checked the metadata for each file.1

App # of Entries % of Total
Final Draft 8 18 32%
(unclear)2 7 12%
Fade In 7 12%
Final Draft (Windows) 6 11%
Slugline 5 9%
Final Draft 9 4 7%
Screenwriter 3 5%
Celtx 2 4%
Final Draft 7 2 4%
Highland 1 2%
TextEdit 1 2%
Word 1 2%
Total 57 100%

Adding up its various incarnations, we find that Final Draft created just over half the entries. That’s about what I would have expected.

But I find it interesting that so many users have stuck with Final Draft 8, rather than version 9. There are still holdouts with version 7 as well.

I was happy to see six dedicated screenwriting apps (Final Draft, Fade In, Slugline, Screenwriter, Celtx and Highland) among the entrants. I didn’t find any Adobe Story or WriterDuet scripts.3

Writers submitting to the Three Page Challenge are, almost by definition, listeners to the Scriptnotes podcast, in which we’ve discussed Final Draft, Fade In, Slugline and Highland among other apps. I wonder to what degree that has influenced their choices.

Three Page Challengers are also generally aspiring screenwriters, rather than working pros. To me, that makes entrants more likely have recently purchased software (or web-based subscription services) than established writers, who tend to stick with what they know.

The online submission for Three Page Challenges worked well enough that we’ll keep using some version of it. In the next incarnation, we’ll ask upon submission which app the writer used.

  1. Mac Nerds: After a lot of Googling, I couldn’t find a way to display creator information for each file in a folder; I had to do them one-by-one using Finder’s Get Info. If you have a command-line trick for this, I’d love to know it.
  2. The (unclear) category is for PDFs that don’t have a recognizable creator. For example, some PDFs show up as being from Preview on the Mac, which is primarily a reader but can be used to paste together multiple files.
  3. If you submitted a script written in Adobe Story or WriterDuet, let me know and I’ll amend the figures.

The ruins of Spectre

Kelly Kazek looks at what became of Spectre:

Spectre was a “town” built as a set for the filming of the movie “Big Fish,” which premiered in December 2003 but had its wide release 10 years ago, in January 2004. With the exception of one scene in Paris, the entire movie was filmed in Alabama, a rarity in a time before the state offered film incentives.

The road and fake trees leading into the town of Spectre, and the buildings, mostly just facades, were never demolished but were left to the elements.

We shot Big Fish primarily in Wetumpka, Alabama. The town of Spectre was constructed on a privately-owned island.

In the film, you see Spectre in three incarnations:

  • The magical little town young Edward encounters at the start of the film.
  • The rundown early-80s version after the road is build.
  • The fixed-up version after Edward gets everyone to sign on to a trust.

We shot the rundown version last, so that’s what remains on the island: the ruins of the ruins.

Spectre doesn’t exist in the musical version of Big Fish. Instead, Edward’s home town of Ashton plays a much bigger role, ultimately becoming the town he needs to save at the end.

Several years ago, Derek Frey (Tim Burton’s assistant for Big Fish) visited the Spectre sets to see how they were holding up. You can see his photos on Flickr.

Voting for the Three Page Challenge

At the live Scriptnotes show on May 15th, we’ll be conducting a Three Page Challenge with special guest judge Susannah Grant.

Tuesday was the deadline for entering. All of the entries are now available for reading, both on Weekend Read and here.

Once you’ve had a look, vote for your favorite(s) — you can choose up to three entries you’d like us to discuss on the 15th. We will probably only have time for two three-pagers on the live show, but I wanted voters to be able to support more than just one entry.

Should you vote for the best written entry, or the one that needs the most constructive criticism? Your call.

Voting is open now, and runs through noon on Wednesday, May 14th.

On error messages

Brent Simmons has straightforward advice on error messages:

They should be of the form “Can’t x because of y.”

A similar form is this: “Noun can’t x because y.” (As in “‘’ can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.”)

Badly-written dialog boxes make me lose faith in an app very quickly. Here’s Final Draft 9 when you hit Next on the last element in the Reformat box.

dialog box

Oh. Okay.

It has the icon for “important warning,” but it’s nothing I need to be warned about. We’ve reached the end of the document. That’s all.

Rather than making you close a new dialog box, the app could place a notification within the Reformat box itself.

Or better yet, do nothing. If you’re at the top of a script and hit Previous, FD9 doesn’t give you any warning. This feels like the better behavior, because you can see where you are anyway.

Simmons also warns against pronouns:

One thing error messages never say is sorry. They’re just reporting, and they respect you enough to know you want the facts, clearly expressed, and don’t need to be apologized-to by a machine.

Also: they rarely (if ever) use the words I, me, my, you, and your.

Here’s Final Draft 9 again:

dialog waring

A better way to phrase it might be:

Can’t delete across a page break because pages are locked.

Getting rid of the pronoun subtly changes the tone: “It’s not your fault, it’s just how things are.”